Since Ocean Gaming opened in 2011, it has turned New Hampshire's Hampton Beach into a mini Atlantic City. Okay: Maybe that's a stretch, but there's no other gambling destination in New England with a sandy beach and mile-long boardwalk right outside the door. And this year-round casino and restaurant is helping to draw visitors to Hampton Beach during the shore town's prolonged nine-month off-season.
Ocean Gaming is no high stakes casino: New Hampshire law does not allow commercial or Indian casinos to operate. But the Live Free or Die state does license a handful of charitable gaming facilities. Ocean Gaming can offer its patrons the fun and excitement of blackjack, craps, roulette, money wheel and poker (bingo will be added in 2013) by adhering to laws that require 35 percent of gross revenues be used for charitable purposes and that limit the maximum bet on any game to $4.
Even on a summer day at the beach, it's no fun to lose your shirt, so these low limits make gambling more of a lively diversion than serious business. Dealers are entertaining and helpful to inexperienced players. "At $2 a hand, you can take a seat at a blackjack table and just relax and play," my husband says. "It's like going to the movies. You can put down $20 and have fun for an hour or so." It's especially fun when you're up after a few hands, but if the cards don't go your way, the loss won't sting much, since proceeds support a local charity of the day (see a list of charities and dates).
Players must be at least 18 years old, so my little girl couldn't go inside (even to use the ladies' room, but fortunately, there's a public bathhouse just across the street). The casino caters primarily to adults, but after days of eating mostly seafood, we were pleased to find an affordable restaurant overlooking the beach with options like burgers, salads and sandwiches. Our waitress told us Ocean Gaming has the best pizza in Hampton Beach, and while we didn't try others, we can confirm the restaurant's homemade pizza was surprisingly tasty--especially the fresh, chewy crust.
Since the craps table wasn't yet up and running at noontime, I was only a bit jealous that I didn't get to try my luck. Ocean Gaming is open from noon until 1 a.m. year-round daily, so I know I'll get my turn on another trip to the New Hampshire seacoast. Ocean Gaming makes even a blustery winter or rainy spring day a perfect day to head to the beach.
If you're going...
Location: Ocean Gaming is located at 81 Ocean Boulevard, 2nd floor, in Hampton, NH. It is at the corner of K Street and across the street from the beach. Free parking is available.
Facilities: Ocean Gaming has a private party room that can accommodate 25 to 90 people and welcomes bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthday parties, reunions, business functions and other group events. ATMs are available on-site. The casino also offers free WiFi, and patrons can watch horseracing from all tracks on TVG and place wagers online via twinspires.com. Ocean Gaming is fully handicapped accessible.
Contact: For more information, call 603-601-6690.