Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 600 Casinos

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

I want to think about casinos in this podcast. I'm not an expert but I do know what they are and I have been through the doors of a few. And I am sure they play a big role in many retired persons lives. Here are my thoughts.

“She lost the farm”. That is not a figure of speech in this case. She was the wife of a high school classmate of mine. She was in a class or two ahead of me. They got married right out of high school and started to farm in Iowa. There was only one casino in Iowa at the time that I knew of. Today there are many. She and her husband started going to them just for entertainment. The occasional visit became more frequent, then routine. Then they became addictive – for her. Then she did indeed – gamble away the farm. Last I heard they lost it all.

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 on a daily basis. Planes fly in and out of airports bound for casinos in Reno and Las Vegas. Retired people make up most of the passengers. Some say it is entertaining. I think it is loneliness – writ large.  

Brenda and I seem to pass through Las Vegas and/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. Nothing happened. See – I don’t even know what it cost or how to operate the thing. A friend recently told me that you need to drop in more than one to play the game. We don’t gamble – not in casinos.

I know – 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. I guess it seems reasonable to those people who sit their pumping money into the slots or tumble dice down the table. I’m not at all sure of this. Maybe some of my listeners will respond to this question. I’ll be glad to pass along the message to everyone. I still think it stems from loneliness

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 every body 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 sure we all know some people who have visited a casino and came out making money – at least, on that 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 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 visit.

It is common knowledge that the casino always wins in the end. The odds of winning against the house are miniscule to non existent. Yet, people forever pull open the door.

Perhaps it was my humble beginnings that led me to hold my money a bit closer. 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. 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 engage in gambling; Las Vegas, Reno, or Atlantic City. Today the Interstates are dotted with casinos. I recall gamble to be the territory of mobsters and shadowy figures. Then they moved to 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 it beyond understanding.

This is Retirement Talk.

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