Nemacolin Woodlands Resort Casino Review
Latest on Lady Luck’s lack of online gambling
Churchill Downs is set to take over operational control of the small casino in southwestern Pennsylvania. Since Churchill Downs owns Presque Isle Downs, it is unnecessary for Lady Luck Nemacolin to offer a separate site to patrons when it can just promote the Presque Isle one.
Instead, the Farmington-area property will likely advertise the Presque Isle site once it launches. In fact, that will probably be a more profitable arrangement for Churchill Downs, since it owns Presque Isle outright.
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About Nemacolin Woodlands Resort Casino
An important difference between Lady Luck, the casino at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, and most of the other Pennsylvania casinos is that it is one of two casinos licensed to operate in Pennsylvania in locations with existing hotel resorts. Because of their previous resort status, these casinos are subject to the following restrictions that don’t apply to the other Pennsylvania casinos:
- Maximum of 600 slot machines and 50 table games (whereas other Pennsylvania casinos can have up to 5,000 slot machines)
- Access to the casino restricted to those who are guests of the resort or those with a resort membership, those attending a conference or private function at the resort, or those who have purchased $10 or more in resort amenities
Lady Luck Casino is one of two “resort casinos” that are currently licensed to operate in Pennsylvania. The casino is the most recent addition to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a premier luxury resort occupying nearly 2,000 acres situated in Farmington, PA, about 40 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.
The Nemacolin Resort first opened in 1987 and has since expanded considerably, with multiple new buildings and many activities added over the years. The casino, operated by the St. Louis-based gaming company Isle of Capri, did not open until July 1, 2013.
The resort also includes:
- 320 luxurious rooms and suites
- Townhouses and private homes
- 15 restaurants and lounges
- World-class spa
- Golf course
- A shuttle bus taking guests all around the sprawling property
Clearly, playing in the casino is not the primary reason for coming to Nemacolin; many of the people who choose this somewhat out-of-the-way resort do so more for the opportunity to relax and be pampered than to gamble. While some people do just come for the day, after factoring in the travel time and the various other facilities and activities you might want to take advantage of besides the casino, booking a room is probably a better option. But keep in mind that this is a Five Diamond resort and priced accordingly.
Depending on what types of amenities you are most interested in, one of the special packages listed below might appeal to you. If so, you can obtain more information and book your reservation online or call a reservation specialist at 1-866-344-6957.
Nemacolin Golf Learn and Play package
The golf package is offered Monday-Thursday through October. Priced at $350, it includes a golf lesson with a top teacher and one round of golf. (Figure on at least double that cost if you want to stay overnight.)
Stay more, save now
Stay three nights or more and receive 10 percent off for a three-night stay, 20 percent off for four nights, and 30 percent off for five nights. There is an additional $30 resort fee per room per night. The resort fee covers all of the following:
- Valet parking
- On-property shuttle service
- Access to the fitness center
- Wireless Internet
- Local and toll free phone calls
- Use of outdoor pool
- In-room coffee
- Art tour
- Miniature golf and hiking trails access.
Note: Even with the discount, you need deep pockets to stay at this resort. Rates run in the neighborhood of $300/night Sunday-Thursday and over $400/night Friday and Saturday.
If money is not an object, optional upgrades are available, including spa treatments or in-room wellness treatments.
Includes strawberries and champagne, breakfast in bed, and a $300 resort amenity credit.
Just Roll With It package
Includes overnight accommodations, a $100 resort amenity credit, and casino free play.
Note: The resort credit is built into the cost of the room so you are probably not saving anything.
Who can play in the casino?
Casino access is strictly limited to those who are overnight guests or members of the resort or who purchase $10 or more in resort amenities or a $10 gift card at the Casino Experience desk. Hotel guests can access the casino from the time of check-in to 11:59 p.m. the day of departure. Non-hotel guests who purchased resort amenities or a gift card are required to show a receipt for their purchase, at which time they will be granted casino access for 24 hours. Patrons seeking to enter the casino in this manner can expect to wait in line.
Alternatively, you may purchase an annual membership for $45. This entitles the bearer to unlimited casino access for oneself and one guest for a 12-month period along with discounts for various resort amenities.
As per state law, the minimum age to play at Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin is 21. This age requirement is strictly enforced.
