For almost a century, Florida has been a utopia for fans of racing, table games and other gaming pastimes, and in 2004 brick-and-mortar casinos were finally introduced into the community. Right now, there are 137 casinos spread around the state including traditional buildings as well as casino cruise ships that dock at some of our most popular cities. With so many to choose from, we thought we’d take a look at the casinos in and around Jacksonville that are worth visiting. Whether you’re a slots lover or a poker player, we’re sure Jacksonville and it’s surrounding cities has something for you.
Multicolored chips are well-known symbols of casino and games like poker and roulette. Image courtesy of Pexels
What Makes a Good Casino? Poker, Blackjack and Beyond
Firstly, we think it’s important to outline what makes a casino worth visiting. Well, for starters it should absolutely value your patronage and take care of your needs by offering the games you prefer, dining options and even accommodation if it is applicable. This also means that it must be reliable, as no one wishes to visit an establishment that is not honest and trustworthy.
Secondly, a good casino must have a wide selection of games to choose from. This may be in terms of variety, meaning that there should be hundreds of slots and dozens of table games to choose from. After all, if you yourself don’t have a specific game of choice and aren’t sure whether you’re a poker or a blackjack player, you will want the option to choose. Many poker and blackjack pros will argue that playing both games improves your skills at each one, no matter if you're playing Texas Hold'em, Omaha, 7 Card Stud or European blackjack. For others, blackjack is a less dramatic game than poker, because it doesn't involve as much bluffing and body language-reading. Alternatively, a wide selection of games may only fall under one genre but will still offer ample choice. For instance, if the venue is a dedicated poker room, you would want a number of poker varieties to be available.
Fortunately, here in Florida we have a number of quality casinos that meet all of these criteria. While Jacksonville has a few casinos within the city - as well as new gaming bars - most tend to be a short drive away. There are plenty in Orlando, Ocala and even Brunswick, it’s just about finding the ones that are worth travelling to. So, not only will we be looking at the local casinos, but also some that are – at the most – a three-hour drive away and thus ideal for a road trip.
1. Bestbet Jacksonville
Where: Monument Road, Jacksonville
There’s no way better to start our reviews than with the state of Florida’s top poker, simulcast and racing venue. The Bestbet Jacksonville casino is home to Florida’s largest poker room, which features 88 tables spread over 20,000 square feet. There are poker tournaments running almost constantly, which have been known to attract some big names in poker, so it is definitely worth popping in even if you just want to watch. Meanwhile, guests are encouraged to watch and place wagers in the simulcast area where the venue is constantly showing live racing from around the world. Dining and accommodation options are also provided onsite, so you never need to go far to find whatever it is you need.
2. Bestbet Orange Park
Where: Park Avenue, Jacksonville
Bestbest are so popular in Jacksonville that there are actually two locations to choose from. This one was formerly known as the Orange Park Kennel Club and is specifically tailored towards fans of greyhound racing. This venue is all about the excitement surrounding racing, whether it is live or simulcasts, and has been for well over 70 years. There is also a poker room though, with 37 tables covering One, Two and Three Card Poker, Pai Gow and Ultimate Texas Hold’em. Like it’s Monument Road counterpart, this casino attracts thousands of gamblers and is definitely worth the trip.
3. Emerald Princess Casino
Where: Emerald Princess Drive, Brunswick
About an hour’s drive north of Jacksonville city centre, you’ll find the Emerald Princess Casino in Brunswick. Well, that is if it’s docked. You see, the Emerald Princess Casino is not your regular brick-and-mortar venue, it’s actually a boat with 200 feet and four decks dedicated to gaming. There are a total of 250 slots, 12 blackjack tables, 6 poker tables, 2 roulette wheels and a craps table aboard, spread over two of the luxurious decks. It may be a little outside of Jacksonville, but we guarantee this vessel is one you won’t want to miss.
4. Daytona Beach Racing & Card Club
Where: Williamson Boulevard, Daytona Beach
Situated on the coast, approximately 90 miles from Jacksonville centre, there’s one of the most popular vacation spots in Florida; Daytona Beach. There’s plenty to do there, but for casino lovers there’s only one place to go – Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club. Since 2008 this establishment has offered guests a gaming experience like no other, perfect for anyone who loves the beach, poker and racing. Their plush poker room has 55 tables, allowing them to offer Texas Hold’em, Three Card Poker, Seven Card Stud, Omaha Hi-Lo and plenty of other poker games. If you’re more interested in sports betting, head to the outdoor greyhound racetrack to see live races or simulcasts of greyhound and horse races taking place all over the world.
5. Oxford Downs Poker Room
Where: US-301, Summerfield
By far our farthest destination so far, at 120 miles inland from Jacksonville, Oxford Downs Poker Room is situated in Summerfield. It may be a two-hour drive away, but avid poker players will know it is absolutely worth the drive. Almost the entire venue is dedicated solely to poker tables, with plenty of variety to keep you entertained. There are the usual Texas Hold’em, 7 card stud and Omaha Hi-Lo variants, but also something called Pineapple Hold’em which we are very intrigued about. Each and every day this deluxe poker room holds tournaments, so it is definitely the place to be if you’re looking to join the circuit.
6. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa
Where: Orient Road, Tampa
Finally, we’re pulling out the big guns with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, approximately 200 miles away from Jacksonville. We know this is definitely one heck of a journey but stick with us – this destination is worth the drive. Firstly, the hotel offers guests AAA Four-Diamond suites, complete with every amenity you could possibly ask for including a Rock Spa. There’s also delectable dining for every palate whether you prefer fine dining, which can be procured at The Rez Grill or Council Oak, or contemporary food available at the Hard Rock Café and several other onsite eateries. Of course, what you’ve really come for is the games. There are a total of 16 different table games on the go at any given time, as well as over 4,000 slots that can be found in five different areas of the complex. Needless to say, if you’re a casino fanatic this is the best place you could possibly visit.
So, whether you’re heading to the city to play at Florida’s top poker establishment or driving to Tampa to experience the true luxury of a high-end casino, it’s clear that Jacksonville is the perfect starting point for any gaming fanatic. Of course, if you know of anywhere worth visiting that we’ve left off this list, please feel free to let us know in the comments below.
Article by Thomas Harrington