Monday, October 17, 2016

Those clever casinos

     In the 1970s Vegas and Atlantic City were the only two gambling Meccas in the U.S.  Today there are 1,400 casinos scattered over 40 states, many of these money-rakers located on native-American lands.  Their reported income in ’14 was $66 billion from 101 million visitors.  (It’s a cash business, notorious for skimming, book-cooking, and for grossly under-reporting.)

     The allure for visitors is simple: Potential riches with no work involved.  And it’s all cleverly promoted with glittery tinsel and euphemisms.  They’re called resorts, for example, and what they offer is only innocent gaming, not gambling. 

     The psychology is far more complex.  If you’re winning you don’t want to quit.  If you’re losing you’ll keep gambling trying to win back the losses.  People who come away having lost money are reluctant to admit it to family and friends, which works to the casinos’ advantage.  Inside the casinos there are no clocks and no windows.  Players are comfortably insulated against the outside world.  There are enticing photos of a relative few big winners on the wall.  Each time a slot pays off, no matter how little the amount, bells sound and lights flash and coins clatter loudly into trays, creating the illusion that players are winning much of the time.  Players are made to feel welcome with everything from inexpensive food and drink and accommodations to pleasant lighting and comfy seating and live entertainment.

     But the reality is that the odds always heavily favor the casinos.  So they’re not really gambling at all, and the more a player tries to win—the longer a person plays—the more that player is likely to lose.  The overwhelmingly vast majority do lose.

     Few visitors ever question where the billions must come from to create and sustain such lavish surroundings.  That money can only come from those thousands upon thousands of losers, of course.

     And the casinos prey not only on pampered high rollers, but more often also on those least able to afford the losses.  So rents and car payments and other bills go unpaid in order to feed that ephemeral dazzling atmosphere and those insatiable tables and those glitzy machines—and the anonymous wealthy people in the shadows behind them.

     I don’t treat casinos kindly in my fiction.


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