How Much Does it Cost to Open a Casino? [Land-Based & Online]
Starting up a casino is a huge investment, though the establishments are wildly popular throughout the U.S. and the world. If you want to own one of these venues, it’s important to understand both the startup and operating costs.
Before you begin budgeting your casino, you need to ensure that it’s legal in the location you’re planning to open your establishment. Physical, commercial casinos are only legal in a few areas of the U.S., so make sure you do your homework ahead of time.
Generally speaking, small physical casinos can cost between $2 million and 5 million. Medium size casinos would run between $10 million to $20 million. Despite popular belief, riverboat casinos and online casinos are not much cheaper than land-based.
Cost Factors for Opening a Land-based Casino
|Casino||Reported Construction Cost|
|Wynn Las Vegas||$2.7 Billion|
|The Palazzo||$1.9 Billion|
|MGM Grand||$1 Billion|
|Red Rock Casino||$925 million|
|Paris Las Vegas||$785 million|
One of the biggest expenses you’ll need to consider is the land where you’ll build your casino. If you want to open a casino without spending so much money, you’ll need to do some research and purchase land at a good price.
This can be a challenge because of the limitations on where you’re legally allowed to build a casino, as well as needing to build in an area that will attract patrons.
Las Vegas was a naturally great place for casinos to pop up because it’s a town where three major interstates and even more major highways intersect in the midst of the desert. There are plenty of ways to get to Vegas, whether by car, airplane, or train. It’s become a bustling tourist location for gamblers and non-gamblers alike.
Of course, you’re probably not thinking of opening the next Bellagio. Still, it’s important to take some of Las Vegas’s lessons to heart – people need to be able to reach your casino and it needs to draw enough visitors to make your establishment profitable.
You also need to ensure that the legal regulations and zoning restrictions allow for a casino in your geographic location.
The next thing to think about is how big your casino will be. The largest and most successful casinos have a huge selection of games and a massive floor plan. For example, the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, OK has over 8,000 slot machines, 55 poker tables, and 400,000 square feet of casino space.
The most successful casinos are typically attached to a hotel and provide more than just gambling. They have bars, entertainment venues, and a safe and clean place to stay. This encourages guests to spend more time in the casino, drink, and have a great time spending money.
Of course, adding a hotel to your casino will add to the budget. The average cost of a hotel in the U.S. is over $22 million, just to give you an idea of what it might cost to go that route.
The casino’s size will have a direct impact on the cost to construct the building itself, which will be a massive expense.
Casinos typically have an elegant or upscale look to them. This is necessary for creating an environment that’s appealing to high-rollers. Still, this kind of style comes with a cost. You’ll have to plan for expensive flooring tiles, high ceilings, and high-quality carpet and furniture that can hold up to the wear and tear of visitors.
Slot Machines and Electronic Games
Whether you’re looking to open a land-based or riverboat casino, slot machines are no doubt on your list of games to purchase. They’re among the most popular venues within a casino, and they’re definitely good for profits.
A brand-new slot machine typically costs anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000. Many of these electronic games are themed and licensed to major movies, television, and other trademarked and copyrighted franchises. As such, you’ll have to pay extra to get those branded machines.
Plus, those upfront costs don’t account for repairs and maintenance, especially in the event that a patron spills a drink or otherwise damages the machine.
So, if you want to have at least 500 slot machines, you’ll need to plan to finance around $10 million to fund the games alone. However, if you can drum up enough patrons to play the games and get your money’s worth, you can pay for this investment and make a profit in a reasonable amount of time.
If you’re planning to operate in a state that allows casinos, you’ll need to apply for the appropriate licensing and permits to do so. For example, in Colorado, the fees for obtaining a business license runs around $10,000, and that’s before you even begin the building process.
Cost for Casino Tables and Furniture
When you decide to open a casino, you’ll also need to consider the cost for the gaming tables and furniture. These are expensive, but necessary, accessories for your venue.
A professional blackjack table may cost between $4,000 and $15,000, depending on the style and finishings. You’ll need several of these tables depending on how big your casino will be and what kinds of games you’ll offer.
A professional craps table will cost around $5,000 at minimum. An upgraded table may be closer to the $10,000 range. Still, these are essential, classic table games that no casino will be complete without.
Roulette is another game that most people expect to see in a casino. A professional roulette wheel typically costs between $2,500 and $8,000, depending on the size and finish.
These are just some examples to give you an idea of what you should expect to pay to furnish your casino with table games.
