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atlantic city

Gambling in Atlantic City versus Las Vegas

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Contrary to Atlantic City, when I first went to Vegas in the 1960s, it was a free-and-easy town. The casinos, as a rule, were small and friendly. The $100 chip was usually the top denomination in play at the tables, so it was standard procedure for a player to have a wooden rack close at hand to keep his chips in. A player could walk over to a blackjack table, drop greenbacks on the felt, and tell the dealer, “Money plays.” When the player won, he would pick up his bills, put them in his pocket and gamble with the chips he won.

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Not in Atlantic City, pal! The first time I placed my greenbacks on the table for a bet, the dealer swiftly gathered them up and zipped them into the drop box, exchanging my money for chips.

Annoyed, I wrote it off as petty bullshit. But as time went by, it dawned on me how clever and sophisticated the marketing geniuses in the casino front offices had become. Now follow me on this: When you play for money, real greenback folding money, you’re more aware, more cautious. You’re looking down on cash you made by the sweat of your brow. But once the dealer exchanges it for the casino’s multicolored chips, it suddenly ceases to be “real” money. Now you’re playing with play money.

If you stand back a little and put it all in perspective, the pieces fit neatly into place. The player (read that as “patsy”) is in a controlled atmosphere where Father Time is an absentee dad. A place with no windows and no clocks, a place where low, soothing lights and music in the background puts the player in a perpetual Twilight Zone. Like Pinocchio on Pleasure Island, he is a kid again, able to have all his whims satisfied: free cigarettes and drinks served by half-naked Playboy centerfold-type waitresses at his beck-and-call (you never see a guy serving drinks).

As for the chips, he often bets them without restraint. And why not? They’re “only” chips, not the real money he barters in a work-a-day world. The dealers help feed the myth of make-believe for the player with their unique terminology: You’re not betting $25— you’re betting “a quarter.” You’re not betting five real dollars— you’re betting “a nickel.” You can begin to see how easy it is for the casino to lull the player into losing a sense of reality.

If you think all this is just applesauce, just think back on the times you were flying high at the table in Atlantic City, a fortune in the casino’s chips in front of you. A shoe or two later—wham!—the tide turned in the casino’s favor, as it eventually always does, and you were soon tapped out.

If you weren’t so zonked and brainwashed by the casino’s controlled environment, whether in Las Vegas or in Atlantic City, you probably would have grabbed your chips while the going was good and headed directly to the cashier’s cage.

I know of what I write . I was the patsy in Atlantic City too many times in the situations discussed above. Oh, how many times I had it, but greed consumed me and I stuck around for “just one more shoe.” And, dammit, how many times I lost it all!

So don’t be an ass like I used to be. Don’t get lured into the “casino trance,” where you lose track of your table/casino goal and get swallowed up in Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island syndrome. When you reach your predetermined goal, run out of the casino with your winnings. Don’t join me and Pinocchio in the donkey house.

Also be sure when gambling to follow the rules of the Casino Control Commission of New Jersey.

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