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Modern Gambling

Gambling in the Covid era: Elbow room, great cocktail service, and lots of masks...

Modern Gambling

I went to Las Vegas for a week in August. Many of you know this, because I came to visit you and talked about the slot machines you’re putting out in the coming months.

Remember? I was the guy with the mask on.

I’ve been doing this annual feature since the early 1990s, but in all that time, the thought of getting on an airplane never creeped me out. This time was different. Germs, virus and pandemic, oh my.

I was fine, though, because I happen to know a physician who slipped me an extra N95 mask he had. Those suckers are amazing. And I do mean suckers. They suck onto your face like a giant deer tick, sealing off your mouth and nose from anything as annoying as outside air. Nothing gets in, nothing gets out.

In fact, it leaves an impression after you take it off. My nose is now even more twisted and freakish than it was, and I have a Fred Flintstone line around the front of my face. (I’m kidding. The disfigurement only lasted a half hour or so.)

But at least it made me feel safe for the flights. And I tested negative for the Covid four days after I got back East, so it must have worked.

The meetings with youse guys in the slot manufacturing business were all fine, and everyone gave me great stuff, as usual. But outside of business hours, it was my first time in a casino hotel since last February, and my first experience gambling in the Covid era.

First, you guessed it. I lost just as much money gambling in the Covid era as I did in the pre-Covid era.

Other than that, I had a blast. In the trade these days, I believe they call it “pent-up demand.” As I mentioned in this space in August, I stayed where I always stay, at the South Point, way south on Las Vegas Boulevard from giant clusters of humans on the Strip.

They were open at 50 percent capacity, of course. I know it’s not good for the industry to say this, but I love 50 percent capacity. Four to an elevator, and there’s always one ready. Six players to a craps table, which is just enough to make some noise, but nobody’s jostling an elbow into your rib cage. Never anyone sitting right next to you while you’re playing video poker, which I hate.

I like to play video poker solo, in a vacuum. Nobody there but me and the cocktail server.

The cocktail service was amazing, by the way. It’s evident the South Point employed the usual number of servers with only half the customers. The servers were Johnny-on-the-spot. I was afraid that before I hit a royal, I’d end up in a drunk ward like Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend.

There was also great cocktail service at the craps table. There were two $5 tables open at all times, and the social distancing made for a comfortable evening. I even had a few hot rolls, which super-charged the evening with excitement. (Until I lost.)

The drinks were served in these little disposable plastic cups that looked like those cups they put sample sausages in at the grocery store. I wasn’t accustomed to drinking my Champagne Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1995 from such a vessel, but I soldiered through.

After I played craps, I went to find my lucky video poker machine, the Game King directly across from Blackjack Pit No. 2, the very machine on which I have hit a royal flush eight times, by my estimation.

But they reshuffled the deck on me. Right where my lucky machine was supposed to be, as I would discover later that week, was a test bank of a new game that I actually would sample in one of my Global Games slot manufacturer meetings.

I was killing it on this game in the manufacturer’s showroom. They told me it was on test at the South Point, so I had the slot floor supervisor locate it for me. It was right where my Game King should have been.

As I would later find out, the game was much more friendly in the showroom than on the casino floor. I went through around $80 in the time it took me to say “Another Maker’s Mark on the rocks, please.”

I’m guessing that when they install a new game on the casino floor, they take it off Demo Mode. Too bad.

By the way, pushing your mask down below your mouth and leaving it there doesn’t help me at all. It’s not like there are germs coming out of your chin. Just saying.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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