The Road to the Wizards of Odds

The gaming community of Laughlin, Nev., has had a strong draw since it was founded in 1966 on the banks of the Colorado River by longtime gaming executive Don Laughlin who purchased a small motel there. It was the forerunner of a gaming boomtown 90 miles south of Las Vegas. Laughlin now has 10 resort hotels that compete with Las Vegas for tourism.

Laughlin's appeal to seniors is the bargain prices for meals and lodging. Midweek room rates are sometimes advertised for as little as $9 per night, while buffet meals average less than $5 for dinner.

There is a wide range of recreational activities for those who want to take time away from the gaming tables and showrooms. Laughlin offers golf, tennis, fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing, camping, hiking, scuba diving, bird-watching and desert biking.

Almost all of Laughlin's gaming establishments feature the usual casino games of poker, baccarat, craps, blackjack and roulette, plus slot machines, video poker and keno. Information on Laughlin may be obtained by calling the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce at (800) 227-5245.

A roundup of Laughlin's resort hotels and casinos includes:

* Avi Hotel & Casino, owned and operated by the native Mohaves, has 330 rooms and suites, five restaurants, plus a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor and a Subway sandwich concession. Telephone (800) 284-2946.

* Colorado Belle, more than 1,200 nautically themed guest rooms, five restaurants plus snack bar and bakery, two swimming pools, gift shop. Tel. (800) 458-9500.

* Edgewater Hotel & Casino, 1,450 rooms, three restaurants, pool. Tel. (800) 677-4837.

* Flamingo Hilton, 1,973 rooms, pool, six restaurants plus a Burger King and Dairy Queen, Tel. (800) 352-6464.

* Golden Nugget, 300 rooms, four restaurants, enclosed rain forest atrium with jungle sound effects. (800) 237-1739.

* Gold River, more than 1,000 rooms in a 25-story tower, fitness center, car wash. Tel. (800) 835-7903.

* Harrah's Laughlin, 1,600 rooms, five restaurants, health club, sand beach. Tel. (800) 447-8700.

* Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall, Western-style resort, more than 400 rooms and mini-suites, two restaurants, plus a snack bar. Tel. (800) 634-3469.

* Ramada Express, 1,500 rooms, four restaurants, pool. Tel. (800) 272-6232.

* Riverside Resort, more than 1,400 rooms and suites, RV park with 800 full hook-up spaces, three movie theaters, dance hall, five restaurants, two pools. Tel. (800) 227-3849.

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