Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Casino

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  • anth,

    This leads to the odd sight of middle-aged ladies physically leashed to their machines.

    Are the cords still red? The image gets odder still if it makes you think of dialysis.

    Since Nov 2006 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Sky City are drug dealers

    A point not lost on me when the place first opened. In our house the Sky tower has always been referred to as "The Skypodermic". You will never look at it the same way again. ;)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Did you gamble?

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Come to think of it, didn't Problem Gambling Foundation Of New Zealand run a campaign that included a poster of a guy with the sky tower sticking out of his arm? and that Sky City made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority which was upheld. Hypocritical and scandalous if you ask me.
    Grumpity grump grump grump.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    In our house the Sky tower has always been referred to as "The Skypodermic". You will never look at it the same way again. ;)

    Thought the same thing many many times, although I've never dreamt up a catchy nickname like that...

    I've gambled at Sky City just the once. Spent about $20 on one of the wheels, surrounded by some very determined-looking people. Lost it all, as expected, and didn't particularly mind. The cards tables at least had some element of entertainment to them, but I found the pokies enormously depressing, except when I was looking at them as a sort of odd experiment in human psychology (e.g, how clever to make the sound of winnings falling out the chute so loud, to give the impression that people are constantly winning on the machines...).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Ben McNicoll,

    As for pokies, they involve too much work for the novice player--all those button and options, which conceal the possibility that all your coins are going down a one-way shute.

    I think the operative word should be probability.

    Grey Lynn • Since May 2007 • 115 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I am vaguely weirded out by the tone of this discussion. But I'm not quite sure why.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Poole,

    I visited the Hamilton casino thrice shortly after I turned 20. Each time I went with a couple of friends, and never with more than $20 in my pocket.

    We decided that the pokies were boring, blackjack and poker were too high-stakes ($5!) so we stuck to the $2 roulette and had a fairly enjoyable time. The first time I doubled my money in an hour and a half or so. The second time, I lost everything (all $20) and the third managed to turn $20 into $120 in a couple of hours.

    Hitting a winning number felt great, and greatly outweighed the disappointment of losing the one or two chips I'd have on the board. I can see how people get addicted to it.

    However, I could never get over the unease at some of the other players at the tables who, even with $2 chips, would pull out wads of fifty or hundred-dollar notes, push huge stacks of chips onto the table, and sometimes win (and get enormous stacks) but would more frequently lose. Not only that, but whenever they had a big win, they would subsequently push the even-bigger stacks of chips straight back onto the table.

    These people are definitely not there to win money, and they don't seem to plan to walk away once they've won enough - the only reason I've seen them leave the table for is because they've run out of money.

    I'm amazed that there are entire cities built around the concept.

    Since Dec 2008 • 161 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I can't really say that I know this, but I have heard so and I would not expect a casino to do things any other way unless explicitly legislated for.

    Absolutely. Experienced players will go to a machine after someone else has lost their money into it. You never go play a machine that someone has just emptied.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    Like others, I first wandered into the Casino because I was downtown with time to kill, to see what the fuss was about, for a laugh, etc. I didn't gamble on my first visit but later I returned and thought "What the hell" ... as you do. The roulette tables looked cool, plus - rationalise in overdrive - I was good at maths (no need to point out the self-delusion in there). And after a couple of spins, I won, about $30 or so.

    I remember the sense of elation. Out of nowhere, life had just walked up to me and put a new paperback book in my hand. Or a decent bottle of wine. A movie ticket - with all-you-can-eat snacks! Woo hoo! I walked out, thrilled but nervous, expecting to be challenged by security at any moment, because - ha! - I had beaten the house .

    You can guess what happened. Return visits. Losses. I don't think I actually became an "addict" - I didn't start selling the TV or robbing the dairy - and some ghost from Sunday school perched on my shoulder prevented me from ever chucking hundreds of dollars on the table, but I did, over time, throw money away, for nothing. I haven't been back for a couple of years, but I didn't stop as some strong-willed act of self-denial, but rather, because I finally (and expensively) realized that winning was no longer a thrill, and never would be again.

    Losing is sad, but it's the indifference of the winners that make it such a wretched place.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    I'm amazed that there are entire cities built around the concept.

    Up until September last year, we had a global economy built around this concept.

    And the only time I tried to go to Sky City they wouldn't let me in because my jeans were frayed.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Push the lever, get a reward. Gambling is hardly high science. I hate it and I hate its temples of misery where no one actually appears to be having any fun. Being around that many people and noticing the lack of a conversational hum is positively unnnerving.

    I wonder WHY people would want to blow their hard earned money at such soulless joy.

    I reckon we should legalise MDMA, make Auckland the Ibiza of the South Seas and turn Skycity into a megaclub like Space, or Amnesia. You see a lot more fun in the clubs of Auckland than on the floor of SkyCity.

    I heard of some people I know dressing up in their fancy dress and then necking pills at the rugby sevens in Wellywood. I doubt that without the influence of the dress-up ethos of club culture we would have quite such a vibrant sevens tournament so I think the sevens give us glimpse of the sort of party town we could become...

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • DaveC,

    Not in the same way. Roulette is biased against you winning but it does not do any balancing. A win in roulette does not make the chances of a loss in the next round any higher.

    I am under the impression that this is what pokies do. I can't really say that I know this, but I have heard so and I would not expect a casino to do things any other way unless explicitly legislated for.

    No they don't, at least they're not supposed to. Every spin is supposed to be an independent random event, but the house edge (the amount that the casino is statistically guaranteed to keep) is usually higher than other casino games. A lot of players think otherwise of course; if they didn't they wouldn't be playing. For those who want more info see here.

