When I was in Oklahoma recently, I stopped for dinner at a tribal casino. I had to walk through the gaming floor to get to the restaurant, where I could still smell enough smoke to convince me to order takeout. But I was in there long enough to get a sense of the place. Most of the gamblers looked alcoholic, and none seemed fazed by the secondhand smoke they were inhaling, meaning that most of them were probably smokers themselves.
The gaming floor had a dead end, last stop feel to it. The only thing it lacked was that sign saying, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."
Whenever you see an ad for a casino, it tends to look something like this one, for the Seminole Hardrock in Hollywood, Florida:
Yes! Casinos are glamorous, fun places where babes like this like to hang out and have a blast winning lots of money! Let's go!
But it's almost a certainty you will never see a scene like this that isn't staged. First of all, the odds of three beautiful, well-dressed, perfectly made up models sitting next to each other in front of the slots are about as good as those of pulling the lever on a one-armed bandit and getting four sevens. Second, neither of the two models on the left has the euphoric I-just-hit-the-jackpot look of elation; nor do they have the glazed eyes that most people get after an hour or so of sitting in front of the slots. Both are simply wearing pleasant smiles, as if the photographer just told them to look happy.
As I left I crossed paths in the parking lot with a cigarette-smoking, fifty-ish white guy who was tottering towards the casino. I sensed something vaguely dangerous about him, so looked closely at him as we neared each other. I had gotten that impression because he was giving me the once over. He actually swerved a bit to avoid me; I realized later he must have thought I was a Cherokee security guy connected to the casino.
I also realized that he was probably nowhere close to fifty, but just looked it, and that his addiction to gambling was probably almost as bad as his addiction to cigarettes and alcohol.
Despite his dissolute appearance, he wasn't that bad-looking; in another era, he might have been one of those handsome soldiers whose Daguerrotypes you'll occasionally see. He might even have been one of the soldiers who went down with Custer at Little Bighorn.
At least there he would have met a more honorable end.