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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Custer's last stand

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.

Real convincing.

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.


Quartermain said...

A few years ago, for the heck of it, I went with a friend to a gambling den.

All the refreshments was over priced.

What however stood to my memory was the glassy look of the people at the slot machines. They were zombiefied.

Yeh, some of the gals were cute but nothing warm about them.

I heard around that time a guy who went there thought he got lucky with one of the gals there. What he got instead was his wallet stolen.

John Craig said...

Allan --
"Den" is the right word, as in "of iniquity."

And yes, there are some good-looking women, at least in Las Vegas, but they're practically all pros at one level or another. And they sorta look it, too.

I was under the impression that a lot of the casinos served free drinks, at least on the gaming floor. It's a good investment for them, it keeps the gamblers gambling.

W O D said...

Hi John.

Check out Louis Theroux's documentry on casino's if you can.

Very interesting as he follows some gamblers for their week long gambling binge.

John Craig said...

(Wodgina?) --
I'll take a look, have the first ten minute part up right now. I've spent a little time in Vegas myself, so have a vague sense of the place.

John Craig said...

W O D --
Just watched the entire thing. I had only intended to see the first one or two ten minute episodes, but it drew me in, sort of the same way the casinos do. It did a good job of depicting the sickness that is gambling, and the emptiness of the whole thing.

But at the same time, I found myself liking the gamblers and disliking that drip Louis Theroux, even though -- or maybe because -- I'm a lot more like Theroux than like those gamblers.

Dave Moriarty said...

I happned to be in Singapore last year and entered the new casino there. all it was lots of chain smoking chinese guys. no James Bond types and no bond girls.
left glad i didnt want to spend time there. on the other hand the infinity pool at the top of the hotel was spectacular.,r:17,s:0,i:137

John Craig said...

Dave --
Wow -- that's some pool! I don't like heights, so I think it would scare me. I'd feel as if I was about to swim off the 55th floor.