What does gambling mean to you?
To me, gambling is a lark. Last night I won sixty cents on a horse
Pacific Flora: my tactic was to select the horse with the
slowest-sounding name, and after searching the big book of small
numbers in vain for a name along the lines of
Bro-Can Leg, I
decided seafaring algae might be comically slow as well. Pacific
Flora somehow managed to evolve its way to first place.
Then I saw the slot machines.
Insert $1 to $100.
I inserted $1; I pushed a button a few times; I eventually lost every penny; and I went to a different machine.
I inserted $1; I pushed a button a few times. This time, I did not
even bother looking at the screen. I already knew how the story would
end, and the flashing lights and electronic sounds were distracting
me from a conversation I was having. Sure enough, after pushing the
button a few times, the machine diplomatically encouraged me to pay
up or leave, refusing to illuminate its
Bored, I decided to walk around.
But I could not walk: I could only swim in a sea of slot machines. I came to realize I had been gambling at the fringe of a venture 5,000 machines across. As I delved deeper into the building I lost sight of all landmarks: only row after row of blinking lights and losing betters greeted my eyes, stretching to infinity—a financial infinity for those shrewd enough to design it.
I got lost.
Ordinary people devise systems to beat these machines: simultaneous bets, fluctuating antes, and strict, superstitious mathematical formulas, hopelessly created to compete with mathematical formulas which (and you would think committed gamblers would pause to consider this at some point) are invariably designed by smarter, more educated, wealthier people who themselves do not bet with their creations.
At the corner of the complex, adjacent to the exit, sits a small,
underused row of counters labeled
REDEMPTION. It lent a
biblical tone to the evening: with deliverance so convenient and
well-advertised, evidence suggests the vast majority would prefer to
sacrifice money, time, and sometimes souls to mechanized thieves and
their devious designers.
What does gambling mean to me? In this instance, it means the aggregation of poor people's money in rich people's pockets.
But I am still missing a sense of scale. In the coming year, Yonkers Raceway will triple its number of machines, effectively tripling its ability to accept $1 to $100.