When Steve Beshear wins the election in November everyone will say it’s a mandate for casino gambling, which is a shame because it will actually be a mandate for having a governor who’s not a second-rate criminal.* But with dozens of gambling options like racetracks, casinos, bingo halls, lottery outlets, dogfights and stockbrokers within an easy drive of every Kentucky citizen, only a lunatic would be opposed to casino gambling.
Which might explain why I’m opposed to casino gambling. Not because — as Gov. Fletcher claims — casino gambling leads to divorce, abortion and high cholesterol, but because I am quite possibly the world’s worst gambler. My money always finds the horse fading in the stretch, the slot machine displaying cherry-lemon-lemon, and the recalcitrant O69 steadfastly refusing to complete a BING.
Worse, losing money gambling feels like an insult to my frugal German ancestors, who believed that a penny saved might help you claw your way out of bridge rubble, hurricane debris or a collapsed mine someday. Curiously, winning money gambling also feels like an insult to my hardworking German ancestors, who espoused the value of labor, such as meticulously searching for the right adjectives to describe their annoying, omnipresent advice. Thanks to them, won money isn’t earned money. (Also, fish tastes good on Friday.)
Back in the ’90s, I had a job that took me to Vegas once per year, where I quickly got my fill of cheesy entertainers, wretched buffets and house odds worse than brushing with Chinese toothpaste. Unlike racetracks, which let you catch your breath between losing money on races, casinos make it easy to squander large sums of cash faster than a neoconservative at a war-planning meeting. So I’ve always avoided Caesars Indiana like it was Arby’s. But last winter, when a return trip from hiking O’Bannon Woods took me near Caesars’ front door, I stopped to see what it was like.
It’s difficult to say what’s most revolting about Caesars — the stink of stale cigarette smoke, the headache-inducing lighting, the crowds of money-drunk patrons wearing garish university-athletics attire, the greasy fried air, the cash-lust pheromones, or the eye-in-the-sky mob voyeurism. From the cartoon bitchslap of Roman history to the nauseating riverboat sway to the neon, plastic soullessness of the former riverbank, nothing screams “Get the hell away from here” like Caesars Indiana.
Most disturbing of all were the expressions on the faces of the patrons. From the Pesci wannabees at the craps tables to the feeble grannies robotically pumping the penny slots, they just all looked so unhappy. Maybe casino gambling requires a focus and intensity that, like sex, puts a comically pained expression on the faces of those in the throes of its ecstasy. Maybe the huge sums gamblers pay for being bad at math is a bitter pill to swallow. Or maybe they’re all just desperately trying to hold in their pee for another few minutes before becoming truly stinkin’ rich. It would be hard to find so much self-wrought misery anywhere outside the self-flagellation booth at the Opus Dei picnic.
So count me among those who oppose casino gambling in Kentucky, along with the weirdo Christians and the issue-starved Republicans. Unfortunately for Ernie, one of the best features about casinos is that by simply not going in them, I can pretty much solve all my problems with them. If gamblers want to hand over their cash to casinos, criminal syndicates and our public schools, I don’t have a problem with that. And just because we’re both anti-casino doesn’t mean I can overlook the governor’s past four years of wasted opportunity, transportation monkeyshines, inept education leadership, homophobia, disregard for the environment and unbridled corruption.
On the other hand, Steve Beshear is a lawyer and the Democrats’ candidate for governor, so there’s a good chance he is also a criminal. I guess that’s a gamble I’ll just have to take.
*Our first-rate criminals are busy in the U.S. Senate.
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