On Monday we left the park and went into unknown territory..........central Florida. Yes we braved gator infested waters and roadside fruit sellers and made our way to a casino for a spot of gambling. Best thing to do in a casino I suppose.
Deb and I went with 2 park friends and it was the first time for all of us. So we got a little bit lost. Just a little. "How can you miss a casino ?", I hear you cry ?
Well to get around the Florida gaming regulations, this wasn't really a casino. It was called an arcade - and was set up in a building best described as....barn shaped. We had been told to look out for a gold coloured building but not that it was a barn. Luckily we'd learned a few things from watching several series of "The Amazing Race" and with some teamwork (and stopping to ask at a local grocery store), we got there at 11:30.
Only to find a note on the door that said it opened at noon !! This was definitely a different kind of casino, sorry, arcade.
We drove around the area to waste time and returned at 12:15 - didn't want to appear too eager you know. They'd just opened up and so we all went in together. Ok now you need to remember I've only been to large modern casinos/hotels in Vegas and almost as impressive ones in Michigan and so this place was a real shock. About 50 machines, one little single person restroom (I don't mean for midgets but just that only one person could 'go' at a time), one ATM and, uniquely in my experience, no cameras.
They didn't need any. On top of every machine was a card that a player could place on top of the buttons if they wanted to go for a break or go to the restroom. Basically we were on the honour system and as there were only 2 or 3 other people in the barn, that was fair enough.
The main reasons that this place could open at all was because no money can be won and no gambling took place. Confused ?
Well the machines used a points system and the total went onto a credit card sized card that you inserted everytime you moved to a new machine and it simply kept a tab on your 'winnings'. Even then the money on the card could only be redeemed at stores like WalMart and only if you got more than $25. Anything less and you just had to keep playing or the money on the card was useless. Very clever. Of course if your card had, say, $17 on it and you didn't really want to play more or even return to the arcade ever again, you could just put $8 in cash onto the card to make it up to $25 and so get to spend it in a store.
But why wasn't it classed as gambling ? Well again it's all in the detail. With most slot machines you press a start button or pull a lever and the bands revolve for a while and settle down to present winning or losing lines. You have no control over how they end up so......that's gambling.
The machines in this arcade all had a start button but there were other buttons which allowed you to stop the bands all at once or one at a time. You had 'control' and so it wasn't classed as gambling.
Of course in reality you had no more control that you'd have using the slots in Vegas. The bands whizzed round so fast that they were a blur and even if you did your Rain Man thing and worked out the sequence of the symbols, once you'd hit the stop button, the bands would rotate for a while before actually stopping so you have no chance of stopping them on the symbol you needed. Seemed pretty much like a gamble to me.
But the fun part was that we were given $15 (1500 credits) on our cards from the get go and if you played at the minimum of 8 credits at a time, that $15 could last you for several hours. And it did. The four of us were there for 3 hours and only one of us had to dip into our 'own' money. One amased $72 at one time which ended up being $50, another got $27, one broke even by losing the $15 and one used $1 of their own money.
Yes that last one was me !!
Well I'd not worked it out properly and had left 50 credits (or 50 cents) on my card but the minimum you could transfer to the machine was $1. Very clever again. So as I was the first one to finish, I walked around for a while watching the other 3 playing - this quickly became boring so I decided to put $1 of my own money on my card to make it $1.50 and so be able to play again. And before you ask, you couldn't just put 50 cents on as the cash to card transfer machine only took notes. Anyway I won now and then and that $1.50 lasted me about 25 minutes.......before it too was gone !
I was the only loser on the day. Typical.
But it was fun AND we got free sannies, goulash (I think) and all the pop, water, candies and other nibbles that we could eat. I had 3 sannies, a plate of the goulash, 2 cans of coke and numerous candies and so didn't feel too bad giving them that $1 back out of my own pocket.
It may not have been as glamorous as The Venetian or The Bellagio in Vegas but I defy anyone to spend 3 hours in any of those places with a $15 stake.
Or in my case, $16.