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When I went to bed last night, I’d pretty much decided not to write this blog today.  It was midnight.  I had to get up at four thirty in the morning.  I have a lot to do with the rest of the day.  I figured I’d be completely exhausted.

I am completely exhausted, but I’m also here waiting for my tea to finish steeping–I use a forty ounce cup and two teabags that steep for fifteen minutes–and I’ve run out of solitaire games to play.

So, here it is.

Last night, I went to the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, to be one of the authors signing books at the finale event of the Connecticut Author’s Trail.

And I know I’m tired when it takes me three tries to spell “Connecticut” correctly and on the last one I leave out the “u” and can’t figure out what’s wrong.

Back to the Connecticut Author’s Trail.  This is a series of talks by authors who live here, given at public libraries across the state. I actually gave the kick-off talk, out in Franklin, on July 8th.  Then, over the summer and early fall, one library after another sponsored talks by one author after another, ending in a talk by Donald Bain at the Cabaret Theater at Mohegan Sun.

If you’re a library patron or just somebody who likes to listen to talks, you can follow the authors on the “trail” all summer and pick up raffle tickets as a prize for doing it.  At the end of the Mohegan Sun talk, winning tickets are picked for each of the gift baskets made up by each of the libraries.  Some of those baskets had lots of books in them.

And I don’t even know if I’m making sense here.

At any rate, in order to do the talk we had to go into the casino, and when the talk was over my friends Carol and Richard wanted to eat. So, to get to the food, we had to walk through the casino.

And that’s what was interesting. 

So, a few points.

It appears that Indian casinos are the last places in Connecticut where you can smoke all the cigarettes you want anyplace you want.  The entire casino smelled like smoke.  And I like the smell of smoke.  I always did, which is part of the reason I started to smoke in college.  But it’s been so long since I’ve been indoors in a place like that, that I had a hard time, at first, figuring out what that nice smell was.

Children and adolescents under the age of 21 are not allowed on the gambling floors, but the Mohegan Sun is essentially a huge open space.  Gambling takes place in special sections with wooden guard rails around them.  Between those sections are carpeted areas where everybody walks not only from one gambling venue to another but from restaurants to theaters to other things.  And there are a lot of other things.

This means that you can see plenty of children at the Mohegan Sun, and although they’re not allowed to go into the railed-off gambling areas, they can stand right next to them.  The rails are about waist high for me.  They came up to the shoulders of the little girl I watched standing at one watching the slot machine action. 

If the idea is to keep children away from the gambling, this isn’t the solution.  It may stop them from actually gambling, but they can watch all the action they like, and if a parent will just sit at a sit next to one of the guard rails, they can watch and be right next to Mommy at the same time.

It was very odd.

Then there were the slot machines.  I’ve always thought of slot machines as big boxes with levers.  You feed the machine a nickel or a quarter or whatever and you pull the lever.  You are then presented with whirling pictures of fruit.

I’m not sure that these things had levers, because I was too fascinated trying to figure out what the buttons were for, big square buttons in different colors that people were slamming at with the palms of their hands as the fruit whirled around on the screen.  Also pictures of cards, pictures of ducks, all kinds of things.

Machines had different themes, and you can keep your quarters.  The minimum they took was five dollars.  Some machines would take hundred dollar bills. 

I’m sure I’m capable of sitting down at a machine, feeding a five dollar bill into it, pulling a lever and waiting for the pictures to stop moving.  I don’t think I could do much of anything with those machines, which seemed to require the skill of a video game. 

The overall impression, however, was of insane, chaotic, very loud noise.  The noise was constant no matter where you were. 

(A caveat:  we didn’t go into any of the high end restuarants, which may have been quieter.  And it was quiet enough in the Cabaret Theater, where the talk and the signings were held.)

At any rate, there was constantly stuff coming over the loudspeakers, and there were different loudspeakers throwing out different stuff in different areas of the casino, which were all open to each other.

You took a step in one direction or the other and the noise surrounding you switched, except the rest of the noise was never completely out of range.

