On a recent out-of-state software development project, the client put me up in a giant casino resort. This was a Vegas-style resort with acres of indoor slots, poker, blackjack, craps, and all the requisite restaurants to make sure the patrons never had reason to leave. I had a luxury suite every night, complete with wet bar, hot tub, and three television sets.
While there I saw a commercial on TV. Coincidently, this was a casino commercial, although not a commercial for the casino I was staying at. The commercial showed a young couple sitting on the couch watching TV. Sitting motionless with a glazed look in their eyes, their lives obviously lacked joy and meaning. Then a commercial for a casino came on their TV. The commercial showed people at slot machines, energetically pulling the levers, mouths agape and eyes wide with sheer joy. They were laughing, jumping up and down, high-fiving, and hugging each other. Coins fell from the machines like rain from heaven. The camera switched back to a view of the young couple, who looked at each other and shouted in unison, “We gotta go!”
Hmmm, I thought. Do people in casinos really act like that? Staying in a casino, I was in the perfect environment to see for myself. I went for a walk through the game floors. I went up and down every row, specifically looking at people’s faces and trying to judge their emotions.
What I saw were people sitting motionless with glazed looks in their eyes. Their lives obviously lacked joy and meaning. Unlike the commercial, these people were too lazy to pull the slot machine handle; instead they just pushed the button on the front – takes less energy that way. Also unlike the commercial, most of these people never heard a coin drop. They had credit-card style casino cards, so that they never had to handle any actual money. These cards were attached to their belts with a cord. The effect was almost Matrix-like: row upon row of individual power units, giving their energy and money to the casino through their attached umbilical cords.
Could it be that casinos don’t give joy and meaning? Could it be that casinos take more than they give? I’m thinking our young couple would have better luck searching for joy and meaning elsewhere.
This post originally appeared as a column in the July 25, 2007 edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.