The resort itself is family-friendly
Even though children are not allowed in the casino, they are welcome at the resort. In fact, the Nemacolin Resort in Farmington offers supervised childcare and activities for kids of all ages. Little Tykes is for infants and toddlers from 6 weeks to 3 years old. Kids Klub is for children ages 4-15. Both offer half day, full day, and evening programs. 24-hour advance reservations are required. There is also a gym and carousel on the premises. Alternatively, private babysitting services can be arranged on request.
Security and fairness
All Pennsylvania land-based casinos, including the Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, are licensed and regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). Maintaining this license is contingent on the casino abiding by the strict regulations set forth by this agency regarding permissible games, rules, and payouts.
While Lady Luck Casino is smaller than some of the others in the state and doesn’t offer as many games, the security and quality of the games is in no way compromised. As at the other casinos, the returns on the slot machines may fall short of your expectations. However, all of the games are fair and in full compliance with PGCB standards.
One clear advantage to playing at Lady Luck, which its discerning patrons no doubt appreciate, is that the exclusive nature of the resort eliminates any possible exposure to riffraff, which is a frequent complaint of visitors to some of the other Pennsylvania casinos.
Lady Luck Casino is open 24/7. However, the table games area is only open round-the-clock Friday and Saturday. Otherwise, from Sunday through Thursday, table games are offered from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. only.
The casino has a total of 600 slot machines and just 29 table games. There is no poker room. Nongambling amenities are also very limited. Although there are lots of upscale dining options at the resort, within the casino building itself there is only one casual restaurant and lounge. Live bands entertain on Friday and Saturday evenings.
In addition to slots, players can choose from the following table games:
- Three and four card poker
- Criss Cross Poker (Similar to Texas Hold ‘Em, but with the five community cards dealt in the shape of a cross)
- Mississippi Stud
- Let It Ride
The slot machines at Lady Luck Casino range from penny and nickel slots to high limit slots. Even though the total number (600) pales in comparison to the thousands at other Pennsylvania casinos, there is still more than enough variety to satisfy most players. Your choices run the gamut from familiar favorites to new games you may be seeing for the first time.
An important caveat if you decide to play slots at this casino (or any Pennsylvania casino) is that the return to the player (RTP) is nothing to write home about. Penny machines especially pay back at a lower percentage than higher-denomination machines. However, due to the relatively high 55 percent tax rate on Pennsylvania slots, casinos tend not to be generous with their slot payouts, even for machines taking higher denomination bets.
In general, you can expect a rate of return of 89 to 90 percent. While disappointing, it actually exceeds the minimum return of 85 percent stipulated by the PGCB.
We suspect most of the people who choose to play slots in this casino are casual rather than serious players and also that whatever amount of money they set aside for slot play they can easily afford. Gamblers’ complaints that the slots are not giving them enough bang for their buck tend to be about casinos other than this one. Treat the slots as a form of entertainment, practice good money management, and if you win, even better.
If you have an option to play either American roulette or European roulette at this casino, be sure to choose the latter. Because this game uses a single zero only instead of both a single and double zero, the house edge is 2.71 percent compared to 5.26 percent.
If you would like to do any extended playing in the casino, blackjack is probably your best bet. What distinguishes blackjack from most other casino games is that the outcome is based on a combination of both luck and skill. In addition, certain variations in the rules can make the game either more or less favorable to the player. Pennsylvania happens to be a state whose blackjack rules are among the best in the U.S. While there may be some variations between one casino and another in table limits, number of decks (six or eight), type of shuffle, and optional side bets, the basic rules delineated by the PGCB are standard statewide:
- Blackjack pays 3:2
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Doubling down permitted on any two cards
- Doubling down after splits
- Splits up to three hands (except aces)
- Late surrender
Using correct basic strategy, the house edge on this game is only about .40 percent. At Lady Luck Casino, blackjack players also can make a variety of side bets. Since the side bets have a higher house edge than standard blackjack bets, if you play these gimmicky bets, they should be small bets that you make occasionally, just for fun
Bet Top 3 (also called 21 + 3 Xtreme)
If your first two cards and the dealer’s upcard create certain types of three-card poker hands, you win five to 30 times your bet.
Bet the Set
You win if your first two cards are a pair and win more if they are a suited pair.
You win if your first two cards are suited. You win a top bonus for a king and queen that are suited.
