Last month, all of us here in the East spent a couple of days surrounded by smoke from Canadian wildfires (what was that aboot?), which all but blotted out the sun. I was walking down the Atlantic City Boardwalk hacking from all the smoke.
Then, I realized it was only that someone had opened the door leading to a casino’s smoking section.
Yes, there’s a lot of buzz around the East about finally banning smoking on casino floors. Bills are moving in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania that would end the casino exemptions to indoor smoking bans.
Personally, I’m all for it. I play a lot in Las Vegas, where ashtrays are everywhere but the health club. I’m usually OK with it, but once in a while, there will be that one guy who thinks smoking a cigar won’t bother anyone, or just doesn’t care, and consequently, players in a square mile surrounding him evacuate the area like someone just dropped a dirty bomb.
I don’t care how expensive your cigar is, or if it’s from Havana, or how much of a rare bouquet you imagine emanates from your tobacco wad. It smells like a dumpster fire. Take it outside.
Of course, most of the people smoking on the casino floor are smoking cigarettes. To be honest, I used to be one of them. There was a time when I wouldn’t think of sitting down at a video poker machine without a pack of Marlboros. Red. In the box. I’d make sure my ashtray was situated just right, next to the deal/draw button.
I would enjoy smoking, drinking and gambling. It was my trifecta of comorbidity. I had this thing where every time I hit a full house, I would fire up a smoke. I’d see Aces over Kings, and I was like a Pavlov dog.
Normally, my smoking wouldn’t bother anyone that I could see. (I never smoked at a table game, for the record.) If someone did seem bothered, I’d just move to another machine. In those days, all the casinos I played in had tons of full-pay video poker, so it was normally no big deal to move to another machine. I knew enough about video poker to know that the particular machine you play doesn’t make a difference. You’re either lucky or you’re not.
(Well, except for that one machine at the old Claridge that I used to hit multiple royals on. They took it out. Probably because of me.)
As I recall, I was a smoker when I took my first job as a gaming writer in 1984 with Public Gaming. There were three smokers on staff when I was there, and I remember the boss, Duane Burke, offering a $400 bonus to anyone on staff who quit smoking.
Of course, my response was, “Wow! What will you give me if I quit doing heroin?”
It didn’t get as big a laugh as I had expected.
But my smoking days are well behind me. I decided to quit on my 49th birthday, because I didn’t want to be a 50-year-old smoker. That was 17 years ago. (Oh, to be 49 again!)
Now, I’m down with non-smoking casino floors. These days, when I hit a full house, I just drop a hit of acid.
No, I’m kidding. Since the Pavlovian impulse is still there, I just pop a doggie treat in my mouth for every full house.
OK, you got me. I’m “joshing” again. In reality, I just take a sip of Maker’s Mark instead of lighting a smoke. You can tell how many full house hands I’ve landed in a night by how many times I fall down on my way back to the hotel room.
When Covid restrictions were in place, things got really comical with the smoking. You’d see guys with their masks pulled down so they could smoke. Hey, at least the Covid germ couldn’t enter through their chin.
But I never commented; I was always polite.
In fact, I’m still polite. If someone sits at the machine directly in front of me or beside me and fires up a Lucky or some other nasty-smelling thing—which, of course, always happens—I just get up and move to another machine.
Well, except the one machine at the South Point where I’ve hit several royals. If I’m there, I’ll tolerate the smoke. I’ll even try to smoke vicariously through my fellow patron, if it means staying at that game.
Not that I’m superstitious or anything. But this is my modern-day Claridge machine. Don’t tell Cliff Paige, the slot director. He might take it out.