bout 90 percent of the 258 York citizens voted against the development of a casino at a straw poll sponsored by the York’s Chamber of Commerce. In fact, businesses were encouraged to vote separately and of the twenty-nine voting, 75 percent voted against casino development.
According to printed reports, Cathy Goodwin, who is executive director of the chamber, stated that many voters noted on ballots specific areas of concern including traffic congestion, loss of quality of life in the region, and the belief a casino would present the wrong image for the State. As I sat in my car waiting for the traffic to let me enter onto Route One, I remembered a time when I barely saw a car on the road.
During this time of year few people ventured out because few people lived here all year long. I remember one time about 35 years ago when I drove out on Broadway from my home on Iris Avenue. Back then I never looked for traffic and because of this I almost ran into the only other car on the road. The accident scene would have looked like a bowling ball hitting a ten-pin. I took the time to reminisce about some of my experiences with the wonderful world of gambling. The first time I had ever walked into a casino happened about 20 years ago when my wife and I decided to vacation in Las Vegas. Actually it was just a two-day stopover because the bulk of our vacation was in Hawaii.
Flying into the city was an experience in itself. Most of the time I couldn’t see anything because it was a nighttime flight. All of a sudden I noticed some light on the horizon and then within minutes we were flying into what seemed to me to be something either on fire or radioactive. Driving from the airport to our hotel was like wandering through a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Lights, chrome, and glass were everywhere. Slot machines were also everywhere. They met us at the airport, along the sides of the road, and at small stores and gas stations. I even noticed some on the side of the roads and in the lobby of our hotel. Hell, they were even in the halls of the motel that led up to our room. I was surprised there weren’t any in the elevator. Another thing I noticed was that none of the machines were vacant. They all had someone pouring in coins and pulling the arm that supposedly was a key to their fortune.
When we got into our room I just wanted to run down to the casino. Every motel in Las Vegas had a casino. My wife told me to slow down so she could organize our stuff. Everyone needs someone to organize his or her stuff. About a half an hour later I was walking into what I thought at the time was Fantasyland. There were lights everywhere and the sounds of bells and buzzers guaranteed in my mind that my fortune was not that far away. My wife decided to check out the shows while I decided to explore.
Wandering through the casino I noticed an empty slot machine next to a rather robust woman who was concentrating on her own machine. In fact, this was a bit odd because there were empty slot machines on both sides of her. I wondered if she had a personal hygiene problem!
Because there were few empty machines I jumped into the chair and immediately threw my quarter into the slot. The woman next to me turned her head and started to scream. This shocked me to the point of screaming back at her, like E.T. did when he was discovered inside the closet. After a few seconds of staring at each other, she started yelling at me that I had destroyed her system and the if I didn’t get out of that chair within a micro-second something very unpleasant would happen to me.
I also noticed that everyone in that particular row of slot machines was staring at me. They weren’t pleasant stares. I decided to evacuate the area and find my wife. As I was wandering I noticed that there was an empty seat at a blackjack table. The person sitting next to the seat was an elderly gentleman who was wearing the largest ring I had ever seen. It was jade, or at least I think it was, but I wondered if he wore if for looks or for the exercise of carrying it around on his hand?
I sat down and threw out my ten dollars in order to play a few hands. Everyone at the table started to stare at me. The rest of the table was filled with grandmother-type women who looked as like they should be sitting in some senior citizen bingo game instead of being locked in combat at a gambling table.
This time I was not yelled at. I was just stared at until I asked if I had taken someone’s seat. The dealer must have seen the terror on my face because she compassionately explained that I had just sat down at the $100.00 table. After hyperventilating, I smiled and continued my search for my wife.
As I walked through what I could only explain as being a circus I remembered that I had a small camera in my jacket. So, naturally I decided to take it out and take some pictures of my surroundings. I then felt something very heavy on my right shoulder. It started to squeeze. I looked around and saw one of the largest man I have ever had the experience of meeting. At least I think he was a man. Again, I was being stared at and all I could do was stare back.
He then broke his silence by asking, “What the hell are you doing?” All I could answer was that I had no concept of what I was doing but if I was supposed to do it I will do it later or if I was not supposed to do it, I didn’t. The giant in front of me did not enjoy my humor and immediately took my camera away from me. A better description of this was that he pried my hand open and crushed my camera in the vice he called his hand. He then told me that I could pick up my camera when I left the casino but I doubted if what was left in his hand had any resemblance to what used to be a camera.
I then found my wife at the front desk looking through a schedule of shows that were taking place in the hotel. She asked me if I was enjoying myself and I asked her if she found a show we could immediately enjoy. She took that as a ‘no’ and off to a basically mediocre show we went.
As I was watching the show I remembered another experience I had with gambling. My wife and I were in Aruba and because the sun was incredibly hot she decided to take a nap in our room before we went out to dinner. Since I was not tired I told her that I would take $10.00 and spend a few seconds at the small casino that was in the motel.
I sat down at a blackjack table. I was given my chips and to my absolute shock I won the first hand. My God, I actually won! In fact, I defeated the house on the next ten hands. All of a sudden my little pile of chips had begun to resemble Mount Agamenticus but, I wanted more. I wanted Mount Everest!
I spent the next two hours at that table. All I could think about was when after I finished at the table and went back to the room I would bury my now sleeping wife with our new fortune. She would forever think of me as a King of Chance and both of us would never have to work another second in our lives. Then it happened. I lost my last dollar.
This wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been for the fact that I left my wife sleeping in our room for two hours. This was not a good thing because she had been looking for me for the past half hour and found me the second I lost my last dollar. I tried to describe the immense fortune I had acquired. She just shook her head and off to dinner fled.
That night at dinner, we sat next to a couple who were having a serious conversation. They were dressed in clothes that would make a lot more sense in some other city. They were young but they had an old feeling to them. They were also not very happy. She was crying and he was yelling that they should have brought more money. She looked away from him and then glanced at me. She looked as though she had a need to plead with anyone to ask how she could change her reality of what they had become.
I was not part of the straw poll that The York’s Chamber of Commerce had on Saturday. If I had been there, I would have probably voted with the majority. I can’t honestly say what would happen to my town if gambling were to become legal. All I know is that I would probably change and with my past gambling experience I know that this change would not be for the better.
Gambling on our future by J. G. Fabiano
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and a writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at: email@example.com