Casinos and Gambling in Costa Rica

Introduction To Costa Rica’s Gambling Scene

Casinos can be easily spotted in Costa Rica and are legal. They are however not the large, independent entities that can be found all over Panama. Costa Rica’s casinos are more understated units attached to the big hotels as avenues of recreation and leisure rather than serious gambling dens. Since most tourists head to Costa Rica for its nature and adventure excursions, the gambling scene is not very well developed. The country has more than 40 casinos, most of which are located in its capital San Jose. Visitors often visit the casinos along with the neighboring bars, pubs, clubs and discos to enjoy a slice of San Jose’s nightlife. The casinos here host many events throughout the year including poker conventions and gambling trade conferences.

New gaming laws were passed in Costa Rica in April 2008 restricting the opening hours of casinos in Costa Rica from 6pm and 2am. It was laid down that the all upcoming casinos attached to a hotel would be required to be housed in at least a 3 star resort with 60 rooms that offers all regular amenities. The casino floor space was also required to be not more than 15 % of the hotel’s total floor space and that the casino should not be directly accessible from the street.

In Costa Rica some casino table games may have different names from what their traditionally referred to in the United States. Still others feature different names and its own set of rules. Roulette in Costa Rica is referred to as “Canasta” and is played with a double-zero format. However, instead of using a roulette wheel the winning number is selected from a round wire cage with numbered balls quite similar to the one used in bingo halls.

Most casinos here will be sparingly populated, with a few odd gamblers here and there. The ambiance inside will be non-intrusive and subtle, nothing boisterous or over the top. There will be some soft music playing in the background. Unless it’s the peak tourist season, you will only see about 10%-20% of slots being occupied at any given time here. The manned games almost always have no players and a majority of the games at casinos in Costa Rica are unmanned. Though the larger casinos in Costa Rica are located inside the more upscale five-star hotels, the smaller, intimate ones are where the real charm lies. This is where you can savor a typical Costa Rican casino experience and where you can hobnob with locals, while learning a trick or two from them. It is common for Costa Rican casinos to have fewer than 10 tables and lesser than 60 slots at a time.

Most casinos offer complementary non-alcoholic drinks, though the alcoholic ones are steeply priced. The policy about prohibiting smoking in public places is strictly followed in the Costa Rica casinos and bars. Costa Rican casinos may not functional for 24 hours in accordance with the law. Tipping dealers here is not as prevalent as North America. Though it is not prohibited, it is very rarely done in Costa Rica. The best way to visitors to dress for these casino trips is by keeping it casual. They don’t have any dress codes and being overly dressed can make you appear like a loaded tourist. Most people at these casinos look very much at home in their shorts and flip flops. The focus should be on blending in with the crowd and not attracting too much attention – so keep it casual.

The most popular Casino game in Costa Rica is rummy, also known as 21 or the Costa Rican adaptation of Blackjack. The other sought after games in Costa Rica’s casinos are roulette, slot machines and some card games. Poker though has achieved a crucial level of importance within Costa Rica’s gambling trade. It is played here at international levels. Here are some games here that are very typically Costa Rican like the Caribbean stud poker or Tute as it is called in Costa Rica and pai gow poker. Though roulette is popular here, the numbers are pulled from a tumbler rather than the traditional roulette wheel.

Some of the largest and most stylish casinos are Casino Club Colonial, Casino Hotel, Royal Dutch, and Casino Flamingo Beach Resort, all of which feature tables of poker, black jack, roulette, slots, special drinks and more. There are several other casinos where you can tempt lady luck in Costa Rica. Those who don’t consider themselves seasoned gamblers can have some fun with a slot machine or a manned table. The gabling veterans are often spotted at tables trying their luck at the manned tables, don’t you shouldn’t expect the staff manning the tables to be as friendly and approachable as they are in the United States. Tipping them is also not the norm here, though like everywhere it is considered good etiquette.

Gambling viewed more of a recreational pastime in Costa Rica than the serious activity it is in the United States. Costa Rica visitors should not expect the same professionalism that can be experienced by the croupiers of Vegas. This is more prevalent in the smaller casinos. Boisterous behavior is largely looked down upon here, so guests should avoid getting noisy and unruly. A lot of players in Costa Rica prefer to play in a quiet, unobtrusive environment; hence etiquette demands that the decorum be maintained by tourists.

