Casinos offer RVers secure overnight camping, games, cheap buffets

    Motor Matters photo

    The popularity of recreation vehicles among retirees and millennials continues to grow, placing more RVs on the road and tightening the availability of campsites for RVers traveling long distances that simply want a safe place to pull off the highway and sleep for a few hours before continuing their journey. And many of these RVers are looking for ways to trim their overall cost of overnight campground stays, writes Julianne G. Crane for Motor Matters and also published in the Farm Forum Green Sheet.

    Enter the casino industry. Hundreds of casinos across the country are taking advantage of this niche market by offering free overnight dry-camping (boondocking) stays in their parking lots.

    Jane Kenny, author of Casino Camping: Guide to RV-Friendly Casinos, and her husband, Jack, began RVing full-time in 2000 in their 38-foot Winnebago Suncruiser. They discovered that most casinos are RV-Friendly and allow free parking overnight for self-contained vehicles. Many casinos also offer full-service campgrounds at a reasonable cost and some casinos offer senior discounts.   

    For overnight camping, Steve and Jackie Jones of Lake Havasu City, AZ, favor casinos over big box store lots because they feel safer in the “controlled environment of a casino,” said Jackie Jones. “All the casinos we’ve stopped at have security driving around. I walk our dogs several times a day, and I always feel safe.”

    “Needless to say,” said Kenny, “recreational gaming is a popular activity and more casinos continue to be hospitable to RVers.” Many resort casinos include multiplex movie theaters, swimming pools and even golf courses. As with any large parking lot, the downsides include bright security lights at night and potential highway noise.

    Keep in mind these tips when parking for free at a casino.

    • Always check in with security and ask about their casino’s specific procedure regarding free overnight parking and where they want you to park.

    •Limit free overnight stays to 24 hours, unless you get permission to stay longer.

    • Remember, a parking lot is not a campground says Kenny. “Seasoned RVers cringe when they go into a casino parking lot (or Wal-Mart or Flying J) and see people who’ve put out their awnings, chairs, and barbecues. Restrict your RV activity to the inside of your rig. “If you want to ‘camp,’ check into a campground.”

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    Casino Lethbridge, in Alberta offers free RV parking. They do not appear to have a limit on length of stays as many of those we see, are the same rigs week after week. Someone is looking in because the east lot where they park is quite clean. However we stayed there one night a year ago and one guy who seems dug in pretty good, ran his noisy generator (outside his 25 foot trailer) for the entire time we were there, all afternoon and all night. Free does come with some intolerable caveats. The casino itself is great – really friendly door and floor people running this place. Yes, and the food is not cheap – its good though.

    Roy Ellithorpe

    It’s been a loooong time since I’ve seen a cheap buffet at a casino.