Kings Bounty is a side bet that your first two card will total 20. However, certain rare hands can net you a higher payout. Get two kings of spades when vs. a dealer blackjack and you hit the jackpot.
If your first two cards are either A-K suited, a straight flush, a pair, or a straight, you’re a winner. With the House Money bet, you then have the option to either collect your winnings or add them to your original bet. In other words, you can play the hand in part with the house’s money.
First-time visitors might assume because Nemacolin is such an exclusive resort, the casino is for high rollers only. However, this is not the case at all. As mentioned, there are penny slots along with higher-denomination slots, and there are modest stakes table games as well. For example, there are $5 minimum craps tables and $10 minimum blackjack tables. There is a separate high limit room, but it gets little play.
A main reason for the lack of appreciable high stakes table game play is that the casino’s rewards program only rewards slot play. The usual practice is for casinos to comp slot players at a faster rate than table game players, but if the table game play meets certain standards, it is rewarded as well. Unfortunately, there is no indication that Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin gives table game players anything back in return.
It is not unreasonable for players willing to give a casino heavy action (i.e., $100+ blackjack or craps bets over extended period) to expect to be lavished with free room, food, beverage, and entertainment comps. Nor it is unreasonable for a player betting $25 for four or more hours to receive a nongourmet meal comp. Several other casinos in the state allow players to earn points towards future comps on both slots and table games. With that in mind, there is no incentive for mid to high stakes table game players to patronize a casino that offers no rewards.
Isle of Capri My Fan Club
Earn rewards for your slot play
Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin players can join the Isle of Capri My Fan Club. If you are not a member, you can join either online or when you arrive at the casino. Membership is free, with no obligation. Besides using your membership card to earn points for your slot play, all members are eligible for promotions, gift giveaways, and other special offers, along with complimentary valet parking.
Every 5,000 points player earns can be redeemed for either $10 food and beverage credit, $5 free [lay, or $2.50 cash or resort credit. Furthermore, points earned at this casino can be combined with those earned at other Isle of Capri casinos, excluding the Isle Casino at Pompano Park.
Five-tiered rewards program
My Fan Club is a five-tiered player’s club. The higher your tier (based entirely on slot play) the bigger your benefits. The five tiers are:
- Select (requiring a minimum tier score of 2,000 points)
- Gold ( requiring a minimum tier score of 10,000 points)
- Platinum (requiring a minimum tier score of 100,000 points)
- Millionaire (requiring a minimum tier score of 1,000,000 points)
All tier scores reset annually.
Players at the Select level and higher receive monthly point multipliers, while Gold, Platinum, and Millionaire level players receive 2x, 3x, or 4x points, respectively.
Starting at the Gold Level, players also receive:
- A birthday gift
- Anniversary food credit ($25 for Gold, $50 for Platinum, and $100 for Millionaire)
- Special player room rates
- Monthly bonus coupons for their tier
- Based on play, they may also qualify for a personal host and additional comps and benefits, including discounted or complimentary Carnival Cruise Line cruises
Platinum and Millionaire status entitles players to daily food credits, premium casino beverage service, and priority fine dining reservations. Only players who achieve Millionaire status receive complimentary overnight stays at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin is not for everyone. But if you appreciate the finer things in life and can afford first-class treatment, this casino resort may be for you. If you want an overnight or longer stay at a posh resort where you can get away from it all and not only play some of your favorite casino games, but also relax, unwind, and be rejuvenated, this resort is for you. Keep in mind, however, that in this casino, only slot play counts towards earning comps and tier points.
Unless you have some other reason for making the trip like taking a golf lesson or getting a spa treatment, there doesn’t seem to be much point to just visiting for the day. Some people who did just that complained afterwards on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor about having to pay the $10 casino entrance fee. If you are searching for a casino resort with bustling nightlife, at Lady Luck Casino there isn’t any.
Another common complaint, surprisingly, is that the casino is very smoky. This is a facility which promotes wellness in a big way, but not only is smoking permitted in the casino, customers are also complaining that even in the nonsmoking areas, one can still smell the smoke.
On the other hand, customers have nothing but nice things to say about the friendly staff and high level of service. The special children’s programs also make this resort a great choice for a family getaway.
Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin
4067 National Pike
Farmington, PA 15437