The young men and women, all dolled up for a night out, crowd around the craps table or slide up to the slot machines. Their faces look like they’re having the times of their lives.
If you believed their sometimes racy ads, you’d think all patrons of casinos look like the cast of Quantico. Young, attractive. Expressions ranging from sheer wonder to deadly serious – for those trying to keep a poker face amid all that excitement.
But in my recent visits to casinos in Ohio and Michigan to report on the potential for Georgia to legalize casinos, the crowds looked a bit different. And a lot older.
It wasn’t James Bond and Vesper Lynd stepping into the Casino Royale. The patrons were largely pensioners and people on early disability. Young people were in the casinos, but it wasn’t a suit and tie kind of crowd. More like jerseys and sweatpants.
Casino interests are pushing hard to change Georgia’s laws to allow Las Vegas-style gambling. The image they’re conjuring is of glamorous resorts with high rollers flocking in from around the world, high-end restaurants and the excitement of Atlanta holding prize fights.
Certainly, if there’s a requirement for at least one of the proposed resorts to cost at least $1 billion, the Las Vegas companies will build something spectacular. They’ll be luxurious, flashy and unlike anything Georgia has now. Many of their best customers no doubt will be gamblers with disposable dollars to wager.
But like the Georgia Lottery, a huge portion will also be people betting what they can’t afford.
In Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the paper examines Ohio’s embrace of casinos. The story largely focuses on the economic outcome for the state – the casinos there haven’t produced the jobs or tax revenue that backers promised.