San Jose, the hub of Costa Rica casinos features top class accommodations and an array of fine restaurants along with a nightlife that replete with bars, nightclubs, discos and live music, which goes on till the wee hours of the morning. Fast paced and cosmopolitan, San Jose is the city to head for if you are interested in having some fun. San Jose has about 11 casinos, most of which are housed in the popular touristy pockets of the city. Most casinos in San Jose are appended to a large hotel. Many tourists who gamble at these casinos are later seen hitting one of the neighboring party hotspots with their won booty.

The Best Luxury Casino Hotels in Costa Rica


Los Suenos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort

The Los Suenos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort is an upscale Costa Rica resort hotel juxtaposed between the balmy waters of the Pacific and a tropical rainforest. Their oceanfront Costa Rica structure includes luxurious guest rooms and suites with magnificent sea, mountain and landscape views. This luxury resort hotel in Costa Rica also features 6 restaurants and lounges, La Iguana Golf Course, Stellaris Casino, and their new Sibo Rainforest Spa and Retreat, all housed in an awe inspiring setting.

Los Suenos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort
Phone: 506 2630 9000
Fax: 506 2630 9090
Toll-free: 1 888 236 2427
Sales: 506 2298 0000 ext. 808
Sales Fax: 506 2298 0033

Four Seasons

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

Housed on a slim Pacific isthmus, bordered by glittery sand beaches, Four Seasons is one od Costa Rica’s finest luxury resort. It features an Arnold Palmer-designed golf, three swimming pools, a world class casino and more. The 165 spacious guest rooms and suites are innovatively adorned with native woods and stone touches. Every room blends effortlessly with an outdoor porch or balcony living area featuring spectacular vistas. Residential-style furnishings and decor are inspired by the resort’s natural surroundings.

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Phone: (506)-2696-0000
Fax: (506)-2696-0010


Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

Situated between the balmy sunny beaches, offering a lush biodiversity and taking in the local cultural heritage, Andaz Peninsula Papagayo features world class rooms and a caboodle of amenities including an upscale casino.

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo
Tel: +506 2690 1234

San Jose Casinos

Colonial Casino

Casino Club Colonial at Sleep In Hotel

Casino Club Colonial was founded in 1982, at the onset of the casino industry in Costa Rica. In 1996 the casino relocated to a new building, which is more sprawling than the earlier one with a larger number of gaming tables, electronic machines, a couple of bars and the Magnolia Restaurant offering tasty local and international treats. The present location is in the centre of the city on 1st Avenue, between 9th and 11th Streets. In 2005 the company founded a hotel next to the Casino Club Colonial. The hotel is attached with the Choice Hotel chain and is part of the Sleep Inn family. One of the newest properties in San Jose, the hotel is located about 15 km/30 minutes from the Santamaria International Airport. The hotel is housed on the northern side of the Casino Colonial block and in front of the old street referred to as “Paseo de las Damas”. The hotel facilities include 24 hour front desk service, complimentary full American buffet breakfast, free airport/hotel shuttle service, exclusive non-smoking VIP casino for guests and customers and complimentary parking for about 40 vehicles.

Casino Club Colonial at Sleep In Hotel
Phone: 2258-2807
Fax: 2233-3827

Hotel Presidente

Fiesta Casino Hotel Presidente

The Fiesta Casino is located inside Hotel Presidente. The games offered here include 150 Jackpot Slots/Video Machines along with live table games such as Roulette, Blackjack, Rummy, Caribbean Stud, Three Cards Poker and Pai-Gow games. The facilities here include a restaurant, bar, the regular hotel amenities, currency exchange, parking (complimentary for hotel guests), complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres for players daily. The casino offers hourly raffles for all guests at the machines while it is drawn.

Fiesta Casino Hotel Presidente
Toll free from U.S. and Canada: 1-877-540-1790
Telephone: 506-2010-0000
From the US: 011-506-2010-0000
Fax: 506-2221-1205
Fax From US: 011-506-2221-120

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