BEST CASINO (2001)
The "bigger is better" principle does not apply to all things. (Think house pets. Alimony payments. Melanomas.) But with casinos, size does matter. Gambling is an inherently grandiose pursuit, and for our money, at least, the bigger and gaudier the venue, the better. For the winners, a roomy casino means a bigger crowd to play to, a better forum for public adulation (or envy). For losers, bigger joints have separate advantages. There are more varied psychic escape routes. One can salve the wounds by taking in a show, or skulk out of the place without anyone really noticing. By this simple standard, Mystic Lake is the best of the 11 major casinos in Minnesota. And by this standard, it is also continually improving. Since opening in 1992, Mystic Lake has expanded from 1,000 slot machines and 76 blackjack tables to more than 3,100 slots and 100 blackjack tables, with a corollary growth in amenities such as hotel rooms, conference rooms, etc. We also appreciate the (relatively) stylish design of the place. The circular architecture of Mystic Lake's main building is an appealing deviation from the big-box design of its fellow establishments, and the spotlights that shoot into the night sky in the configuration of a tipi are a nice, if subtle, acknowledgment of the heritage of the casino's Native American proprietors, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Finally, we appreciate Mystic Lake's 120-foot buffet line, said to the be the largest in the Midwest. For suckers like us, such opportunities for indulgence really take the sting out of the losses. That is, until the heartburn kicks in.