Venial Sin Cities: U.S. Alternatives to Vegas

Sin City seemingly has a monopoly on the pursuit of greed, but there's more to Las Vegas than the slots and roulette wheels. Lavish hotels, Broadway-ready shows, expansive pools, smorgasbord buffets, nonstop bars,  luxurious shopping, and parades of plumed and scantily clad showgirls can help you rack up sins of sloth, lust, gluttony, and envy--all to be forgiven on the flight home. There's no city in the United States, or possibly the world, that can match Vegas for sheer tacky splendor and permissiveness, but Sin City isn't the be-all and end-all of delicious immorality. But with long-distance flights, ritzy hotels, wallet-busting "must see" shows, and constant culinary temptation, this once notoriously cheap destination spot can easily gobble up all your card table earnings in a few days. For the biggest wins with the least outlay, you may want to play online, at places like Parrot Casino, but if you're looking for the full sinful package and trying to avoid a pricey, overblown Vegas trek, check out these other sinful U.S. hotspots.

1. Atlantic City
America's Playground may have taken a battering in last year's Hurricane Sandy, but Atlantic City is nothing if not resilient. When its old seaside resorts and boardwalk attractions became obsolete in a midcentury age of suburban pools and jet service to warmer climes, Atlantic City legalized casino gambling and reinvented itself into the Las Vegas of the East Coast. Forget the salt water taffy and the quaint boardwalk rides, and hit one of Atlantic City's 13 world-class casinos and test your luck on one of the city's thousands of slot machines and card tables. Atlantic City and the whole Jersey Shore also have an infamously seedy and nonstop nightlife, but you'll need to get more light than the glow of a video poker machine to stand out in that fake-baked crowd. And here's where Atlantic City may squeeze ahead of landlocked Vegas: the beaches here aren't a wave pool mirage, they're the real deal.

2. New Orleans

Here's another coastal city that experienced devastation in a hurricane, and has (partly) bounced back on the strength of its tourist attractions. New Orleans has a vibrant three century history, and one of the best ways to pay tribute to it may be to hit the casino or riverboat slots. New Orleans has been a destination for gambling and other hedonism since the early 19th century, luring in all the traders and travelers on the Mississippi River with splendid riverboats, dining, shopping, and, of course, card games. Today there's Harrah's, a huge Vegas-style, all-inclusive casino right downtown, but the riverboats are still the most popular place to test your luck.

3. Reno, Nevada

Nevada's second city may not have the full glitz of the Vegas strip, but it benefits from the same lax Nevada laws and has developed quite a reputation for gambling and nightlife on its own. In fact, Reno was the gambling capital of the country before falling under Vegas' shadow and losing valuable business to reservation casinos across the border in California. Most of the old casinos were torn down, but a new generation of casino resorts, including the Atlantic, Grand Sierra Resort, and the Peppermill, have risen in their place, offering lavish, atmospheric dining, pools, and, of course, acres of tables and slots.

4. Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi also fell into Hurricane Katrina's path (clearly, Americans like to take gambles with their resort locations), but this Playground of the South is still a slot-slinging, card-cutting high-rollers' paradise. There's a growing crowd of casino resort hotels, each offering 24-hour gambling, live concerts, and buffet dining. The vibe is more country than Vegas glitz: Cirque du Soleil would never fly here, but with the big Nashville names playing concerts every week and the card tables packed, Biloxi is the right mix of backwoods and glam.

Photo credit: Trip Advisor

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