Maybe it’s because we’re a one-income family or because I try to squeeze my grocery dollars as far as they’ll go. Maybe it’s because I feel a sense of accomplishment when I can produce an edible meal out of rice and hamburger for approximately $3 total. Maybe it’s because I know how far $50 or $75 could go in the life of a single mom or a child in Africa. Or maybe it’s because I’m just no fun.
But after spending a few days at the casino for my husband’s convention, I have to say it: I just don’t understand gambling.
Please don’t be offended if you do enjoy this. I’m not trying to be condescending or sarcastic. It’s just that my brain can’t figure out a way to make losing money fun. I guess I just don’t have enough of it to view it as a sport or hobby instead of a loss.
The photo above was taken on the casino floor earlier this week. I walked around feeling nearly assaulted at the constant cacophony of bells, alarms, dings, and chimes. Lights whirled and blinked and shone with such brilliance that I contemplated getting out my sunglasses. Stools filled with people staring desperately at slot machine screens emitted a haze of cigarette smoke that nearly gave me asthma on the spot. No wonder they’re chain smoking, I thought–they’re scared out of their wits that they’ll lose all their mortgage money!
As I wandered deeper into the bowels of this beguiling money-making machine, I stopped to watch some people at the $5 slots. High rollers in my world. All I could think about was how they could be at Little Caesar’s getting a pizza for each of their “spins,” or in today’s world, “button pushes.” $5 will rent a movie, get 5 coloring books at the dollar store, buy two days worth of hot lunch for our kids, get 5 roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s…or…one push of a button.
You can imagine my angst when one of the women in that area walked up and easily slipped a $100 bill into the Wheel of Fortune game. Ouch! 20 pushes of the button…or a week of groceries for many families. 20 pushes of the button…or 5 tanks of gas. Or a nice outfit. Or 3 BioSand water filters for a family living without clean water [see right].
I wandered next to the Craps table [I had to ask the dealer what the game was called]. This was interesting. This game had people using chips and cash. I watched as a man plopped two Benjamin’s on the table and stabbed them into some sort of hole-in-the-table-money-take-away-er. All with ease. With one swift motion. $200–gone in 2 seconds.
Now, lest you think I’m trying to be the morality police, I’m not. I tried the $1 slot machine twice, and nearly won! [How many people say that, huh?!] And I’ll admit: after my first pull of the lever when my 7’s nearly lined up, I felt a tightening in my stomach and this foreign kind of excitement rise up in my chest. I thought I was going to win!! So I think I understand the compulsion to keep trying. Just one more time. One more quarter, dollar, Ben Franklin.
But the sad thing for me is that I can’t imagine that many of the people playing are truly in a position to lose this kind of money. With the state of our economy in ruins–particularly here in Michigan–it seems almost irresponsible to choose to spend your afternoon throwing money away. It makes me sad for the kids who sit in the hallway waiting for their parents [yes, saw that]. It makes me sad for the elderly who haul their oxygen tank along with them to sit in a smoke-filled room [yes–the first thing I saw here].
It makes me sad that people feel that the best use of their time and resources…is to throw them to the whim of dice on felt.