Through circumstances not in my control, I recently ventured forth to somewhere I had never purposely planned a trip before - one of the many Indian Casinos that are found typically in the rural reaches of the state.
Gambling in and of itself does not give me any particular thrill, so casinos aren't normally in my line of sight as destination places. Even a place like Las Vegas, with its myriad of options other than gaming, has a built-in, saccharine-style glamor and luxury that I can stomach for only so long.
In contrast to their more well-known and higher-patronized Vegas cousins, the atmosphere within this casino struck me as distinctly blue collar. These were mostly working-wage customers, the casual gambler with nothing better to do, or older folks who had planned smartly, retired, and were more than willing to lose a few hundred in the hopes of winning a few thousand.
In fact, that few thousand was a prominent theme. Instead of touting the possibility of mega-million jackpots, the current casino promotion emphasized lots of little jackpots of between $2000 and $3000, with a nattily-costumed, comic-book-superhero character in evidence to advertise the point. Indeed, little mementos featuring our masked money giver were prominent at every machine that had hit the jackpot in what most would assume recent history.
Likewise, there was no hint of a glitzy, scantily-clad female revue or the stretchy showmanship of the latest Cirque de Soleil creation here. Entertainment consisted of bands simply making a living on old glories of the 1980s and before, or singing acts based in foreign countries designed to draw the gambling-happy populations of various Asian countries in droves.
Outside the rustically-styled stone facade of the casino, nowhere could you locate the neon jungle of the Strip, faux volcanoes and multicolored, dancing fountains. Instead, one was greeted by creaky, wooden buildings and fences, as well as the austere beauty of dormant olive trees back-dropped by green foothills shadowily bathed by the dull light of the winter sun.
As I walked around the gaming area, I noticed the section featuring poker, the phenomenon that shows no sign of letting up, bustling with patrons, with waiting lists to fill tables. This was in stark contrast to the high-limit area, which had all the liveliness of a school library. Perhaps sedated by the lack of patronage, both dealers and players there appeared all too serious or, perhaps, just a bit bored.
There are few things a penny can buy these days, but one of them is a pull on a slot machine apparently. For me, and perhaps reflective of the recent economy, I was surprised to see a large collection of 1-cent, 2-cent and nickel slot machines of wide-ranging themes, from the traditional to the pop-cultured (an eBay slot machine? Who'da thunk?)
I had heard stories of the slot jungles in Nevada featuring these machines in droves, and had thought how a casino could possibly make substantial money off one of these things. But, as I sat down to wile away the time at one of these frugal fixtures for the first time, I noticed that I hadn't given the casino executives enough profit-making credit.
Sure, one can play one penny and play one line on these slot machines. But, when there are fifty lines you can play...ahh, I get it now.
So here I sat, in front of a Hee Haw machine (Hee Haw? Do I have more in common with Buck Owens than I thought?) and trying not to play the maximum allowed. Psychologically, it's hard not to push that "Max" button.
As it turned out, I actually doubled my money. Yeah, I turned a Lincoln into a Hamilton. But alas, video poker wasn't too kind to me that night, so overall it was a small but manageable loss in the pocketbook.
3 weeks ago