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Learning the casino landscape

30 April 2015

When I started writing about casinos in the early 1990s, I wanted to make sure I tried everything first-hand.

I got up at 6 a.m. for a week and to attend a blackjack dealer training class, practicing shuffling and chip stacking with other students who would go on to complete six weeks and deal in the sponsoring casino. Then I’d go home for a nap before heading to the newspaper for my 5 p.m. editing shift.

At a different casino, I was a student in a crash course in casino operations, designed for up-and-comers in the organization’s other departments who were spotted as potential casino managers. As part of it, I spent an evening in casino promotions, walking the slot floor, glad-handing customers and giving out promotional items.

When I spotted an bus tour to a casino, I took it. I wanted to see what it gave the customers, and I talked to others on the tour to explore their likes and dislikes, and wrote it up as a column.

So when I met a player named Tootsie on a recent casino jaunt, I knew just where she was coming from when she wanted to talk about a bus tour.

I was sounding out players about their first casino visits, and Tootsie remembered hers vividly.

“How could I ever forget my first time?” she said. “I was the big winner! I went with my mom on a bus trip. It was pretty exciting. We paid $10 each, and got our trip, a lunch ticket to the buffet and a coupon for $10 in slot play. Good deal, right!

“I don’t remember what slot machine it was, just that it was a three-reel machine. It only had one payline, I think. It wasn’t like the penny games now, with all those lines. It was really simple.”

I asked how long ago this was, and she paused for a moment, then said she thought it must have been about 20 years ago. If it was, then three-reel machines would have been all she was seeing in the casino. The video slot revolution hadn’t happened yet.

“What I do remember is that after a half hour, maybe 45 minutes, I got 7, 7, 7,” she said. “The light went on at the top of the machine, this music started playing, and my heart skipped a beat. I didn’t know what I had won, but I knew it must be good.

“Two people came over. I remember one was a man wearing a nice suit, and they both had ID tags clipped on. They congratulated me, and I had to give them my driver’s license, and they had to do some paper work and have me sign a form for taxes. I asked what I won, and the one man said, ‘Oh, I thought you knew. You won $5,000. Congratulations again!’”

I told her I felt like congratulating her all over again, that it must have been an incredible feeling for her first time out.

“They took my picture next to the machine and it was on the wall in the casino for a while,” she said. “My mom said, ‘I’d make you buy me lunch, but we already have our tickets.’”

Nowadays, Tootsie comes to the casino with her husband, or sometimes with her friends, and they do it by car rather than by bus. But the experience remains one of her favorite memories.

“It’s exciting just to talk about it again,” she said. “It never gets old.”

Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Related Links
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski