What Do Taxi Drivers Know?
Below is a small extract from the most excellent book. "Super Casino. Inside the 'New' Las Vegas" written by Pete Earley. Fortunately I am legally allowed to reproduce it verbatim because I am simply commenting on a book which is a must read for anyone interested in what is now euphemistically called the gaming industry. But it does, I think expose the underbelly of Las Vegas.
Inside The Casinos Weíre All Pimps.
(Pages 208 & 209) (Interview with a Las Vegas taxi driver.)
People around here (in Las Vegas) all want to be high rollers. But you know what? A high roller is the biggest loser of all. Thatís right. Just stop and think about it. Why is a casino giving him a free room, free meals and paying for him to fly out here first-class? Because he is losing thousands and thousands of dollars. High rollers are losers, man, pure and simple, but their egos blind them.
I used to love this city, but I hate it now because I see beyond all the glitter. I see this town for what it is. Las Vegas is about only one thing: greed. Everyone here is trying to make a buck off someone elseís misery. Thatís cold, man, but itís true. These casinos donít manufacture a product. They donít produce anything. They just take your money. And thousands of people come out here every day and gladly hand it over. Why? They think they are going to win something for nothing.
I thought I was smart because I was betting on sports - football, basketball, baseball. I figured I knew enough to win. But the odds are against you and if you do win, then greed kicks in. Every penny I won - I just ended up betting and losing it. No one ever leaves this town a winner. If you do win big, the casinos invite you back and sooner or later you figure, "Hey, I scored big once, I can do it again." Greed kicks in. Talk to the old-timers and they will tell you that if you come to Las Vegas twenty or thirty times a year and you break even at the end of the year, then you are a very lucky gambler.
What bothers me is how these casino owners are trying to say this is a family vacation spot. Everything is now patterned after Disneyland, but Las Vegas isnít Disneyland. Hello? Is anyone listening? Disneyland is based on Snow White, Mickey Mouse and good triumphing over evil. These are good things for children to learn. Las Vegas is based on getting something for nothing, which is impossible because there wouldnít be any jackpots for someone to win if someone else hadnít lost the money in the first place. Hasnít anyone figured out that inviting kids into a casino to watch a circus act or pirates is stupid? Whatís wrong with parents? Would you give your kids a shot of heroin or a bottle of whiskey or fix them up with a whore on their first date? Then why are you bringing them here?
Thatís why I say this town is like a giant whore with her legs open and the worst thing is that all of us - everyone of us here - is her pimp. I drive a cab and you know what? I get a kickback every time I take a fare to a restaurant or night-club I recommend. Prostitution is illegal, but if I drive a fare out to one of the legal whorehouse, I get a cut. And I always ask for one. Thatís what draws you in. The money. There is so much of it in this town that you learn to close your eyes. I hate it but I canít walk away. Who can?
This is, I can assure you, a most interesting book and I'm quite sure that in time it will become one of the great classics on Vegas. That the author doesn't know a lot about gambling becomes clear when you read his attempts to explain the various games to be found in a casino. But this is probably an advantage because this book is about Las Vegas as a place and the difficulties and dramas of running a hotel-casino rather than about gambling. It's about casinos, hotels, prostitutes, hotel and casino staff, thieves and compulsive gamblers. It's about corporate Vegas as an entity rather than about any individual aspect of the city.
---January 5, 2010---
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