Casino Camping – The Natives are Friendly

Often I find myself in a situation when I'm sort of stuck finding a free place to park overnight. Some cities have anti-RV ordinances, sometimes it's just crowded, and sometimes I'm far away from the big-box retail stores where I usually boondock when traveling through an area. Casinos fill an important void in the financially challenged full-timer's repertoire when it comes to locating an economically appealing overnight parking spot, and they have some advantages over your typical Wal-Mart. Here's how I find them, and what my experiences with casino camping have been.

Quinault Casino in Washington state - a huge empty oceanfront parking lot to hang out in. That's the casino in the distance.

Quinault Casino in Washington state – a huge empty oceanfront parking lot to hang out in. That's the casino off in the distance. The waves are 100 feet out our rear doors.

Finding casinos with welcoming overnight parking policies is relatively simple for me, because I'm a subscriber to overnightrvparking.com , a $25-a-year subscription website which features over 10,000 locations coast to coast where you can park overnight for free or cheap with the data in a convenient Google maps format.  It lists casinos along with Wal-Marts, rest areas, and other places and will tell you whether overnight parking is allowed or not allowed. There's also the free site, casinocamper.com, which has over 350 casinos listed.

The quid pro quo with casino parking is that the casino hopes to attract visitors who will come in and gamble, eat, or otherwise benefit them financially. I just smile and nod when registering – sometimes they'll give you a card for $10 worth of slot machine credit or something like that. My life has been exciting enough without gambling, but some people enjoy it. The usual procedure is to go into the casino and find the hospitality desk/security desk/etc. and ask about overnight camping. Sometimes they give you a casino card.  All gambling these days is electronic – you don't use real money, you put money on your casino card, and watch it disappear. There's usually some minimal paperwork involved, and you get something to put on your dash to show you belong there.  Don't just park, although sometimes that's all you need to do – ask, or follow the procedures listed on the casino camping websites.

Here's where I am as I write this -The Mill Casino in North Bend, OR. We're in town shopping and getting a dental visit in. The RV park is $40 a night, the parking lot is free.

Here's where I am as I write this -The Mill Casino in North Bend, OR. We're in town shopping and getting a dental visit in. The RV park is $40 a night, the parking lot is free. I like free.

Many casinos these days are putting in RV parks as they diversify their techniques for separating palefaces from their money, and sometimes, but rarely, the former boondocking facilities are shut down to encourage people to go into the park.   Much more common is the either/or option – park in the RV park and enjoy the hookups, showers, etc., or park in the adjacent parking lot for free. Free always sounds better to me.

A parking lot doesn't sound all that scenic, but you'd be surprised. I know of two on the Pacific coast where the free parking also includes an oceanfront view.  Others are out in the desert or the mountains, which is also easy on the eyes.  I you're so inclined, go inside (cigarette smoke alert) and check out the buffet. Except in Nevada, where casinos aren't operated by native tribes, the casinos usually have an area with exhibits about the tribe and their history, which are much more interesting to me than gambling.

Laughlin, NV on the way back east. Once again, we have the place to ourselves.

Laughlin, NV on the way back east. Once again, we have the place to ourselves, and a nice view to boot.

Casinos also go out of their way to make the prospect of spending time with them attractive – free fresh water to fill your tanks and a dump station to empty them are offered at maybe half of the non-RV park locations I have visited, and for a nominal fee at the ones with RV parks.  There's usually security staff patrolling the parking area all night, good lighting, and sometimes a shuttle bus to take you to the casino or around town.

So check it out – casinos are a great resource to tap into if you're trying to find a place where you can park overnight for free while you're traveling. I have probably stayed in a dozen or more different ones in the last three years of fulltiming as I have criss-crossed the country, and have never really had a bad experience in any of them.  If nothing else, the people watching opportunities are worth the trip 😉





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21 comments

  1. Nancy

    We too have stayed overnight in casino parking lots. And yes, the cigarette smoke is an issue if you go inside.
    We have been at a couple of Michigan casino’s that had free entertainers or bands playing in a small area, with table seating. Of course they expect you to purchase a few drinks etc., but it was not necessary. They also had free sodas and popcorn.

