"When will the casino buffets re-open?"  This is a common question across social media and message boards like Reddit. And if you're a fan of the buffets, the answer probably won't make you happy.

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The traditional casino buffet was a literal smorgasbord that was designed to bring people into the casino with a low price, and then hopefully then lure them into the gaming areas.  The buffets usually featured a huge variety of meats like roast beef, chicken, and seafood like shrimp, crab legs, and lobster.  I remember the buffet at Horseshoe had entire sections like a Mexican Food Section, Chinese Food, and Italian.  And of course huge salad bars and desset bars.  All of these things are all major draws, but took up a lot of space, and are also very expensive to lay out for very little, and sometimes no return.

Grand Tasting At Vegas Uncork'd By Bon Appetit
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Vegas Uncork'd by Bon

Too Expensive to Operate

Part of the reason for the demise of the buffet is that although it did draw people in, a lot of buffet customers came in strictly for the buffet, and never made their way 'onto the boat.'  SteveFU4109 on Reddit said:

Over a year ago, Margaritaville was looking into opening up it's buffet because them being known for all you can eat crab legs. But at the time, they would have to charge $49.99-$59.99 per person for the buffet. And since then, another crab season has been canceled. So I am sure the price of crabs have gone up even more. It's just not feasible to have a buffet in some cases.

But I am with some of the others in this thread, the buffet was the main reason I went to the casinos because I am not a gambling man.

Of course, the main reason the buffets closed was, say it with me, COVID.  A lot of things changed during and after the pandemic, and unfortunately, buffets were one of them.  Many restaurants and chains like Jason's Deli stopped their salad bar completely during the pandemic. Some have slowly come back, but not at most casinos.  And I have to wonder if it isn't actually somewhat of a relief for casino management.

Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Johns has spoken to several casino managers specifically about the buffets, and told KEEL News:

I will tell you, I've had discussions with some of the licensees about reopening buffets, they were, as I've been told, they were money losers... they were significant money losers.  They were kind of a calling card to get people onto the properties.  So I don't know if you'll ever see the buffets really come back... even out in Las Vegas today you don't see nearly the number of buffets that they had years ago. To be honest with you, I think they're a thing of the past.



Sportsbook Betting

Another reason you might not see buffets at casinos anymore is that a lot of them are taking that space and turning it into the much more profitable sportsbook area.  Since sportsbook betting became legal in Louisiana, all of the local casinos are offering sportsbook betting in addition to the traditional casino games.

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