And at the same time, there was the noise from all the slot machines.

My friend Carol says that the point of this is to stop you from thinking, and she may be right.  But if the point is to stop you from thinking so that you’ll do more gambling, the effort was wasted on me.  I very quickly got to the point where my only mission in life was to get the hell away from all the confusion.

That meant I wanted to be anywhere except on the gaming floor.

Possibly I’m just not cut out for a casino.

I had been in them before.  They’d just never made this kind of impression.

The people were, however, just as I remembered them being.  There was a lot of flop sweat out there, and a lot of desperation.  I don’t understand why people do that to themselves.

Maybe the most impressive thing, though, was the building itself.  You have to see this enormous, asymmetrical concoction of mirrored glass rising out of the rural Connecticut landscape to get as disoriented as I got–and you have to see it by being there. 

They’ve got a web site


and I’m sure somewhere on there there’s a picture of the big glass building, but I don’t think the effect will be quite the same.

Okay, I think you’ll still wonder how they got the thing to stand up without falling over. 


I’m really tired.

And I need caffeine.

Written by janeh

September 24th, 2010 at 5:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses to 'Casino'

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  1. “…I’ve run out of solitaire games to play.”

    Goodsol is your friend:


    Hundreds of games – shareware.


    24 Sep 10 at 8:20 am

  2. I never UNDERSTOOD that. Not gambling itself: I don’t, but I can perfectly understand paying a couple of bucks for a drawing next year which might make me independently wealthy. I’d be buying a year’s hope at rock-bottom prices. (Cut-rate hope, but still…)

    But to put money in a biased machine is simply to spend the evening–or the vacation–losing money. Using C-notes at least speeds up the process, but why not just write the casino owners a check, mail it to them, and save time and travel expenses?

    The smoke I understand perfectly. It’s not the smoke in my case, but tobacco. The tobacconist in my home town sells maps and magazines as well, but it isn’t the printer’s ink which provides the wonderful aroma.


    24 Sep 10 at 5:20 pm

  3. Gambling isn’t one of my vices – I find it extremely boring and am in entire sympathy with whoever it was who said something about how astonishing racegoers seem to find it that one horse can run faster than another.

    But I’ve had people try to explain the thrill to me, and it seems to be the brief moment of suspense that they love, not the money they might win. And short intense moments of suspense are most exciting, so buying a ticket on a draw in a year’s time doesn’t work nearly as well as a slot machine, even if the odds are much better. I suspect obsession comes into it, too, and that I can understand. Many people find simple repetitive movements soothing or comforting. Some people do jigsaw puzzles or knit or run. Others play slot machines. Comfort spiced with thrills – and all in a world away from your daily troubles!

    You lose me with the tobacco smell, though. I may have started to sympathize with smokers who are being hounded out of public life to an astonishing degree, but I hate the smell of tobacco smoke and tobacco as much as I did when I was a child, and it made me carsick. Still does, I suspect, but it’s been so long since I’ve travelled in any vehicle with a smoker that I can’t be sure.

    However, I was happy enough when smoking was banned from all public vehicles, stores and workplaces, and had anticipated the social change which allowed people to refuse to allow smoking in their homes or rooms or offices without feeling inhospitable. And I feel like someone’s trying to fool me with exaggerated claims about health risks and secondhand smoke.


    24 Sep 10 at 7:07 pm

  4. I don’t understand casinos either. Although I do buy lotto tickets when the prixe hits 10 million!

    Robert and I seem to think a lot alike.


    24 Sep 10 at 9:34 pm

  5. They’ve done studies with animals (and humans) with rewards for an action, such as pushing a button. If a reward is always given every time or in a consistent pattern, after a while the animal will reduce their button-pushing to nothing or near-nothing, particularly if they are well fed and the reward is food. They get bored. Ho hum, push a button, get a treat.

