Lake Tahoe is a beautiful freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada range. The surface elevation is 6,225 feet, the largest alpine lake in North America. Just west of Nevada's capital, Carson City, the lake sits at the border of Nevada and California. The cold water lake's depth of 1,645 is the second deepest in the United States.
Lake Tahoe is a major tourist attraction, drawing millions of visitors each year from all over the world. However, until the 1950's when Harrah's Lake Tahoe casino decided to stay open even during the winter, the highways and roads to the casinos were closed for much of each year. It wasn't until the late 1950's that Bill Harrah petitioned the California transportation and highway board to continually plow highway 50 to the Nevada border and keep the roadway safe for winter driving.
Once the state of California was on board, Harrah set up a series of regularly scheduled buses from places like Stockton, Sacramento, Oakland and San Francisco to bring gamblers to the Tahoe casinos during the winter.
After the turn of the 20th century, several hotels and lodges at Lake Tahoe offered gambling. Beginning in the early 1930's, after the legalization of gambling, clubs sprouted up at the South and North Shores of the lake at the Nevada state line.
The aptly named Cal-Neva club was a hot spot for gambling at the North Shore. At South Shore, the Stateline Country Club was a favorite. Today, the third generation of the Cal-Neva club still stands, but offers no gaming.Casinos at Lake Tahoe - North Shore
Alongside the Cal-Neva at the North Shore, Carnelian Bay offers other casino choices such as the Crystal Bay Club, the Tahoe Biltmore, and Jim Kelly's Nugget. The Nugget is the smallest of the three, offering a bar and outdoor dining plus slot machines.
The Crystal Bay Club started as the Ta-Neva-Ho in the 1930's as a multi-function mall with a drug store, furniture store, bowling alley, restaurant, and of course, a nice warm casino. The property still offers slots, blackjack, roulette and craps. The Steak and Lobster House is excellent. The casino is open 24-hours a day, although most table games close during graveyard hours.
Across the street, the Tahoe Biltmore offers lodging and a 24-hour restaurant, plus games like blackjack, craps, roulette and slot machines. Table game limits are usually $5 minimum bet. Table maximums run $200 to $500.
At Incline Village, along the Nevada side towards highway 50 and South Shore, sits the beautiful Hyatt Lake Tahoe. The resort, set across the street from the Lake, offers several dining choices, a spa, and nice guestrooms. The Grand Lodge Casino features a full pit of blackjack, craps, roulette, slot machines, and a poker room.Casinos at Lake Tahoe - South Shore
At South Shore, 45 minutes from the North Shore casinos, the Country Club gave way to Harrah's, the most popular name in US casinos, and the finest casino property at the lake. Sitting right at the California/Nevada border along highway 50, the 18-story hotel tower features amazing views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
With several award-winning restaurants and the lake's best buffet, visitors are never bored with their dining choices. As for casino gambling, Harrah's offers a full-scale casino with Keno, poker, slots, video poker, and many table games including blackjack, craps, and roulette.
Next door to Harrah's is the MontBleu Resort, a Tropicana Entertainment property. Originally called the Park Tahoe when it opened in 1977, the property became Caesars Lake Tahoe in 1979. Now les "Las Vegas" and more fun-oriented, the resort caters to a younger crowd and holds regular concerts. Nice hotel rooms and many bars and restaurants make the casino gambling a secondary feature. The casino offers standard table games plus slots, video poker, and a live poker room.
Harrah's is connected to Harvey's casino across the street by an underground passageway, wonderful to use during the snowy winter months. Harvey's supports eight restaurants, including Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo Cantina, which you will encounter if you use the underground passageway. 21 tables are periodically added to the front of the restaurant.
Harvey's is part of the Caesars Entertainment Group (as is Harrah's) and offers a full, 52,000 sq. foot casino. Games include Keno, poker, slots, table games and a race and sportsbook.
Most casinos in Northern Nevada (Reno, Carson City, Lake Tahoe) offer single-deck blackjack, but the trade-off is that in most games the dealer hits a soft 17 and allows double downs on 10 and 11 only. At craps, the clubs offer 15 to 1 on "any eleven," as opposed to Southern Nevada's (Las Vegas, Laughlin, Mesquite) standard 15 for 1.
Summer time, especially the weeks before and after the Fourth of July are the busiest season for the area's casinos and hotels. Make your reservations early and remember that tens of thousands of the area's guests are there to view the scenery of the crisp, cool mountain lake - not the casinos.
If you want bargains, book your stay after Labor Day and before Memorial Day. Holiday periods like Christmas and New Year's Eve are still pricey.