A few years ago, some developers proposed to build a truck-stop gambling casino on Behrman Highway, across a canal and golf course from where we live. The neighbors were all upset until the formidable City Councilwoman-at-large Jackie Clarkson, who is from Algiers, said over-her-dead-body, and that meant It. Would. Not. Happen. The site remains forested.
Gambling casinos have never been places I like to be, partly because of not winning anything in them. Games hold no interest if I can’t be triumphant at least 50 percent of the time. Addicted to Scrabble and Spider Solitaire on my computer, I set it up so I can win at least at that ratio, and I have a good time. Who wants to be a perennial loser?
I also don’t like gambling casinos because that “ding-ding-ding” noise they play on tape is annoying as heck. I didn’t know it was a tape until somebody told me, and the proof came several years later in Las Vegas. Strolling amidst the slot machines, waiting for the doors to the Cirque du Soleil performance to open, I heard a huge ruckus that sounded like it was coming from the other side of the room, like a crowd of people cheering and applauding a big winner. The next night, happening to be on that side, the same celebration came from the place I’d been the night before. So I circled the room, but never found the big winner.
We entertain ourselves in different ways, don’t we?
I got to thinking about that the other day when my husband said his mall-walking buddy told him he was done with casinos. He had played the slots to no avail all day on the Gulf Coast, only to witness another gambler, “who’d been there five minutes, hit a big jackpot on a dollar machine.” He and his wife had been taking chartered buses to Bay St. Louis and Biloxi about once a week — and I’m sure, will again — and are among the many, many older folks who support our nation’s casinos. Have you noticed the white curls and grizzled beards, canes and walkers and even those “hovercraft” inside them?
Why? Well, maybe for the lack of any other excitement and interests (Daddy preferred fishing; some are addicted to golf and needlepoint and, yes, Spider Solitaire and Scrabble and their e-readers). At any rate, the much-bemoaned fixed incomes seem to be substantial enough to support the habit.
My husband and I have been in the big casino here twice. When it opened, I told him we needed to get over there for the lunch buffet and check it out before it closed due to lack of business. We had missed seeing the gambling riverboats — the two that docked at the terminal upriver from the convention center and the one you boarded at the riverfront hotel near Riverwalk.
Well, of course, the CBD casino is still open, and we paid it a second visit the summer my birthday fell on 07/07/0007 and those numbers seemed tantalizing lucky, even though I don‘t know anything about numerology or dice or why the Chinese like certain combinations more than others. Sure that for the first time in my gambling life I would hit a jackpot, I persuaded my husband to take me over there.
It turned out that my birthday fell on an Essence festival weekend, so it cost us $30 to park in the garage across from the casino. It was close to noon, and we were hungry, so we headed to this fancy hotel restaurant nearby. We had the works; mimosas for him, bloody marys for me, crabmeat appetizers for both of us, eggs Benedict with crisp little shrimp sprinkled on top. When we finally waddled over to the slots we were already down almost $150.
Settling next to a young woman who had a credit of more than $600 on her machine, I looked at her enviously and put $20 — the amount I’d decided I could lose — in mine. Despite the annoying tapes, I played for an hour and I‘d like to tell you I hit it big.
But as I’ve spent this column making clear: I’m no gambler. In the end, I blinked. When the slot told me I’d hit $250, I cashed out, thinking, “We’re still up a C-note.“
Sometimes it takes more than luck to be a high-flyer. Edwin Edwards could tell you that.
Bettye Anding is a former editor of The Times Picayune Living section, for which she wrote Silver Threads until her retirement. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.