Lose Your Soul at Graton Casino

Graton Casino

Over in my area, they recently opened up a big Casino, Graton. I was enticed to go and check it out tonight. It was not much of an enticement. Being a great lover of statistics, I find most forms of gambling mystifying. I assume the electronic games have winning percentages that are mandated by the state. The blackjack tables are shuffled continuously so card counting is impossible except at the high stakes tables—or so I’m told. Craps, while a sucker’s game at least has a fun group thing going on, is not available. There is no poker, which one could win at if one were a good player. And there is no sports betting, which again, one could win at if one were a capable handicapper. Thus, to me, it is just a really loud, ugly place where cigarette smokers go to play expensive computer games.

Willy Wonka SlotAnd everybody’s in on it. As you can see in the picture on the right, there are Willy Wonka slot machines. Roald Dahl is lucky he is dead not to have to see that. I also saw Dolly Parton slot machines. There were lots of other things, but I’m not up on pop culture. It does make me wonder though. Parton is estimated to be worth a half billion dollars. Is there nothing she won’t do for money? If I had a couple of billion dollars, would she let me take a dump on her? Because what she’s doing on those slot machines is even more disgusting. I walked into that casino with a so-so opinion of her. Now I despise her. She is nothing but a whore who will do anything for money, even though she has more than she could ever spend.

But welcome to America, right? Isn’t that the new American Dream? Gain a bit of fame so you can cash out? The problem with that “dream” of course is there is no end to cashing out. Apparently, people are not cashing out so they can lay on a beach the rest of their lives. Now you just cash out for the pleasure of cashing out. And everyone is involved. Those who have no fame to cash out, can sit at the slots and put their cash in. I’m sure for every dollar some Dolly Parton fan wastes on one of her machines, the grande dame receives a few pennies. Soon she’ll be up to a cool billion. That’s why she went into country music, right?!

Dolly Parton Slot MachineI don’t mean to put down all the gamblers. Hey, entertainment is entertainment. It ain’t my thing, but whatever. What bothers me is that I thought I saw a lot of Bill Whites there: lost people looking for just a little bit of meaning in their sad American lives where real meaning is scoffed at and ridiculed. It was a Sunday. They could have it all. In the morning, they could go to church and have a meaningless spiritual experience and in the evening, they could go to the casino and have a meaningless entertainment experience. Really, any person who feeds pigeons in the park has a far more engaged life than any such person.

Of course, as anyone who has spent any time in a casino can tell you, most of the people seem very sad. And that was fully on display tonight. It’s a binary experience after all: you either win or you lose. And that’s the problem with our whole culture and the economy that overwhelms it. That’s our meaning: winning a penny is good and losing a penny is bad. There might as well be switches on our fucking foreheads. But it wouldn’t matter. Because it doesn’t matter how many pennies you win. It is never enough. You’ll still sell off whatever is left of your soul to “Win!” again. Just ask the now fully soul-free Dolly Parton.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

6 thoughts on “Lose Your Soul at Graton Casino

  1. This is wonderful. ‘Nuff said.

    My SO loves casinos. So I’ve been to a few. And the first time I put $5 in a machine and got nothing, I felt the way I do if I put quarters in a Coke machine and no Coke comes out. AKA, I was robbed, and I’m not putting any more money in the machine.

    No doubt if you put $5 in and win $10 it triggers a pleasure spot in your brain. Which you want to rekindle, because pleasure spots in the brain are awesome. I have my own addictions, I can’t fault anyone else’s.

    One thing about California casinos; I’ve been told, and this may not be accurate, that the tribal revenue from California casinos goes into a pool and is distributed equally to all California Native Americans. If true, that’s great. Here in Minnesota, the tribes with casinos closest to the urban areas get lots of casino dividends and the ones in way-out rural areas (who need the money more) get much less. There are of course calls to change state law and build state-run casinos right in the cities themselves, rather than letting Native Americans operate them 30 miles away. Because that’s what we do with Native Americans; make deals, then piss all over the contract.

    Your observations are so sharp on this, it could be a major magazine piece. Throw in some interviews with casino regulars/employees, and maybe some history of the Native tribes and how sad it is that these cash palaces have cheesy tribal themes in their decor. That’d be something I’d love to read. Or maybe I should get off my lazy ass and write it!

  2. I don’t gamble, but I’ve been inside a few casinos with people who do and I’d rather spend a day at nursing home watching people waiting to die.

    Tom dealt blackjack in Atlantic City for four years and by the end he HATED people. It was a soul-crushing and depressing experience for him.

  3. @JMF – This one didn’t look tribal at all. It went for the total LV experience. It was a very big deal when it opened. It took about 2 years to build. It is enormous.

    Some people think of themselves as lucky and I understand how people can get a thrill out of winning. But I think it is more part of our society’s soul-crushing. It’s also an indication that people don’t really have enough money to do the things they want, which I think is unacceptable in such a rich country.

    But mostly, I just hate Dolly Parton so much and she’s the casino and the casino is her. It’s everything wrong with America. Interestingly though: not that many smokers. People really have stopped smoking in impressive numbers. Still: there were non-smoking slots.

  4. @Andrea – Yeah, I think it would be horrible. I suspect it would not be so bad to deal craps, because you are part of a team and it is really hard. But in general, you stand there and you see the worst of people. I’ve heard stand-up comedians wonder why people come out to comedy clubs if they are intent on being unhappy. I think it’s the same thing at casinos. Most of the people are there because they are miserable and can’t think of anything else to do.

  5. One more thing to add to this discussion: my husband works at the %@##%$ casino. I told him not to take a job there because casino corrupt people. He took the job anyway so he would work two jobs and make more money. He only worked there two months and got so sucked into the materialistic mentality of money is life. He took his money and bought a new car and two weeks later, on Christmas Ev. he announced to me that he wants to have younger women. (Do ya think the skimpy dressed pretty cocktail waitresses had something to do with this?) He said he wants to be a player and a bachelor and does not want to be a husband or family man anymore. He left me with our two young children. He also bought himself a big screen tv and not one christmas present for me or the kids. Not one. (He is…paying child support and giving us health insurance though). These casinos are shallow soulless places for both the gamblers and the employees. I don’t think many people can work there and still have their integrety intact. I caught him having downtown hanging out with a female co-worker . I guess he has been having an affair for some time. Very sad how our lives turned out because of the selfish decisions he has made and the negative influence of that #$%#$%$ casino.

  6. @awam – I’m sorry to hear that. He sounds lost. This whole thing is a big issue to me. We talk about the economic effects of globalization, but I think the sociological effects are arguably worse. It is harder and harder for people to find their place in the community as the community becomes global. So people grab onto television images of what they ought to be. Although I think the big casinos are more a symptom than a cause. But I know that it does affect people who work there. A friend of mine used to be a dealer in Atlantic City, and he had to quit. It was turning him into a misanthrope. Dealers do not see people at their best.

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