My kids are fascinated by Las Vegas. The photos show an amazing place with tons of neon, buildings as garish and crazy as you can possibly imagine, and the entire sea of humanity cascading off the sidewalks in a concrete oasis in the Western desert. It’s shiny, it’s alluring, and there’s an energy here that’s hard to describe if you haven’t been to what is both the most electric and perhaps the most crass and shallow of all cities in the United States.
There’s a seamy underbelly that’s far closer to the surface than it is anywhere else too, and that sea of humanity includes a lot of people who seem to relish the opportunity to demonstrate their poor judgment every night through various of the seven deadly sins. Sloth, greed, gluttony, covetousness, the list goes on and you don’t have to be an investigative reporter to find examples when they’re indulged in with such relish.
And then there’s gambling.
I’ll be candid, I don’t understand the lure of betting money on games of chance. I love games and gaming and am intrigued by poker, pai gow and Chinese mah jongg (hint: it has nothing at all to do with matching tiles to remove them from the table), but add money into the mix and I freeze up and can’t get over the idea that I could lose even a few bucks by playing a hand poorly or incorrectly guessing the odds. I know, I’ve tried, and I just loath the anxiety I feel when money is on the table, win or lose.
But apparently I’m in the minority. Certainly in Las Vegas it’s impossible to find a time of the day or night when there aren’t people playing craps, punching the buttons of the slot machines, or otherwise losing money in the oft-vain hope that somehow this time, this once, they’ll be lucky and walk away with a big win.
And some parents are so eager to gamble and flirt with that most fickle of gals, Lady Luck, that they abandon their children either in the hotel room or somewhere in a casino to give their favorite game a whirl. Don’t believe me? Check out the “Don’t leave your kids unattended” poster I bumped into and have included here.
Think about it: this is a sufficiently pervasive problem that not only did they create and print this poster, but the casino is allocating valuable wall space to feature it as a rather gentle reminder for parents. Frankly, it’s a darn benign poster for what seems like something that is a fairly alarming problem and quite likely terrifying for children who have no idea when mommy or daddy are going to come back from the casino, or whether they’ll be happy because they won or furious because they just gambled away next month’s rent.
I love what Vegas purports to be. And hate what it really is, for some people at least.