Casino Night hopes to draw full house for games, glamour

Formal dress, roulette tables, a live band and an open bar — Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges’ Casino Night has all the trappings of a classic Yale blowout.

According to Yale lore, Rolling Stone Magazine once named Casino Night one of the top college parties in the country. The formal, which will take place Saturday, continues to be one of the most heavily attended parties on campus. But despite the legend of its national reputation, some students say Casino Night may not live up to its hype.

Casino Night
Casino Night

Still, the event regularly draws more than 2,000 students. And event organizers said they think Casino Night is “Yale’s top party by far.”

“It has a different feel,” said Jen James ’08, Morse College Council president. “Most things are only a dance. We are the only party that is still allowed to serve alcohol.”

In addition to a well-stocked drink tent, the party features a mixture of activities including gambling with fake chips, an assortment of refreshments and a prize raffle. This year, students in attendance will dance to an 18-piece live band and a D.J. for a “hip-hop lounge.” A new Yale Social Cup poker tournament will pit members of the 12 colleges against each other.

Rolling Stone Reputation

The Rolling Stone claim to fame is still used to advertise the party. A 1991 issue of the News reported that Casino Night was written up in “Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top ten college parties,” and an article published in the News in 1996 mentions that Rolling Stone ranked Casino Night as one of the top 10 parties in the U.S. “several years ago.”

Still, this accolade — whether rumor or fact — is widely believed on campus.

Stuart Schwartz, who has been at Yale for 12 years and master of Ezra Stiles college for five years, said his understanding is that the Rolling Stone ranking came out about 10 years ago. When told that reports of the ranking could be found as far back as 1991, he chuckled.

James said she heard that the party earned its title in Rolling Stone in the 1980s. Current students interviewed had heard about the college’s spot on the list, and the myth that Casino Night is the “best college party” continues to loom large.

Pete Martin ’10, a chair of the Morse Student Activity Committee, said when he heard the Rolling Stone rumor he was surprised any Yale event had made it on the list, since the funds and resources allocated to University parties might be smaller than those for similar events at larger universities.

“The fact is that we are relatively a small school,” Martin said. “[Other schools] are just massive and put parties on with tens of thousands of dollars, but we are going to operate with several thousand dollars.”

But Martin — who is a staff columnist for the News — added that he thinks if any Yale event were to make the list, it would be Casino Night.

Still, Dhruv Chopra ’09, a chair of the Ezra Stiles student activity committee, said Casino Night’s status as a top party in the country is “irrelevant.” Chopra said the party will bring in many students regardless of its long-standing reputation.

“It is one of the most widely attended parties at Yale and I don’t think anyone goes home and says they had a lousy time,” Chopra said.

The party — and the rumor of its national reputation — has been a campus staple since at least the early 1990s. Many of those interviewed from the class of 1996 agreed that the party was enjoyable, but not necessarily worthy of its reputation. A News article from 1996, when the party made a bid for Glamour Magazine’s Party of the Year, describes a fete complete with 200 high-grade cigars. Organizers attempted to obtain slot machines that year, but failed as the machines are illegal in the state of Connecticut.

Lauren Henkin ’96 said she remembers that Casino Night was well-publicized and much anticipated, and Joshua Meyer ’96 said while he could not remember if he attended the party himself, it was a “big deal” on campus.

“It never made or broke my Yale experience,” he said.

One of Many

Georgeanne Morgan-Artz ’96 said while she had a lot of fun at Casino Night, she had fonder memories of other yearly parties.

“More memorable to me was the Safety Dance,” Morgan-Artz said. “And then there was a Fire and Ice party every year that I remember being fun. [Casino Night] was publicized as a big deal, but thinking back I wouldn’t pick that as the most exceptional.”

Eric Bank ’08, who has attended Casino Night twice, said he is pleased that party organizers strive to spice up what could have been a generic dance party with other festivities and said he said he will go if he can. But he jokingly expressed relief that “certainly not everyone goes,” because all 5,000 undergraduates could not pack themselves into the Ezra Stiles and Morse dining halls.

Andrew Chittenden ’09 said he thinks since Casino Night is such a well-established event that students likely form their opinions about it early in their time at Yale and rarely change them.

Imran Bhaloo ’10 said he suspects event organizers are relying on the party’s reputation to attract students.

While he said the party is popular with freshmen and he wishes he had attended last year, some students lose interest by sophomore year.

“I guess once you are a sophomore you tend to be more selective with your free time,” he said.

Among the many enticements of Casino Night is its formal attire. Martin said the suits and cocktail dresses set a good mood for the event and sets it apart from other events on campus.

“As a sophomore, this is going to be the only time I put on a suit and tie all year,” Martin said.

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