    I know this because back in the early days of online casinos there were some fantastic earning opportunities when the fledgling casinos were handing out big starting bonuses that you could play off against low-edge games like Blackjack. Armed with good statistical info you could rake in thousands with no risk. Sadly those days are pretty much gone now, but back then I did a lot of gambling and the rush when you won big (beating the odds) was indeed fantastic.

    Since Nov 2007 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Sky taketh away, but they also giveth. Check out their political donations in 2005.

    Didn't they also donate a fair chunk of change to the St Patrick's Cathedral restoration fund and Downtown City Mission's annual Christmas lunch. Can't be too piously high minded about it, but the irony tickles me in a fun place. :)

    That was the image conjured up for me too, when I peeked through the black curtains whilst at the SPADA conference last year. Something akin to a joyless factory floor.

    Forget that -- it's the total absence of natural light, or any environmental factor that would tell your body that time is passing, that creeps me out. Like your average enclosed shopping mall or multiplex cinema, come to that. Control the environment, you control how it is perceived.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    There's been talk above about how Sky City and casinos are just harmless fun. You pays your money, you haves your fun, and you walk out at the end of the night.

    I don't think that the pokies, and the rest of Sky City would be much of a moral hazard if there weren't real consequences however. That is real money that people are handing over, and for too many it is the loss of money that means suffering in other areas of their lives. And that, essentially is the problem. Hundreds of dollars. You'd have to drink a lot of alcohol, or start taking regular hits of P to get that far into your finances - and society would recognise that as a problem.

    The problem for Sky City and the places that rely on pokies is that their entire business model revolves around people spending lots of money - if they ran things so people felt good after only spending $20-30 they'd go bankrupt. Compare that to a bar, where most people are having a good time after spending the same amount, and there is no comparison.

    This isn't about wowserism. This is about the fact that there's comparatively so little pleasure derived for such a lot of social harm.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    No they don't, at least they're not supposed to.

    If they did, people would just move to another machine after a win, no?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    I am vaguely weirded out by the tone of this discussion. But I'm not quite sure why.

    I think for me it's the underlying tone of disgust at people doing this to themselves, which sits in marked contrast to the "legalise drugs and stop hating on the poor stoners" subcontext.

    If these folk want to indulge in their drug of choice then so be it - and I also think people should free to pass their judgement on it. But passing a very negative judgement of a given steroetype is what's happening.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Regardless of the morality, I agree with Tom about what the place feels like:

    I hate it and I hate its temples of misery where no one actually appears to be having any fun. Being around that many people and noticing the lack of a conversational hum is positively unnnerving.

    I have only been in once but have never seen that size group of people not having fun. The contrast with any other gathering was striking and frankly creepy.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    And my very limited experience has been that Auckland's casino is mindnumbingly depressing, while Sydney's was good-times-fun. That was probably down to my mental state in Sydney though. And that great faux-rock waterfall in the bar. Faux rock makes everything better.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Hmm. I'm personally in favour of less punitive drug laws, and of far more support for those who come to have an unhealthy dependence on drugs of any sort. Gambling is regulated by age already, so I'd say what's needed is that same increased support for abusers. It's not necessarily that inconsistent to find gambling distasteful and oppose overly punitive drug legislation.

    I like to think I'd register the same level of disgust with the consequences of a late-stage P habit and those of an uncontrollable where-is-my-rent-gone gambling problem. Not disgust with the sufferers, mind, but with what is happening and where they're headed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I think for me it's the underlying tone of disgust at people doing this to themselves, which sits in marked contrast to the "legalise drugs and stop hating on the poor stoners" subcontext.

    The link to drugs is fairly explicit in my original post. Like the strip bar owners and the actual drug dealers, they're selling a high at the casino. As I said, I'm just struck by the normalisation of this version.

    >If these folk want to indulge in their drug of choice then so be it - and I also think people should free to pass their judgement on it. But passing a very negative judgement of a given steroetype is what's happening.

    And yet, as I said, we had a good time; maybe even got a contact high off the rest of the room. But I really still struggle with how bloody grim so many people looked. I'm like, I don't think I want to try that drug ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Having had the chance to collect my thoughts a bit: I suspect that, after the novelty wore off, we'd probably be similarly appalled with the social costs of a 24-hour central-city locoweed palace, should marijuana use ever become as routine and accepted as gambling is.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Gambling is not a spectator sport. If you want to enjoy going to the casino try gambling.

    I visit the casino almost every weekend, sometimes twice a weekend, to play texas holdem poker (tucked off upstairs and to a side) and do enjoy it. It is fun for us particpants when getting the rush from winning.

    Socially it has bad effects but they are not worse than the alternatives or the costs of prohibition.

    Imagine all the cars in Sky City carpark gone, instead they are at the pub drinking beers or as someoneelse suggested attending a rave with E on demand. Now I as a gambler am biased towards the casino and against 5,000 cars driven by the pished or those feeling a deep meaningful love for the world.

    Imagine if there was a drug with no physical side effects that was real simple to manufacture - it would almost be as good as gambling. All gambling costs is money, all it takes is two people in agreement. Make it illegal and you'll have to bust into people's homes and watch them all the time to enforce the law.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    My post came off all lecturing there, sorry about that, but I did see the contradiction in the different ways some people (myself included) can look at the different "drugs" as the initial blog post neatly raised.

    Sam F has probably put it together quite well there - a similar discussion on "stoners totally spaced out in some dingy flat in Kingsland not even registering when they take the next hit" would have a had a slightly different angle on it I imagine, from me as much as anyone.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    "Gambling - at least you can drive home after this drug"
    What a strange path to take us down...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

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