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Not in MY Neighborhood
by Frank Scoblete
I just had the strangest experience in a casino gift shop. I went over to the books and magazines section to see if any gambling books or magazines could be found on the shelves. There was nothing. There were no books by me (sigh); and there wasn’t a single book or magazine in the shop that had anything to do with gambling. Nada. Zip. Zero. They did, however, have some little slot machine knick-knacks, some dice with holes in them, and some leftover casino cards, cut at the edges.
I asked the manager of the store why she didn’t stock any books or magazines about gambling. She gave me a steely look over her half-glasses (she must have been the reincarnated soul of the librarian in my Brooklyn neighborhood who always shushed me) and said: “They wouldn’t be appropriate,” and harrumphed her back to me to fix something on the shelf.
They wouldn’t be appropriate.
Just then a loud scream came from the casino that was not thirty paces from this gift shop. Someone had evidently hit a big slot jackpot and she was screaming her head off, accompanied by bells and whistles and flashing lights and tinny music. What a racket.
“Oh, God, oh, God!” she screamed, “I did it! I did it!”
Some of the people near her clapped.
“Good going, girl,” said one woman to her.
“Wow,” said the man who had been playing next to her.
When Marian (as I now thought of the store’s manager) turned around to frown at the noise outside her shop, I said to her in an incredulous voice, “Oh, my, do you realize there’s a casino out there?”
She looked at me as if I were demented and went about her business, which was basically frowning at any and all patrons who entered the shop.
They wouldn’t be appropriate.
I pondered her reply. Perhaps she thought it would give the wrong image to her shop if people could walk in and see that it was offering advice and information about, now say this in a whisper, gambling.
Now I am sure, reasonably sure that is, that this woman does a fine job, between frowns and looks of disapproval, and that her shop is probably well run and the bosses all give her good year-end reviews. But, now ponder this closely because it’s something Marian missed; casinos are in the gambling business; they offer gambling to their patrons. Without the games, the hotels/shops/ theatres would all close. I’d be willing to wager that even at the Venetian, which makes more money now from non-gambling enterprises than it does from gambling, that if you took the casino away, and -- let’s drive this point home with a vengeance -- if you took away all the gambling in Nevada, the Venetian and all of Las Vegas would dry up; the tourists would leave and head for Atlantic City or Mississippi, and all those shops, gourmet restaurants, high-end stores would vanish like a magician’s assistant. Does anyone seriously propose that Vegas, sans gambling, would continue to exist as a viable city?
Gambling is the heart of Vegas.
If you think of Vegas, or any other casino town, as one giant body, your body if you work in the gaming industry, then you can do without one of your kidneys. You can breath even missing a lung. You can live with most of your liver gone. You have yards of intestines so a few missing feet here or there won’t end your life. But you take out that heart and you die. You can’t have Las Vegas without its heart.
The job of everyone associated with any enterprise associated with a casino should be to encourage players to want to gamble more often. A casino worker’s, yes, even Marian’s, job and economic future ultimately rides on whether their property can attract enough loyal players to make that property vibrant and alive.
So whom do you think would gamble more often, someone who reads books and magazines about casino games or someone who doesn’t? The answer leads to more questions: Who would tend to buy the better wines, someone who reads books about wines or someone who doesn’t? Who would tend to be a regular at a golf club, someone who reads books and magazines about golf or someone who doesn’t? Who would be the more avid hunter, someone who…? Who would be the more avid fisherman…? …the more avid tropical fish aficionado…? …the more avid tennis player…? …the more avid bowler…?
Yet, you walk into Marian’s shop, and dozens of other gift shops in casinos all across America and except for some trinkets and the occasional cheap “how to” tiny paperback on gambling (squeezed on the shelves next to the John Grisham books) there’s no real sense that the people who run these shops understand that the people who come to these shops are gamblers.
So here’s my advice to anyone reading this who has anything to do with the retail end of the casino business. If you have a big property, that has many shops, then create one that is your “gamblers store” and stock it with books (all of mine of course) and tapes (mine again) and gaming magazines. Also stock books that have anything to do with famous gamblers, modern day or of old, or casino figures, like Howard Hughes, or the Boyds, the Binions, the Harrahs, the Wynns. Yes, sell cards and dice and chips and layouts and, if you really want to get fancy, blackjack tables, craps tables, slot machines, et all.
If you run a property that doesn’t have huge tracks of retail space, then make sure your gift shop reflects the fact that your property is in the casino business and make sure you have an adequate supply of gaming related books, tapes and products. If you want advice on which books and magazines to stock, why just give me a call!