    But. If the reward is *intermittent* and random, the button-pushing will increase to obsession levels. If the subjects never know when they *might* get the reward, they’ll push and push and push just to resolve that uncertainty. The same principle operates in gambling, sports (not betting, just watching or playing) and sometimes, getting the date with the pretty girl. ;)

    The entire casino experience is designed to detach the player from time passing, including any bodily signals that might indicate it. The noise disorients, it prevents easy conversation, isolating the player in a little world of their own. Ditto the flashing lights, the constant circulation (ever notice that everything is across the casino floor? the traffic increases the feeling of the crowd) of people, music and announcements.

    I suspect there are nickel slots in that casino, there always are. But those are always taken, and there are some weird combinations of odds that if you play more than one bet at a time, you may have more wins. That’s what the banging on the button is, that, and compulsive luck rituals.

    On the rare occasions I go to a casino, I pick the nickel slots, I play until I lose $20, and I make it last as long as I can. Though one time in Lake Tahoe, I actually won a $335 pot on a nickel slot! I walked away from that one a winner.

    There is reputedly, now, a single casino in California here that has gone totally non-smoking. Since nearly all of them are native-American run, they claim to be sovereign nations. (We joke about the Morongo, a sovereign nation, and gas station. On the US10 on the way to Palm Springs) So they can flout smoking laws all they want.

    While I sometimes find pipe tobacco a pleasant smell when freshly lit, cigarettes, either burning, dead, or on a person’s breath or clothing, always smells to me of ashtrays. That is, in fact, how I ended up a non-smoker, child of two (two-pack-a-day) smoking parents. From the time I could toddle, it was *my* job to empty and wash the ashtrays in the house. Talk about your aversive conditioning! My sister, who had different chores, started smoking at 12 and smokes to this day.

    Personally I think all drug use should take place where it can’t affect anyone else. Smokers do enough damage, just from carelessness. I just got home from a 1600 mile round trip, and I can’t count the number of (large, acres in extent) roadside burns there were, certainly more than 50, started by cigarettes flipped out the window. (I refuse to believe that an significant number were started by cars on fire. If that many cars were burning, people would be suing the car manufacturers to penury.)


    24 Sep 10 at 9:39 pm

  6. As both a “reformed” smoker and slot machine gambler, I have strong “views”. My younger son and his wife both worked as dealers in casinos for years, and they have even stronger “views”. I’ve bored people long enough on both subjects not to address either in detail here.

    Suffice for me to say that absolutely the worst side effect of smoking and gambling is the incessant, noisy, self-righteous moralising of the usual suspects – the health and welfare Nazis who simply cannot abide the thought that somebody, somewhere, might be enjoying themselves doing something that they cannot themselves enjoy.

    If only their chattering would actually cure the habits they are railing against.


    24 Sep 10 at 10:03 pm

  7. Aha! Cheryl’s comment rang a bell. I’ve spent LOTS of time rolling dice on a green table–but as a miniature wargamer. Toy soldiers, not chips, were on the table, and they weren’t at risk. You can wargame for a lifetime with your original set.

    Practically all miniature wargames involve dice, and the rare exceptions mostly involve cards. And in the early days, the smoke was heavy enough that even as a non-smoker I’d emerge from a two-day game with sore eyes and throat. (Could we get the Wampanoags to put on a wargame convention?)

    So I understand the excitement, the crowds and even the relationship to smoking.

    But we’re all conditioned to calculate odds. To get yourself in a situation in which the odds are stacked against you and all you can do is roll good dice is the mark of a stupid wargamer–and, soon enough, a loser. You can buy a cheap wargame set of $100–and these people are giving it to the house!

    Want to have real fun, Mique? demonstrate to the “health and welfare Nazis” that they can cure people of gambling by encouraging play with toy soldiers, and watch them squirm. They don’t just want to change human behavior: they want to change human behavior by particular mechanisms–“counselling” sessions, “self-help” groups and so forth.

    And wanting to win, but only in a particular way, is another one of the hallmarks of a loser.

    Ah! hmgs.org if anyone is interested.


    25 Sep 10 at 8:10 am

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