Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mainers to decide on more gambling

After a rough sleeping night and I don’t know why, working at the Senior Fitness program was not easy this morning. Whatever it was that caused me a rough night also gave problems to one of my fellow seniors. She had such a rough night she didn’t even come. On the plus side, and I’ll rub a little in here, today’s session seemed to just fly by. The fitness place, which is normally a physical therapy establishment, is about to move. When it does, the owner says he’s considering expanding our senior program. If that comes about, I’ll let you know here and maybe I can help the expansion.

The Sox didn’t do it last night. The magic number remains at one with just six more games to go.

My wife and I are not gamblers. That’s not to say we’ve never put any money in a slot machine. We have. We sailed from Portland to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on the old Prince of Fundy ship. I’m not sure if the Prince of Fundy was a cruise ship or a ferry since it transported vehicles to the Canadian province. We’ve been to Las Vegas twice and the Alaska cruise ships we rode on during our big vacation three years ago had slots but none got any of our money. And we drove through Atlantic City, N.J., once. Several other small communities which housed our motels on various road trips also had slots, but we never participated.

On the trip to Nova Scotia and for our two trips to Las Vegas, we included in our cost of entertainment one ten dollar roll of quarters with the idea that if they were depleted, that part of our entertainment would end. Ten bucks for an evening’s entertainment didn’t seem outrageous to us. Our first venture into gambling, if one can call it that since gambling assumes there’ll be winners, was on the Prince of Fundy.

Gator Wife took her half of the roll of quarters, settled in to a slot machine and dropped one in. Four came back to her. That was a very long time ago and my memory of the exact payoffs is fuzzy at best, but I think her second quarter yielded a return of 12. So far, that was four dollars for a fifty cent investment. And it kept up. At her highest point, GW had something slightly more than a hundred quarters. She proceeded to put them along with the rest of her five dollars back into the slot machines. She had a really fun evening and all it cost her was five dollars. If my memory serves me even remotely correctly, the most I ever had over my ‘investment’ was four quarters, but I too put all of mine into the machines.

We had similar experiences in Las Vegas, except we did use about half of our money as nickels to stretch out the excitement. There was one difference in Las Vegas. All around us we heard and saw machines paying off huge, sometimes into the hundreds of dollars, amounts of money. People quite gleefully scooped all their money, many times dollar or higher coins, into buckets similar to popcorn buckets. “Why can’t we do that?” we asked each other. Then, by pure accident, as I was looking around to see others collecting the big bucks, I saw two of the ‘winners’ disappear with their buckets through a door that was marked, “Private.” I wondered how many other big winners also reported to someone in that private place. After all, the slots are controlled by computers.

But they had done their job. “Why can’t we do that?” echoed in my ears. And I immediately discovered how the masses get hooked. One could see the patrons flocking to the machines or area now vacated by the ‘winners’ and money poured into the machines. Our first trip to Las Vegas resulted in our total ten dollar roll being spent. It was our entertainment. But we spent not one penny more except on shows we also went to see. We did not put all our ten dollars into the machines during our second visit and came away with some change. We claim we beat the slots. We watched many other games, roulette, various forms of poker, dice, etc., while there, but none got any of our money.

Our drive through of Atlantic City was eye opening. The driver (me) took a wrong turn as we approached the beach area. We drove through some of the worst poverty stricken places we’ve ever seen. That was several years ago so I can’t say it’s still that way, but it was an eye opener to what the gambling industry can produce. We did park and walk around for a while, but neither of us could get excited about being there. So we continued our leisurely trip to Florida.

I believe the casino operators have those machines rigged so that they do occasionally pay off to get many folk asking, “Why can’t we do that?” The patron stays a little longer, returns the winnings to the machine along with a lot more. And the casino operators have, in losing a little, won big once again. According to a group opposing slot machines in Maine, No Slots For Me, a report in August, 2008, said gamblers at Hollywood Slots in Bangor are losing at an annual rate of $68 million per year. And the group says 95% of the gamblers are from Maine. Can Mainers afford this?

There are many interesting facts on their web site and the media coordinator of the group, Douglas Muir, had an interesting guest editorial recently in the Portland Press Herald about slots and crime. You might want to look that up, too.

In any case, I’ll be among the “NO” votes on Question 2 in November. That referendum question is so flawed that even the originators say the Legislature will have to make many adjustments if it passes. I see no reason to pass a law that even proponents say is flawed. Vote NO on Question 2. And while you’re at it and if you live in Scarborough, vote “NO” on the Scarborough Downs proposal to bring slots to Scarborough. Those proponents have promised pie in the sky “millions and millions” of tax dollars to the town. I’ll have more thoughts on this one later.


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