Traveling Around - French Lick, IN - Indiana's First Land Based Casino
We were vacationing in south central Indiana with our family. We rented a 4 bedroom resort ranch house that not only had the bedrooms but had a loft with single beds for the kids. Our extended family filled the place and we'd spent the week just relaxing near Franch Lick, IN. At one point we took in a movie in town with one of the grandkids but mostly just lazed around the ranch. One day, though, Sharon and I and one of the sons decided we should explore the town a little - particularly the casino.
French Lick, Indiana, exudes an aura of scruffy genteelism through its downtown area. A five and dime, diminutive in size, sits on one corner across from the Colonial Bar. Other small businesses are spaced down the block. Yet almost next door is a newly wrought multiple story building with gift shops and fast food restaurants.
There are three golf courses directly associated with the French Lick Resort and five more in the area. The Pete Dye designed course at French Lick Resort was named Indiana Golf Course of the Year in 2012. The Donald Ross Course (also at the Resort) was extensively remodeled in 2005 and historically is one of the more famous courses in Indiana in that it has hosted both the PGA and the LPGA tournaments in years past.
In 2006, a license was transferred from Patoka Lake so that this casino could be built. At that time state law still required casinos to be riverboats and so a pond was constructed and a riverboat put in place. Anticipating correctly that changes in the law were coming, the casino was able in 2008 to convert to Indiana's first land based casino.
Seventy five years ago, the the main street of French Lick housed 32 speakeasies and illegal gambling dens. Al Capone frequented the area as did Franklin Roosevelt. The medicinal springs lured so many people that there were seven railroad companies serving the small town. The train station is now a railroad museum that has daily sightseeing trips via train.
Today, instead of trains, tour buses bring day time gamblers into the legal casino.
Behind and to the south of the train station is the newly refurbished French Lick Resort Casino. Resplendent in its yellow brick facade, the buildings dwarf the rest of the town. The French Lick Springs Hotel contains 443 newly refurbished rooms and a 27,000 square foot mineral springs spa. Room rates begin in the $150 a night range. Adjacent to the hotel there is a similarly finished events center and multi level parking garage. Nearby, and part of the resort, is the West Baden Springs Hotel which contains 243 rooms where rates begin at approximately $250 per night. The newly opened land based casino is connected to the parking garage with an enclosed walkway and shuttle service is provided for hotel guests.
Upon entering the casino, the table games are directly in front of the patron. Blackjack, Three Card Poker, Craps, and Roulette are compactly arranged. To the right and to the left of the entrance are banks of slot machines. These slot machines requires varying levels of play - from one cent to five dollars a spin. Beyond the table games is the VIP area where high limit games are played.
In the far right corner of the casino is a bank of approximately 50 video poker machines in varying denominations and games. The patron can find nickel deuces wild poker as well as one dollar jacks or better.
In the far left corner of the casino is the non smoking room. It is more spacious than the main casino and doesn't feature as many machines. There are tables games available as well as an automated poker room where the cards are dealt by a computer in a video environment.
Two venues are available for eating in the casino.
To the right of the casino entrance is a snack bar that has sandwiches and other snack foods. There is also a self serve drink bar that is free to casino patrons. It has soft drinks, coffee, and iced tea. The sandwiches are moderately priced.
To the left of the casino entrance is Diamond Jim's Trattoria. It has an expansive menu of American favorites from eggs Benedict to specialty cut steaks that are also moderately priced.
Additionally, there are restaurants in the hotels - both the French Lick Springs Hotel and the West Baden Springs Hotel - that feature both casual and gourmet dining along with room service.
In addition to the artwork and the architecture, characters abound in the casino atmosphere and although Al Capone won't show up, there are plenty of "people watching" opportunities to while away an afternoon.