This monograph originally ran June 22, 2009. With the provincial election happening this year, it seems like a good time to remind readers of the fact that our kindly provincial politicians are doing more than messing up rates for electricity, depriving us of family doctors, confusing the education system and overcharging us for beer and booze. They look after all our sins!
When writing recently about the Ontario government’s addiction to alcohol, it occurred to us that the more serious addiction is gambling. If we were a religious person, worried about the immortal souls of our fellow citizens of this wonderful province, we would be down at the Ontario Legislature every day on our knees praying for the Members of Provincial Parliament to be cleansed in the blood of the lamb and exhorting them to renounce their corrupt and venal ways of taking money from the suckers.
Since we are not religious and try to be tolerant of most organized religions—at least the less harmful and less strident ones—we take our concerns to Casino Rama. It is only 25 minutes from Babel.
Nobody can be sanctimonious at Casino Rama. The place is an ugly barn with delusions of some connection to a long-gone nomadic aboriginal culture. Inside it is all about the business of taking your money. There are few allusions about the staggering amounts of money the place earns for government coffers. The place is cheap, badly designed, with gaming tables uncomfortably wedged together, narrow aisles of dreary slots and the ill-lit gaming floor surrounded with the necessary food places and restrooms. The theatre is one of those curtained expandable areas where you usually expect to see basketball nets folded up and you sit on uncomfortable chairs to see has-beens and wannabes with the rare good act that will agree to do a cheap gig.
They certainly do not overpay the staff either. Awkwardly structured shifts, poorly trained supervisors, constant, intrusive surveillance leads to a high staff turnover and, too frequently, the imposition of new, ill-trained staff on the players.
Mind you most of the gamblers are also novices. It is why there are so many blackjack tables. Blackjack is a game that any jackass can play, and they often do. It is a social game but playing along with people who really know how to play is a rare and delightful event. Most times you are playing with people who have no clue as to basic strategy or money management. They think they can guess what will be the next card out of an eight-deck shoe. They are afraid to take a card when they really need one. The worst players are the ones who play two spots on the table because they are afraid to lose and figure (incorrectly) that they will win at least one of their bets and lose less money.
But no table game is going to make you a winner if you always make the same bet. If you don’t use a flexible money management system, the simple odds of the game say that you will eventually lose your money. It hardly matters what you are playing, the smart gambler is one who takes advantage of his or her wins. In horse racing lingo, it is called parlaying. You rarely ever see anyone doing that at Casino Rama. The exception is at the craps tables. The best gaming odds in the casino are at craps because these tables attract the most knowledgeable players. They know to push their bets during a hot roll.
The best kept secret at any Ontario casino is the information that casinos compile on frequent gamblers. Many players carry a card to each table or slot that can be mined by the casino for information on money won and lost. The casino knows who to encourage to come more frequently and those who are less welcome. Players are offered free shows, meals and other benefits based on the information generated by their cards.
But many of the freebies have been cancelled over the last while. Some feel the recession mood has hit the casinos while others feel that they figure people will come without the encouragement. The real reason is probably lost in the schizophrenic management of gaming by the province. Between the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and constant interference from the politicians, it is hard to tell who is running the games.
And we know who are the worst possible people to be meddling in gaming. They are the people who know the least about it: politicians.
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