I was meeting a friend, mentor, and professional associate (all one person!) in Schenectady at a restaurant for lunch and arrived early because I ran a few errands on the way and ended up with extra time. How to spend that time?
I’ve been thinking I should spend more time making money, since the book royalties gravy train chugs slowly and the financial portfolio is nosediving. So why not pop in next door and visit the Rivers Casino and see if I can bolster the coffers? The casino was built some years back after a lot of controversy. I’ve never been there. I’ve never been much of a gambler, but today could be different. Today could be my lucky day.
But then as I walked through the casino on a late Friday morning and looked at the people playing slots and cards and roulette, at this hour on a beautiful, sunny autumn day, I thought: Who the hell does this?
I know that’s not a generous thought.
I remember my father ranting about casinos because he considered them a regressive tax. Which is true. One hundred or five hundred bucks sunk into a slot machine or on a bet means a lot more to a person of limited income than to someone of greater means. I suppose you could say that gambling is a way to spend one’s entertainment dollars, the way someone else might spend on club-level tickets for the game, or big-name concerts, or spa visits, or even books.
Although no one ever hears about opera-attending disorder or literature-reading disorder in the way you hear about gambling disorder. I’m afraid of gambling, not because it attracts me, but because I did a lot of research on gambling addictions when writing the novel, “Clean Break.” I checked out casinos, I went to Gambler’s Anonymous meetings, I had difficult and cathartic conversations with people working off gambling debt. Thus was born the character of Adam Vanek, he who is suffering from a gambling disorder and struggling in his life. He who I feel so much empathy towards.
But that’s fiction, not the real world, and as I mentioned, I wanted to make some extra money. Ante up, big boy. There were slot machines to master, blackjack tables to conquer, roulette wheels to win over. What should I try first? Because I’m feeling lucky!
And then I get lucky—it’s time to meet my friend. No gambling for me today. Money ain’t everything.