Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Casinos, Gambling, Glamour, and Reality
It was a big weekend; Saturday was Mom's birthday, and Sunday was Mother's Day, so Saturday night I took Mom out for dinner and then on Sunday my sister and her husband took us all out for a breakfast brunch at Rocky Gap State Park near Cumberland, MD, where they also have a golf resort and a casino. And we gambled. Which felt a bit transgressive and raffish on Sunday morning.
And after a lifetime of novels and movies that made casinos look mysterious and glamorous and all that...I walked away a bit disappointed. It was more like an 80s video arcade than something from a James Bond film. There was a ton of dinging and flashing from the video slot machines that the rest of my family is so fond of. NASCAR slots. Spartacus slots. Universal Monster slots. Little Red Riding Hood slots. Sex in the City slots. Willie Wonka slots. Willie Wonka slots? That's something you'd expect to find in a casino for preteens!
Granted, this is a smallish casino in an area where slots are popular. They had some table games but only roulette and blackjack were active at the time. (It WAS Sunday morning, after all.) I watched roulette for a bit but I have no idea how the betting works so never took part.
So, really, I found the slots a terrible bore. The table games vaguely intrigued me but they're pricier than the slots. To be honest, I can see myself going to a casino with some extra cash and trying out roulette or craps, after studying the betting so I have some idea of what I'm doing. Just to have the experience.
But this was a far cry from flicks like Casino Royale or books like William Le Queux's The Gamblers. It's not in line with the romantic notions of London clubs or Monte Carlo. No tuxes and evening gowns, no million-dollar fortunes falling on the turn of a card, no European nobility or South American playboys. Instead, it's small, rather dull, dark, and a bit sleazy.
Reminds me of recently reading how horse racing was falling from favor, and some racetracks were closing or scaling back operations. Questions of animal rights aside, horse racing and racetracks are now being seen as sleazy and a hangout for hoods and gangsters, and few in the younger generation feel willing to take on the labyrinthine complexity of betting at the tracks.
So, I learned I'm not a gambler. Some day, when I have $50 or more to spare, I may dress up, get some friends together, and head down to Maryland Live to experiment with roulette.
And it was faintly amusing to see, everyone one turned, signs about gambling addiction and giving the phone number for a gambling hotline. I thought they'd do well to post copies of Théodore Géricault's portrait, "Woman with a Gambling Mania." That would freak anyone out.