The Reef Casino in Queensland is the only casino venue in Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The glass dome rooftop of the complex is a major part of the Cairns skyline, visible from most of the city proper.
Open since 1996, besides the casino, the complex is home to a hotel, a nightclub, a wildlife exhibit called the Rainforest Dome, and multiple restaurant and bar facilities. Built on the shores of the Trinity Inlet, the entertainment centre that includes the Reef’s hotel and gambling venue offers views of the city of Cairns on one side and a look out over the waterfront on the other.
The Reef Casino is open from 9 AM to 3 AM during the week, extending its hours to 5 AM on Friday and Saturday. Gamblers can play during those hours every day, except when the casino is closed on Good Friday and Christmas, and on Anzac Day when the doors open at 1 PM.
The game collection at the casino includes traditional versions of blackjack, roulette, a mini-baccarat game as well as a full-scale version, craps, Sic-Bo, money wheel, and two unique games, Reef Routine and Paradise Pontoon available only on the gambling floor at The Reef. Casino-style poker games, like Three Card Poker and Casino War, are hosted at a small collection of tables set apart from the other traditional casino game offerings.
A large portion of the table games area is set aside for the popular game Rapid Roulette, unique to Australian casinos. Played according to single-zero (European) rules, Rapid Roulette is an electronic version of standard roulette, played via an electronic gaming portal and touch screen instead of at a traditional roulette table.
The Reef is home to more than 500 gaming machines, including pokies as well as video poker and other skill games. Coin denominations and bet sizes on the casino’s electronic titles range from AUD $0.01 up to $1, except in the VIP section where pokies and other games allowing much larger wagers are available. Linked and local progressive titles are spread throughout the gaming floor for pokies fans looking to chase a larger jackpot than usually found on poker machines.
Every Wednesday through Sunday, starting at 7 PM, a section of the Reef’s gaming floor opens as a poker room, with as many as a dozen head-to-head ring games of Texas Hold’em taking place at any given time. Buy-ins vary from AUD $50 to $500 with blinds set at AUD $2.50/$5. As of this writing, the casino doesn’t have any poker tournaments scheduled; interested parties can contact the casino’s staff to inquire about future poker tourneys.
The casino’s VIP section, called Club Prive, is where high-stakes versions of The Reef’s table games are held. Multi-lingual hosts are available for international travellers, though access to Club Prive is by invitation or appointment only. On most games in the club, minimum bets are set at AUD $50, though some of the pokies and other machine games allow slightly smaller minimum bets. A free membership to Club Prive is required for entry; membership in this rewards program makes guests eligible for loyalty rewards and privileges more valuable than the casino’s standard loyalty offers.
The Reef Hotel has 128 guest rooms most of which offer views of Cairns or the nearby river. The site is built adjacent to a large shopping outlet section in Cairns business district as well as Reef Fleet Terminal, where boats and guides are available for people interested in snorkelling, glass bottom boat tours, diving trips, and fishing around the famous Great Barrier Reef.
Both the casino and hotel have a relaxed dress code requiring “smart, clean clothing and suitable footwear” according to the website. The site goes on to suggest that men wear a shirt with collar as well as both socks and shoes, though it points out that “a tie is not necessary,” which is good news in the warm tropical climate. The only clothes specifically restricted from the casino floor is “work attire.”
Inside the casino, the hotel complex hosts a “New York style nightclub” called 1936, which hosts theme nights and open parties to attract hotel and casino guests as well as Cairns locals. 1936 also has two bars and a private are for pool and billiards play separate from the dance floor. Like the casino, only guests aged 18 or older can enter the club.
The Cairns Rainforest Dome, located in the large glass dome that’s the most visible section of the complex, opened recently. Encased in a 20 metre dome on the casino’s rooftop, the feature is home to over 100 species of native Australian animals in an environment that replicates their natural habitats.
The restaurants located on the premises serve a variety of cuisines. The signature eatery is Tamarind Restaurant serving a unique take on Asian food. Reservations are recommended, as Tamarind is one of the most popular restaurants in all of Cairns.
Less fancy food is available twenty-four hours a day at the buffet restaurant Pacific Flavours. Seafood is the specialty, though traditional hot and cold buffet foods are available all day.
Cafe China Noodle Bar, built inside Cairns’ historic Customs House, is another Asian restaurant serving a line-up of noodle soups, stir-fries, and curries. Guests can reserve special tables built on balconies looking over Cairns’ city centre.
The attached casino property offers guests an outdoor rooftop swimming pool and spa area with a salon and gym, typical of casino-resort properties. The hotel also provides a long list of services for guests, including a currency exchange office, a hotel doctor on-call twenty-four hours a day, valet service and parking, and concierge services to help guests make their way around the city and surrounding area.
Cairns only large casino gambling destination, The Reef is also an entertainment complex where nightclubs host live musical performances and comedy acts. The centre is also close to Cairns central shopping district and ports leading to the Great Barrier Reef. One of the larger collections of table games and electronic gambling machines in Queensland, The Reef is a big part of Queensland’s gambling industry.