For most of my 34-plus years writing about the casino industry—that’s 238 in dog years, in case you were wondering—I have kept my finger on the pulse of the industry partly by keeping my wallet on the pulse of a few gambling activities.
For most of those dog decades, I was a video poker player, but around seven years ago, my nephew, who was around 30 at the time, met me on the Las Vegas Strip to go gambling.
“Let’s play craps,” he suggested.
“Not a clue,” I replied.
“It’s easy! I’ll show you.”
To the uninitiated, a craps layout looks like the blueprint of a traffic grid marked by signs written in Klingon. Once you realize it’s English, the table seems to be shouting at you. “PASS!” “DON’T PASS!” “HARD WAYS!” “FIELD!” “DON’T JUST STAND THERE, YOU IDIOT!”
My nephew, a computer genius and linguist who speaks four languages (five if you count Klingon), was able to chisel through the thick skull of his wisecrack-writing uncle that evening. He showed me the basics I needed to know, and that first night, I won $500. Needless to say, it’s now one of my favorite things to do. If there were no casinos, I’d probably look for floating craps games like Sinatra in Guys and Dolls.
Now that I’ve established my love for the game, it’s time to find something to gripe about. Last month, I was in the Wild Wild West casino at Bally’s Atlantic City. I frequent Bally’s for two reasons. First, they have a complete bank of full-pay video poker machines in the main casino, which, in Atlantic City, are harder to find than a Burl Ives tribute band. The other reason is that they’ve set up a “guaranteed” $5 craps table in the Wild Wild West annex.
Well, it’s guaranteed, until it isn’t.
You hardcore gamblers out there may find this amusing, but for me to do all the place and come bets I want to do on a craps roll, I need a $5 table. I can do $10 out of necessity, but my gambling budget then lasts… umm… half as long. I can always find a $5 table in Las Vegas at the locals casinos, but in Atlantic City? Crank up the Burl Ives tunes.
Before they set up that craps table, I hadn’t been in the Wild Wild West since they had that fake mountain in the middle with the creepy animatronic prospector and mule. (Still have nightmares about that guy.) I loved that I now had a regular craps stop here in the East. One night, I was at the table, and it was packed. There were hot shooters, high fives and a ton of excitement. Then, out of nowhere, at around 11:30 p.m., the pit boss says, “We’re closing this table.” They closed it for exactly one minute, and opened it back up as a $10 table.
Four pit employees stood there, staring at the beer pong tables (also empty). I would have ponied up the $10 minimum, but I know of no quicker way to lose my money than going solo on a craps table. Minutes earlier, a dozen players were dying to leave their cash on that felt, and most were betting a lot more than $5 a roll. (I know I was.) I realize it’s hard to turn a profit on a game that takes four employees to run, but can someone explain the business logic here?
“Heck, I’d rather lose money than not make enough.”
Am I missing something?
This doesn’t even take into account the customer service aspect—it made customers angry. It’s a good thing there were no nuns there.
That’s right, nuns. Last month in Redondo Beach, California, Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, former principal of Saint James Catholic School, and Sister Lana Chang, who taught eighth grade there, were found to have been embezzling money from the parish for decades to pay for gambling trips to Las Vegas.
I’m not sure what games the sisters played, but here’s hoping it was craps, and that they wore their full nun suits when they played.
Now I know why we were expected to periodically give money to our nuns when I was in grade school. I always thought it was protection money so they wouldn’t beat us up.
(Our nuns were brutal. I think the order was Little Sisters of the Iron Curtain.)
By the way, Sister Mary and Sister Lana are both retired now, but they say they’re going to make full restitution to the parish. And, as I understand it, they’ve dropped their… bad habit.