I took Monday off to join a friend help celebrate her 63rd birthday at the local Indian gambling casino here in southwest Riverside County, Calif. Now what I'm about to report is in no way considered on my part a racist comment. So, relax and take it for what it's worth.
The vast preponderance of people at the slots and gaming tables were Filipinos and other Asian decent. I don't know why but the Orientals are culturally a group of gambling fools.
I sat at a 21 table for five hours nursing my $80 buy-in at a clip of $10/minimum bet. During all that time one white lady about 45 and an old white guy about my age and myself were the only players not Oriental, or in this case, Filipino.
After each played five or six hands, I would ask if they visited the casinos often.
"Oh, yes," gushed a young woman. "My husband and I come here at least once a month."
Her husband said gambling was the best way to have fun on the town. "It's relatively an inexpensive recreation," he said.
His wife said they lose "a little" most of the time. She said they have won "big time" but mostly are satisfied by breaking even. By that, she said the gambling winnings offsetting transportation, food, hotel and live entertainment expenses.
I noticed the couple were experienced players, alternating their bets from the minimum but never more than $25 per hand.
One Filipino was an emotional guy, always talking to the dealer and giving a live commentary on his hands. He started by cashing in two $100 bills. He kept losing until he dropped down his last $200, by that time totaling about $1,000. When he lost that, he uttered the F bomb and left rather ungraciously.
"Better luck next time, Mario," the dealer said. I asked the dealer if Mario was a regular. "About once a week." I told the dealer Mario seemed a good customer. "The best," he said. "Good tipper?" I asked. "Oh, yeah, when he wins."
I killed the last hour wheeling around the casino looking for my friend somewhere playing the slots. I never found her, knowing we'd meet in the lobby at 4:30 p.m. to catch the bus home. In stead, I started counting the number of Orientals manning the slots. Each row of about 10 players had at least six Orientals.
I left the casino thinking if that the economy is at an ebb, you wouldn't know it from those that make up our Asian contingent. By mid afternoon, this casino I visited was packed.
I was bitten by the casino bug early in life. At the time, I was working as a sports writer for the Klamath Falls Herald & News. One Friday, I cashed my $85 weekly paycheck and drove to Lake Tahoe. After 12 hours, I parlayed that to $8,700. I was filthy rich.
Over the next 30 years, I visited the Nevada casinos about once every two years and returned the initial winnings by probably four times that amount. Yesterday was the first tune in 12 years I had stepped foot inside a casino.
I haven't missed a thing. But got more fun out of observing the demographics than losing my $80. But as the Filipino lady said, it was cheap entertainment.
I had fun. So did the birthday girl. She won $35 playing the slots.