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Orange Shirts and Pain-Killers

I was watching the Massachusetts Senate hearings the other day, and I...

Orange Shirts and Pain-Killers

I was watching the Massachusetts Senate hearings the other day, and I… What, you don’t think I attend state legislative hearings on gaming-related matters? Why, my press credentials get me into any legislative chamber in the country! They even let me into the back rooms so I can help when they cut shady deals.

So, I was watching the Massachusetts Senate hearings on legalizing casinos. The state House passed a casino bill in April that would create two resort casinos with slots at racetracks, and the Senate is considering casinos without the racinos. The senators were hearing testimony from local mayors, who all sounded like JFK. (“I’ll suppaht this with vigah… We need the jobs ‘cause my friends are pahking cahs…”)

Besides the funny accents—OK, I talk funny too; I’m told I still have a Pittsburgh accent, which leads me to say things like “Goin’ daahntaahn and then to Saahthside”—I noticed that there were a lot of union members in the gallery, all “suppahting” the casino bill. They were all wearing T-shirts that said “Casinos Now! Jobs Now!”

That’s not strange in itself, but these T-shirts were bright, prison-style orange. The gallery looked like someone had just emptied out the county jail. (Or a Philadelphia Flyers hockey game.) (OK, same thing.) I expected all the casino proponents in the gallery to voice their support for expanded gaming in Massachusetts, and then go out to the highway to pick up litter.

Note to AFL-CIO: Next time, go with a nice blue T-shirt, or even red. Something that doesn’t make you look at the wearer’s ankles to make sure they’re shackled.

The hearings themselves were quite instructive. Testimony revealed that Massachusetts would stand to make a lot of money from casinos, and lots of people who are unemployed would get good-paying jobs, and gaming dollars currently going to Connecticut would stay in the state.

Then came the inevitable bone-heads railing about how casino gaming is sure to bring about Armageddon. “We may be raising revenue, but we’re destroying families!” said one. Yes, destroying families by creating jobs. I get it. Where do they get these people? They testify that casinos will line owners’ pockets by taking money from people who can’t afford it.

Guess what? Casino owners don’t cater to poor people. They want to take money from rich people. Very rich people who arrive in chauffeured limousines and have casino employees running around getting them their favorite Scotch, cigars and prescription pain-killers.

Yeah, that’s right. That guy’s back in the news.

Terry Watanabe, the millionaire from Nebraska and official Biggest Loser in the History of Nevada, goes on trial this month in the bizarre case in which he originally said he lost $127 million at the Rio and Caesars Palace in a year, mostly because he was drunk and the casinos kept him daffy by feeding him prescription pain-killers. That’s what he says in his counter-suit against Harrah’s Entertainment, anyway. He’s going on trial for passing bum checks for $14 million to pay back the last of his debts to the casinos.

Only now, he says records submitted last month in discovery show he actually lost more than $200 million at the casinos, in a single year.

As I said the first time I wrote about this guy: Aren’t high-rollers supposed to be smart? Aren’t they supposed to weigh the odds and play with the advantage? Casino employees have said Watanabe never appeared intoxicated. To lose $200 million—officially the biggest losses ever in a Nevada casino; if he was Bugsy Siegel, the mob would have shot him 3,000 times over—you would have to be so stoned you were essentially a drooling mannequin. I think someone would have noticed that. I also think someone would have noticed if he had a pet chimpanzee making his bets for him, which is the only way I can imagine losing that many baccarat hands.

And, I still don’t buy the prescription pain-killer thing. I’ve been asking slot hosts for Vicodin and Oxy every time I play video poker, and you know what? They just look at me strange and ask me to leave.

Oh, so I’m not a millionaire philanthropist from Nebraska, so I don’t get to be hopped up on goof balls? You don’t want me to be loopy so I lose my $300 gambling budget? Well, the heck with you, then. I’ll get my illicit prescription pain-killers elsewhere, thank you very much.

As for Terry, he’s looking at 20 years. I think they’re going to be fitting him for his own orange shirt pretty soon.

Then, he can go to Massachusetts.

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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