  2. I follow “campskunk’s” advice and use http://www.OvernightRVParking.com, which I really like because I’m the adminsitrator for the site. But he’s right about casinos — we’ve spent some very pleasant overnights at casinos, including some VERY good meals at very reasonable prices at some of them, including “to-die-for” prime rib at the Blue Lake Casino in Blue Lake, CA.

    • Campskunk
      Author

      lol! hey, no advertising! i’ve stayed at Blue Lake, which has water and a dump, by the way, but i’ve never tried the buffet. maybe i will next time. i’m headed south down the coast now – maybe i’ll treat mrs. campskunk to prime rib for part of her birthmonth celebration. right now she’s celebrating with maple frosted doughnuts.

  3. Gretchen

    Yep, agree about casinos, stayed in one on the OR coast and so far my fav is Central OR, Indian Head Casino near Warm Springs, OR, opened last year, beautiful scenery and the food was wonderful. If you want to be pampered try the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa nearby.

  4. Darlene

    We prefer to stay at casino’s over truck stops and Walmarts. They have 24hr security and in most cases, are quieter. Only for us….they are never “free” as my DH would say. The restaurants are ALWAYS at the back of the casino. And there is ALWAYS a machine calling out your name ;o) Once in a while, they pay us to camp in their parking lot.

  5. I have stayed many times at Mill Bay Casino and enjoyed it very much. My camping style is like yours and I agree,that the free sites are much nicer than one would think.

  6. Sorry I do not agree with looking for free places to stay. We have traveled for 20 years and only twice have stayed at a truck stop for about five ours each time. All RVers should support the owners of campgrounds. That is their source of income and they provide us with great resources. Guess some people just like to freeload. I very much disagree with this practice and am sorry to see you advertise this. Suck it up.

    • You are the moral equivalent of a thief. No campground owner has a claim on my money when they are not providing a service I want or need. Provide what people want, at a price they are willing to pay, or suck it up and go out of business like incompetent businesspeople should. If you are not a campground owner, then your whole statement is pointless as well as rude and ignorant. You don’t like people on long trips just wanting to sleep overnight and move on? Who cares what you like? Thank God you only get to run your life, and not control others. What an awful person you are.

  7. We aren’t freeloaders when we stay at the casinos we spend plenty of money and the camp grounds ain’t nearly as much fun, we camp for fun with our friends ,s

  8. I do somewhat agree with Teena’s comment. While on the road I can’t see paying the 30+ dollars to park and sleep for 8 hours or less. When traveling our first choice is a Campground America campground that is convenient to the road we are traveling.

  9. Teena, I find it sad that you would pass judgment on so many.

    I go to casino lots, Walmarts and truck stops without even a twinge of guilt. My hubby certainly does his fair share of supporting the casinos and we always buy gas or a meal at truck stops ( also enjoy their nice, clean showers). If we stay at a Walmart we buy supplies there.

    I love the stops along highways that provide a space for your RV at night, some even supply power for a small fee. If campgrounds did something like this for those just needing a place to park for the night – for a reasonable fee – I’m sure many, myself included, would gladly go there instead.

    Free enterprise is supposed to allow business to prosper by supporting and supplying the needs of their clients. Most owners of these campgrounds seem to forget this basic principle. Instead they organize groups to lobby governments to take away another business’s right to determine how to treat their customers.

    Recently we tried to support the local KOA in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Temperatures were still below zero at night and the lot was almost empty on the holiday weekend. They wanted $48 dollars for a night and the owner listed his pool as one of the reasons his rates were higher …… Really?

    We joined fellow travellers at Walmart. Met some wonderful people ( not a freeloader among them). We will continue to go to places that actually welcome us, and we will do so guilt- free.

    • 50-90 bucks seems average for campgrounds and most want a minimum of 2-3 nights on weekends. So if traveling from point a to b it is not reasonable to pay this for just parking for the night. Check this site out.. it is a boondocking site where people allow you to boondock on their property. https://www.boondockerswelcome.com/

  10. I boondock at truck stops, Walmarts, and casino’s when I’m on the highways and looking for a place to catch some sleep.. I always ask permission and usually buy something from the place I’m staying. When at a destination, I’ll stay at a campground. I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with this especially when the business gives their ok. Is it freeloading? – No way.