Friday, November 21, 2014

Gambling - A Great British Tradition?

The very first time we came to America to have a look at what we were getting ourselves into, my dad took us to Las Vegas – of course! Everyone has to experience Vegas at least once in their life. It was all very exiting!

So there we were, all packed into the car like sardines yet again, when we decided to stop for a late lunch at Stateline.  Now, as we came over the hill, I thought we were actually in Vegas – all I could see were casinos and lights.  But apparently not, Stateline is just a little teaser of what’s to come.

The buffet was calling our name and there was quite a wait, but hey, we were in a real casino so let’s gamble…. Or at least let’s feed a few pennies into a fruit machine.

So while the others were queuing up, I tootled off to the closest machine and began shoving quarters in one at a time.  A couple of minutes later, I hit it big…. Well, okay, I won about $50.  Nice - or it was, until I was suddenly surrounded by security guards.  Hmm… it turns out you can’t have a child in a Casino, or at least not next to the machines.  I was grilled as to who had put the money in the slot and why my son was with me (he had followed me over to the machine).  It was a wonderful introduction to the American world of gambling, I must say.  I think they only relented and let me keep the money because I was a tourist!  I sheepishly collected my winnings and did the walk of shame back to the family.  *sigh* They told me during lunch that if I’d put three quarters in at the same time, I could have won a bundle… but try explaining that to the security guards – I was happy to settle for the $50.

Although gambling is legal under US federal law, Nevada and Lousiana are the only states where casinos are legal statewide.  Other states have laws which restrict gambling to small geographic areas or to American Indian reservations. [] If you want to gamble, you have to really, really want to gamble because you will have to travel quite a distance (unless you already live in Vegas, of course).  The laws are extremely strict and heaven forbid if you’re under 21 and are caught trying to gamble or even walk into a casino on your own.  Gambling is a bit taboo in the US, mummies (or mommies) wouldn't dare let their child gamble - it's a big no-no, as if they will immediately be on the slippery slope to Gamblers Anonymous!

It’s a far cry from growing up in England where every seaside pier has an arcade choc-a-block with fruit machines, every pub and most chip shops have them too.  And anyone can play.  Here’s an example - my four year old nephew gambling away his pocket money in Brighton.

A big no-no in America
This is just something we do.  Growing up, if we knew we were going to the seaside, we would save all our 1p’s, 2p’s and 5p’s so we could go on the pier and – shock horror – gamble.  And blimey, us Brits gamble on anything – Horse racing, football scores, the elections, the weather, a white Christmas… you name it, and we’ll bet on it.  You can even see grannies having a flutter on the Grand National every year - its an English tradition.  Every corner has either a pub, a newsagents, a chippy or a betting shop.  A good Saturday night out for us was going to Wimbledon Stadium for the greyhound racing and letting my son pick the winners (or at least try to) and nobody worried about it!

Come on 6......
Although, there was that one time…..

I had been asked to put some money on a horse and went to the bookies with my 3 year old in tow. We were just in time for the race to begin so we stayed to watch.  To my utmost horror my son decided at that moment to stand on a chair and shout “Come on 6… Come on 6….” at the top of his voice, a result of  too many trips to Wimbledon, possibly.  The old fuddy duddies in the shop were not best pleased and we were asked to leave.  And once again I had to do the walk of shame…..  [is it just me or is this becoming a regular thing?]


  1. I'm moving from sunny (ha!) Crawley in West Sussex to sunny (yes!) Las Vegas in August this year. My wife is from there and hates the UK weather.

    Happy wife, happy life....right?

    I've never been a big gambler, but I'm sure i'll have a flutter from time to time.

    When we were young, my brother and I used to LOVE playing the 1p/2p bulldozer machines. I haven't seen any of those in Vegas, which is a shame. I hadn't really thought about the fact that strict gambling laws would deprive my future children from that joy.

    Oh well, they'll have to save up their pocket money (or 'allowance') for when we visit the grandparents in Cornwall ;-)

    1. Oh, and whatever you do, don't forget and accidentally buy them a 'scratcher' (although what child doesn't love to scratch off the silver with a coin?)
      Crawley to Vegas - what a difference!!