Don’t forget that your guests will also need a place to sit at the table. That means you’ll need to purchase an abundance of high stools with backs that will be comfortable for your patrons to sit in for long periods. You don’t want a high roller to leave the table because they aren’t comfortable in your chairs.
Games, tables, and furniture are big expenses for opening your casino. You should always opt for higher quality equipment to give your casino a more luxurious feel, especially if you want to attract and retain high rollers that will come in and spend a lot of money in your establishment.
Cost to Open an Online Casino
A much simpler option than buying land and building a casino is to start up an online gambling platform. Online casinos are becoming more and more popular, because patrons can have the thrill of the game without having to leave their home.
Despite the lack of overhead, starting up an online casino is still an expensive venture. If you start your company from scratch, you’ll have to get a developer to create your software and get your platform up and running.
Developers may charge anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 to create your casino’s software. Often, this will also involve royalty agreements where you’ll continue to pay the developer to license their product for a period of time.
There are also specific licensing requirements to consider with an online casino. Even though you aren’t building a physical establishment, the government still expects to get their piece from your revenues. For example, in Antigua, one of the first jurisdictions to allow internet gambling licenses, it costs around $100,000 to run an online casino.
In addition to the software and licenses, you’ll need to hire a skilled firm to design your website. This can cost several thousands of dollars to do it right.
There are also costs associated with keeping your website secure, which is essential when you’re dealing with people’s money. Many processors require a minimum amount of transactions, which you may struggle with when you’re first starting out.
Online Casino Cost
|Software Development||$100,000 – $300,000+|
|Licensing||$50,000 – $150,000+|
|Website Development||$3,000 – $10,000+|
|Payment Processing (Annually)||$200,000 – $300,000|
|Staffing||$150,000 – $250,000+|
|Liquid Cash on Hand||$500,000 (min.)|
|TOTAL||$1.5 million – $2.1 million and up|
Cost to Open a Riverboat Casino
Riverboat casinos are more expensive to open than many people realized. It’s reported that these floating gaming centers cost between $5 and $20 million to open, and that’s before you take into account the cost to install gaming equipment.
Installing slot machines and tables may cost several more millions of dollars, making a riverboat casino a costly venture. A riverboat casino will have many of the same expenses as an on-land casino, minus the cost to build a large, physical building from scratch.
In some areas, however, a riverboat casino may be the only way to go if legal restrictions prevent you from building a traditional casino.
In addition to slots and table games, riverboat casinos can serve as entertainment venues, restaurants, and offer lounges with scenic water views. This makes them unique from their land-based relatives and another option for those who live in some areas where land-based casinos may not be legal.
The ongoing operating costs to own a casino are also quite high. You’ll need to plan for things like comps (to keep big spenders coming back), payroll, license fees, taxes, alcohol, and the cash you’ll need to have on hand to pay out winners.
Remember, operating expenses typically run about two-thirds of the casino’s revenue. So, you’ll need to be successful if you plan to turn a profit.
Cash On Hand & Security
Remember, casinos have to keep a lot of cash on hand at any given time. They must be able to pay out any potential winnings to customers. Based on the laws in your area, this could come out to a very large sum. That means you need to have liquid assets available to pay out at any time.
Even a small casino may need to have tens of millions of dollars available, depending on the types of games you have, the quantity, and the potential jackpots.
With that kind of cash, you’ll need to have tight security. If you’ve ever visited a casino, you know that they have some of the best security systems out there along with plenty of personnel that are strategically placed all around the casino.
The best security doesn’t come cheap, but this is a calculated investment that you’ll have to make in your business.
Licensing & Financing
Opening a casino may seem like a crazy idea. The costs are exorbitant and they’re not legal to operate in all areas. Still, casinos are popular venues that draw millions of visitors every year. Places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City are meccas for gamblers and everyday tourists looking to take in the neon lights and glamor of a bygone era and for high-rollers looking for a thrill.
If you want to open a casino, you’ll need a large amount of funding or financing to get the job done. You’ll need to choose a location and do a lot of research to find out if the casino is legal, and if so, where you can put it, and what kinds of licenses you’ll need.
Then, you’ll have to look into standard business licenses, liquor licenses, and other permits that you’ll need to obtain before you open up your casino.
Another consideration is whether you’re interested in opening a land-based or riverboat casino. Both these are viable options, so it comes down to personal preference, market research, and what’s allowable in your geographic location.