CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Some Machines Change the World; Slots Reflect It

12 December 1994

ound the house when I was little, "machine" meant "automobile." My grandmother was responsible for both use and implication of the term. Born in an Eastern European village in the 1800s, she'd probably never been over ten miles from home before leaving for America. The machine, in particular our '41 Chrysler, stretched her vista past anything she might have conceived until the experience of "riding in the machine" was upon her.

Automobiles changed the world -- mainly or at least arguably -- for the better. But today we take our vehicles, with the mobility and freedom they offer, for granted. Drive ten miles to shop at the mall or drop the kids at Little League? No big deal. And, with the selling points of the latest self-propelled sardine cans being secondary features like power seats, passenger-side air bags, and concert-hall sound, the romance and excitement have been engineered into oblivion. They're not machines anymore. Just cars.

Around campus when I was in college, "machine" meant "computer." During my freshman year, one of America's better-known technical universities had exactly two computers. A hand-made prototype and a production unit donated by IBM. Each of these behemoths, housed in its own building, was tended by a dedicated team of highly-trained specialists. Ordinary students, for whom the now-extinct slide rule was still a vital mathematical instrument, made occasional pilgrimages simply to gaze at the lights blinking on these wonders of technology. The elite submited programs on decks of punched cards and returned later for printouts of either results or "error" messages. The computers not only gave us better answers but let us ask better questions. They stretched our vistas beyond anything we could have conceived before the experience of "having time on the machine" was upon us.

Computers changed the world -- mainly or at least arguably -- for the better. But today, we take our digital devices and the functions they offer for granted. Complicated sales transactions with multiple taxes and discounts charged to credit cards, phone systems that can find us when we're not at home or at work? No big deal. Rocket ships able to rendezvous with objects in space then land at spots on earth picked in advance? Nice, but old news. And, with microprocessors that can outperform stadium-size "giant brains" of the '50s now on almost every wrist between Tokyo and Timbuktu, the romance and excitement have been engineered into oblivion. They're not machines anymore. Just logic circuits.

Maybe it's my involvement with the casino scene. But these days, when I hear solid citizens mention "machines," I figure they mean "the slots" -- gambling devices. And the reverence with which the word is spoken seems no less than that associated with "automobiles" and "computers" in past decades. Perhaps, for many, slot machines seem to represent the only path to an expanded vista. This isn't to agree with anti-gambling activists about perverse players pumping their last pennies into some bottomless pit, futilely seeking fulfillment through a lucky but highly unlikely alignment of stars or bars. It does bespeak a society in which too few believe the traditional avenues to achievement are open or relevant.

Slot machines won't change the world. But they're a recreational device that may reflect it. And the world-class adult leisure complexes dotting the land and waterways of this great country of ours aren't apt to change any individual's life. But their popularity shows they offer something that resonates with a broad spectrum of the public beyond an enormous entertainment value or an illusory chance to strike it rich.

Judged by impact on humanity, slots don't exactly follow automobiles and computers as mileposts of progress. And casinos aren't up there with institutions like libraries, schools, and great industrial plants. Still, in an era when the latest fast-food chains make Big Macs and Whoppers look like gourmet dinners, there's merit in the quality goofing-off experience of "playing the machine." As Sumner A Ingmark, the bettors' Byron, wrote:

Casinos do wonders to bolster your spirit,
You may not get wealth although you can get near it,
May not get the call but you're where you can hear it.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.