Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | 6:30 p.m.
If you're looking for a bit of a throwback to old Las Vegas, complete with vintage prices and table limits, then Bill's Gamblin' Hall is an excellent option. Located on the northeast corner of the Strip and Flamingo Road, the place is surrounded by some pretty big neighbors (many of them owned by the same parent company, Harrah's). Bill's has found its niche on the Strip as a hangout for the serious but low-budget gambler.
The large bar towards the front offers $1.50 Coors drafts, but be warned that they are served in slightly smaller cups than usual draft fare. Most other drafts and bottles will run you $2 or $3 and cocktails and shots go from $4.50 on up. A quick walk past the tables brings you to the "Margarita Bar," which seats only four but offers 99-cent margaritas. The frozen drinks are even smaller than the Coors drafts but seem to have a decent tequila ratio, unlike similar deals on the Strip.
Bill's prides itself on its high-quality service. Cocktail waitresses are quick and friendly, so if you're gambling, there's not much need to visit the bars at all. Table minimums can be a bit high for the budget-conscious at $5, but the long stretch of tables doesn't get terribly crowded most nights. Cheap slots and video poker machines take up about half of the casino but wont make you feel too cramped in. Bill's attracts a diversity of patrons, including many locals. It's not unusual to see grandmothers and 20-somethings sharing a craps table.
Free, decent-quality entertainment is available every night on the stage just behind the bar where a few tables and chairs are set up. Bill's doesn't seem to fill up as much as other bargain establishments like O'Sheas or Casino Royale, but provides a few more amenities in a more relaxed environment.
While the two upscale restaurants are great, they don't offer any great deals. Unless you plan to spend a bit more, they might be best to avoid in favor of a nearby food court. Drai's nightclub, located in the basement, makes a good option if you find yourself bored after 1 a.m. (when it opens). Locals get a $10 discount on the steep cover charge ($20 Thursdays and Sundays, $30 Fridays and Saturdays), but expect to wait your turn in line. Once inside, drinks are not cheap, but they are strong. Because they're around $10 per cocktail, be sure to get most of your drinking done before descending into the murky, trance-fueled morass.
Despite its crowded, hectic location, Bill's gets by without turning itself into an assembly-line. Some might call it a compromise between high-quality and low prices, but at its best, Bill's offers both.