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Casinos & The Real Colorado

Two things that have been legalized in Colorado but haven't yet in most states are (non-Indian) casinos and "recreational" marijuana.  If you think the two go together, think again.  The casino owners want their customers drunk.  No studies have been made or are likely to be, on the effect of cannabis on the brains of gamblers. Smoking pot is strictly forbidden in casino smoking areas and hotel rooms.

I've never been to Las Vegas, never had the gambling fever beyond an occasional two-dollar blackjack game at the Indian casino in Sequim, Washington or a few quarters in a slot machine in some godawful place like Lovelock, Nevada while traveling on godawful I-80 across Nevada from California to somewhere in the interior flyover zone.  But here I am living in that same flyover zone, having finished agonizing over what I initially regarded as the irony of legalized marijuana in a place right next to Kansas, with active missile silos, where big-bellied republican ranchers at the annual stock show bid for stud cattle while complaining about  the "socialist in the white house." Now, having faced the reality of a legalized pot industry and the attendant population surge/building boom in Denver, and having given up long ago any association with the Peace and Love drug,  it was time to explore the other formerly illegal available kick, gambling.  I couldn't lose any significant amount of money because I never have any such amount.

The casinos here are clustered in Black Hawk and Cripple Creek, two former mining towns in the mountains at 8 or 9000 ft. elevation.  One sees a lot of out-state license plates there. For many serious gamblers it's much closer than Nevada, but one can also observe a cross-section of the Colorado population, the majority that does not ski in Aspen or sing around John Denver's campfire.  These are not the high rollers one sees in glitzy Vegas movies, but everyday slobs looking for what might be called existential relief.  No one is happy in a casino and even the pleasure of a big win is fleeting.  I saw a guy hit a slot machine for $2500 and just keep right on playing it as though nothing had happened.  My budget is so low, I can win $100 and think it's a big deal since I never really came out of a 50's - 60's notion of what money is worth.

It's the exposure to the people in casinos that fascinates me.  Besides the free drinks, most of the places keep up a noise level that would disorient just about anyone unless they started thinking about it - or tried to listen to it - which for whatever reason, I do.   Three or four soundtracks are running constantly, along with the bells and whistles of the machines.  Only a vigilant eye enables one to avoid collisions with others, as maybe five per cent of the people are looking where they're going.

So who are these people? As I ate lunch at one of the restaurants, a family group sat at the next table.  One of the them, obviously the patriarch, had the look of a typical midwest republican:  65 or so, mostly bald with a pasty complexion, plaid shirt, khaki pants.  His conversation consisted mostly of current events as told on TV news, and he remarked, "That man in the White House is not a Christian," one the many ways right wingers with manners -  in public at least - avoid saying "nigger in the white house."  He then remarked that the building at 1600 Pennsylvania "should be blown up."  One of the younger women tried to ease the situation by saying, "...Well, I wouldn't wish death on anyone..."  But there it was, what the average person in the Rocky Mountain state thinks.  We must remember that Colorado is bordered by Kansas, the Koch Brothers state to the east, Wyoming, the Dick Cheney state to the north, Utah, the Mitt Romney state to the west.  Even Hunter Thompson couldn't overcome the place.  Me?  I'm laying low.  Only New Mexico to the south offers hope of relief


  1. Rick Weddle March 13, 2015

    re: ‘…50’s-60’s notion of what money is worth…’

    Never did get casinos, they’re not really like gambling, as in games of chance. They seem more like big, well-lit funnels where everyone’s money disappears.

    But I can still recall the value of a dime from that time. In 1950 at the Grand Theater on 23d in Richmond, couple blocks from the High School, they did a matinee Saturdays that was a Holy Model of Successful Capital, and of its benign reach into the neighborhoods. For nine cents ($.09), here’s what a kid of any color, sex, or age could get:
    3 feature flics heavy on the John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Maureen O’hara, Lana Turner, Tyrone Power…
    2 shorts like Tom Mix, Lash Larue or Flash Gordon serials…15 (fifteen) cartoons…access to food, gum, popcorn, candy, soft drinks in paper cups, another 50 cents could make anybody good and sick…a couple hapless ushers who’s only weapons were bright flashlights which simply served as roving spots on the seething, roaring mass of children. The torches did afford the ushers some immunity from the absolute food-fight bedlam those afternoons were noted for…the optimum crucible, the very ideal matrix for the rise of revolt

    For that same $.09, here’s what Mom and Dad got for most of that Saturday:

    No kids.

  2. Jeff Costello Post author | March 13, 2015

    I recall the 20-cent Saturday matinee – cartoons, serial and feature at the Crown theater in Hartford CT, and 18.9 cent gas at the local Mobil station. As late as 1971, getting a pack of Camels and a quart of Green Death (Rainier Ale, the only beer with psychedelic properties) for under a dollar at the Big G supermarket in Sausalito. The “lungs and livers” special.

  3. Jim Armstrong March 14, 2015

    My Saturday afternoon nine cents were regularly spent at the San Gabriel Theater.
    They were usually followed by backyard swordfights attired in bedsheet capes and gunfights from imagined forts.

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