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Winter Journey

Winter Journey

You know, I often gripe about how my job requires me to slave over a hot computer, and risk life and limb in a dangerous occupation. (Once, I went to leave the blackjack table, and I nearly tripped over the chair. I could have been killed!)
But when you think about it, my job is actually pretty cool-especially when I get to travel, like I did in January.
January isn’t normally my favorite month, since I live in the northeastern United States, where they hold this thing called winter every January. But January 2008 was definitely a good month to be a trade journalist who writes about casinos and makes wisecracks about it in a column. (That’s my official job description, by the way.)
As you may have guessed after reading the feature I wrote in this issue, I caught a plum assignment in January. The public relations firm for Casino Dominicus in the Dominican Republic asked a group of journalists to come down to their casino, interview the executives about how they’re targeting U.S. business, and stay at a local resort hotel.
So, I was forced against my will to go to a Caribbean country in the middle of winter to swim in azure seas, go snorkeling, and eat and drink for free. Bastards!
Anyway, as my story says, Casino Dominicus employs a U.S.-locals style with liberal rules and high returns, although it is, still, a Caribbean casino. Sure, it’s larger than others in the region, but that means it’s about 20,000 square feet, whereas most Caribbean casinos are like playing cards in a very luxurious, tropically themed closet.
The casino serves a cluster of beachfront hotels known as the Bayahibe complex. Our group of vagabond reporters stayed in the one that was farthest from the casino, called Casa de Campo, which is served by a shuttle from the casino.
I learned much about the Dominican Republic. (Hey, I’m a sponge for knowledge.) I learned that drivers along the back roads between the hotels and the casino are complete lunatics, but extremely courteous. They will actually flash their headlights to let you know they are about to barrel toward you, head-on, in your lane. Thanks, amigo! I wasn’t using those shorts anyway.
I also learned that the driver of our shuttle possessed the eyes, nerves and agility of an eagle, as he was able to go from about 90 mph to a dead stop in roughly two seconds, so he wouldn’t hit the family of donkeys crossing the road. ¡ Ay! ¡ Burros! ¡ Mi pantalones!
I also learned, as did each of the other reporters in our group, that it is very easy to master the art of navigating a golf cart, even if you have consumed roughly three quarts of single-malt Scotch. (Yes, reporters are sponges for more than just knowledge. Particularly if the booze is free.)
Finally, I learned that it is much nicer to be relaxing in a Caribbean paradise in January than it is to be in, say, London. I know this, because I left the Dominican Republic in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt and took off two days later in a winter coat from frigid Philadelphia to London, for the International Casino Exhibition, also known by the apt acronym ICE.
This is the main trade show for the European casino market, and we go there every year to network and see new stuff. Of course, it’s in January, when the weather in London is cold and rainy. I often have wondered why they don’t hold ICE in June, when London is… OK, cold and rainy. Never mind.
My travels ended back in Pennsylvania-not as exotic or touristy as either the Caribbean or London, but certainly more entertaining than either. I put my reporter hat back on (it’s a fedora, with a card that says “PRESS”) to write about the Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos, which is currently being run by a former college professor because the casino’s owner, Louis DeNaples, had his license stripped after he was indicted for perjury. He allegedly lied in sworn testimony when he said he had no mob ties, apparently forgetting about the Scranton mob boss that was his buddy. “I figured Scranton didn’t count,” he said.
(OK, he didn’t say that. I made it up. Don’t sue me.)
Finally, I’m back in Atlantic City, where I can take in my normal dose of comedy, which around here, originates at City Hall. However, I stand ready, as always, for the next dangerous mission connected to my job.
Paradise Island, maybe? Aruba? You can count on me, boss!

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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