All entries for Sunday 10 December 2006

December 10, 2006

Winning at a mug's game

Last night I visited a casino for the first time. I had no idea what to expect, other than to lose any money that might get taken out of my wallet!

With Cardiff one of several cities hoping to build a regional casino, it was interesting to see this small-scale blueprint for how the future might look. The venue was – as the law currently dictates – quite small. The law also means you have to become a member to play. I got a shiny membership card, which makes me feel I’m already a member of Gamblers Anonymous.

In the casino, there were about four roulette tables and a similar number of poker and blackjack tables. Beyond this were about 12 slot-machines and the same number of computerised roulette tables.

You might not believe me, but we were there for “research” purposes! Holly’s doing a radio feature on casinos and wanted some background noise to use in it. But despite our honest intentions, we did of course end up having a bit of a flutter.

James got in there first, placing £10 on a roulette table. The hole in the corner of the table quickly swallowed all of it up. And seeing how many chips were being lost down this black hole, I began to realise it was virtually impossible to win.

Another reason for thinking this was the number of staff in the casino. With such high overheads, the odds must be stacked in the house’s favour just to cover the cost of employees. The casino was open until 6am as well!

For reasons we still can’t fathom, our luck changed when we played “virtual” or computerised roulette. It’s hard to trust a machine when it knows where your chips are before the ball lands, but the £5 we put down quickly became £30. Of course we pushed our luck and lost some of it again, but still walked away with a tidy £15 profit, which we quickly spent at the bar.

You see, that’s the thing about casinos in Britain. We’re so addicted to our alcohol that I did think that putting the money and the booze in the same place probably made for a potentially dangerous combination. Problem gamblers would – in my opinion – be less of a problem if they weren’t drowning their sorrows and shedding their inhibitions at the same time. The prices at the bar were, predictably, quite cheap.

The venue was nice. It’s hardly Monte Carlo, but it wasn’t the dark, seedy place you could imagine it to be either. And while it can make a great entertainment venue, it’s definitely a good idea to walk in expecting to be a spectator as, even though we made a small profit, it’s obvious gambling is still a mug’s game.

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