Thursday, 7 May 2009

Niagara Falls and Toronto Trip: the Fallsview Casino

On Thursday we (Jon, Alan, Teddy, and I) went to the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls. We went for two reasons: food at the buffet, and so Ted could gamble away his life savings. Also, it was rainy and damp and seemed a good way to get out of the wet.

We had pre-arranged for our memberships on-line, which meant we could eat at the buffet for less. It was still a tad expensive for the value of the food. The pizza, ravioli, pastas, fish, and desserts were good, but much of the meat was tough and fatty.

What I noticed most, though, was what you'd see at any buffet but appeared to be worse at the casino: quite a few people were markedly overweight. I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill overweight here; these weren't beer bellies or jiggly thighs but forays into obesity. That's the thing about buffets. We commented that the buffet is a better deal for some than it is for others, but in the end I'm not sure how good of a deal it is for the over-eaters, either. But then, I don't struggle with obesity, so I won't pass judgement. What I will say is that it contributed to the overall air of profanity (that is, the profane) that I felt permeated the casino.

After the meal, we went onto the floor, which was a sea of lights and noises. The machines didn't spit out coins but rather tickets, which you could redeem for money. It seems to me that this makes tabulating how much you've won harder. Ted did it in his head, but that took effort. (Well, maybe less effort than it seemed: the way he chose to explain his method was not terribly efficient and confused Jon. Had he explained it more simply, I don't think Jon would have been as unsure of what Ted was doing.) With coins, you can keep all the ones you got from the tellers in one pocket or cup and all the ones from the machine in the other. That would be an efficient way of controlling your input and output. By tracking your balance on a slip of paper, the casino may be making the calculations a bit more difficult and thereby helping people gamble their winnings away. Smart thinking, Fallsview.

We had some trouble selecting machines. Ted wanted 'classic' slot machines. We passed certain ones because they 'had too many sevens' or 'had flames on the seven' or 'didn't have cherries.' They were classic machines, but I suppose Teddy had a particular machine in mind, collected from the representations of these machines through movies and such. After losing some money to these we found some twopenny machines which were far more digital. On our second bank of twopennies (tupence?) Ted won a bit. In the end he was up. In about the same amount of time, Ted went through $20 (but won $28.50, with a net gain of $8.50), Alan went through $10, and I went through $5. Jon didn't play, but instead derived amusement from watching Ted.

Frankly, I had written the $5 off for loss at the beginning. I had thought of it as $5 admission to playing games. A summer or two back I managed to win (net, not gross) $25 at the Boomtown in Fort McMurray, and I usually am lucky at games of chance which involve winning money. I have won $45 before at rip-open tickets (net, not gross). That I left the casino under and not over was a bit disappointing, even though I suspected it would happen. I'm still not 100% comfortable with gambling, and likely never will be. I fear somewhat that it really is a sin.

The thing is, I apparently don't enjoy it very much after all. As we walked through the casino, I saw very few people actually smiling. Most looked bored or surly, punching those buttons. Only one guy seemed genuinely pleased to be there. He was a little old Asian man, sitting at a machine which looked too big for him. He reached out and up and stabbed away at the buttons, grinning like this was the best thing in the world.
I think I'm more average than that; the slots bore me, really. Unless I'm winning. In games of skill, I play to play, not to win. I do derive pleasure from winning, but less than others, I think. The only times I'm really happy that I've won are during games that I usually lose. Others seem to enjoy winning games they often win at; this seems ludicrous and maybe a bit mean-spirited to me. I don't think games should be zero-sum, as far as pleasure is concerned. However, slots really only interest me if I'm winning. In general, I don't think a person should play a game if they only enjoy it when they win. Ergo, I likely shouldn't play slots, and it seems to me that most of the people on the floor shouldn't be playing, either.

Security was tight there. There are cameras everywhere. Also, as we walked toward the buffet, one of those locked and escorted cases full of (presumably) money followed as a short piece. That was exciting; it was like Ocean's Eleven.

Then we went into the mall and wandered around, looking for Teddy's very specific maple sugar candies, which we never did find. I took some pictures of the lights and colours. We also spotted a man with terrible fashion sense. I'm not saying I'm a clothing guru or anything--far from it--but this guy was just ridiculous. Something about the business jacket and the backward baseball cap was incongruous, and that's just where the problems started.

Really, that's all I have to say about the Fallsview. In summary, while I enjoyed the company, and didn't really enjoy the activity itself. Well, I liked the buffet food I chose, even if the others didn't.

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