Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 373(058) Casinos

She lost the farm. In this case that is not a figure of speech. She was the wife of a high school classmate of mine. They got married right out of high school and started to farm in Iowa. There were no casinos in Iowa at the time. Things have changed and today there are many. She and her husband started going just for entertainment. The occasional visit became more frequent, then routine. And then an addiction – for her. Eventually she did indeed – gamble away the farm. The marriage crumbled right along with all of their dreams.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

Walk into any casino and you will see older people standing, or sitting, at the slot machines. They are alone – or perhaps a spouse stands by them. They look sad. Buses take full loads of retired people to casinos. Planes fly in and out of airports bound for Reno and Las Vegas. Retired people make up most of the passengers. Some say it is entertaining. I think it is an effort to overcome loneliness – writ large. 

Brenda and I pass through Las Vegas or Reno every two or three years. We have stayed in some of the famous casinos. They tend to offer a lot of room for the money. We walk the floor through once. We walk from Casino to Casino. A few years ago I remember dropping a quarter in a slot and pulling the lever. Nothing happened. A friend recently told me that you need to drop in more than one quarter to play the game or whatever it was. See – I don’t even know what it cost. We don’t gamble – not in casinos.

Of course we all gamble in one way or another. We gamble on the hope that we will still be alive tomorrow, next year, ten years from now. We gamble that our money will not run out once we retire. We gamble that our health will hold. We gamble every time we ride our bike on a busy road. Hopefully no one will be turning around in the driver’s seat to discipline unruly kids and swerve into our bike lane. Hopefully they will not be distracted by their cell phone, DVD player, or a spilled cup of coffee.

This kind of gambling seems reasonable to me. The casino kind doesn’t. It does seems reasonable to those people who sit their pumping money into the slots or tumbling dice down the table.

I have a friend who was deeply in love with the most wonderful woman. He was in his seventies and it seemed like new meaning had waltzed into his world. She was personable, beautiful, and held a job of some responsibility. Then they started to live together. Money started to disappear. She was a regular visitor to the local casinos. There were arguments, promises made, tears shed, then, the ending of the relationship. She couldn’t stop.

Not everybody is injured by casinos – I suppose. I know of people who have flown to Vegas, spent a limited amount of money and flown home. They had a, “wonderful time”. Yes, they lost – or perhaps came out even, but they did not become addicted. I even know some people who have visited a casino and came out making money – at least, on one particular visit.

I could never understand gambling against the professionals. I am reminded of reading of boxers in the days of old – maybe a hundred years ago. Who use to tour the country and fight against any, “local” talent. The traveling boxers were pros. They had trained. They knew everything about the sport of boxing. They could take a punch, evade a punch, and throw a punch. The local folks would line up their biggest, best and bravest – many times the local smithy. Bets would be made. The pro would fain weaknesses for a few rounds. The bets would grow. Then the pro would lay the local talent to the floor. It happened every time. Money was gathered and the next town was selected for a cleaning.

When it come to gambling in a casino it is common knowledge that the casino always wins in the end. The odds of winning against the house are minuscule to non existent. Yet, people forever pull open the door.

Money was hard earned in my family. Work was required. As a child, I never liked loosing a penny in a card game or matching pennies with a coin flip. A bet, a gamble, - it never appealed to me. It seems strange to even say that because it seems so, “common sense". I’m sure I’m missing something here.

When I was a child there were only a few places in the country where one could legally gamble; Las Vegas, Reno or Atlantic City. I recall gambling to be the territory of mobsters and shadowy figures. Today the Interstates are dotted with casinos. Many are built on Indian lands. Then the states got into the act. I’m not sure if any states own casinos but I know that states organize gambling in a big way via lotteries; which, of course, is another form of gambling on a grand scale. I have never bought a lottery ticket either. To be honest, I have bought a lottery ticket for something sponsored by the 7th grade band, or the boys and girls clubs; something like that. I have never checked numbers to see if I won. I have never bought a ticket thinking I might win anything. It was a donation.

Here I am, retired, no child in our society. Casinos and gambling are very much part of our culture; yet I find them beyond understanding.  Perhaps you would like to shed some light on this subject. If you drop me a line I will be glad to air another point of view. We non-gamblers might be missing one of the true joys of living.

This is Retirement Talk.







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