Company meeting at a casino

I just got back from my company’s big annual meeting. This meeting was held at Foxwoods Casino and Resort, which is a huge casino complex in the middle of nowhere on an Indian reservation in Connecticut. I say casino complex because it is composed of many different individual casinos and hotel buildings, all owned by the same tribe, and connected with various indoor faux-street walkways (complete with fake storefronts and houses). The meeting itself was pretty standard, except for the giveaway of $100 chips to twenty lucky employees who correctly answered a question in the trivia challenge at the end of the meeting. I knew most of the answers, but alas, my name was never called.

After the dinner we had a cocktail hour and dinner with open bar. I heard some stories from the previous meeting about an employee who got wasted, mouthed off to one of the company founders, and found himself out of a job, but nothing like that happened this time. Yes, a fair number of people got drunk, but nobody got wasted, nor did anyone really do anything typically associated with being drunk. After dinner, we went to the casino, which was “conveniently” located just a few hundred feet away from the conference center (although, to be fair, there’s a casino within a few hundred feet of anywhere in the entire complex).

It was my first time in a casino, and I must say, the experience was way overrated. If you haven’t been to a casino but want to know what one is like, let’s just say it’s exactly like the casinos portrayed in television and film: that is to say, noisy, over-stimulating, and uninspiring. There’s nothing special about going to a casino, and I wouldn’t classify it as one of things you have to do before you die. All of the stereotypes proved true: chain-smoking old women sitting in front of the nickel slots for hours on end, waitresses plying the gamblers with free alcohol, boisterous crowds huddled around Craps tables cheering every throw, and superstition in many forms. None of it had anything to do with the heritage of the Mashantucket Pequots tribe who own the casino, of course; it was all just mindless gambling.

The architecture attempted to be grand and ritzy, but mostly came off as cheesy and hokey. I was a lot more impressed with the simple, functional, yet elegant architecture of Union Station, which I saw last weekend. Yes, the casino was huge, and if you are awed by human activities on a large scale then this would have awed you, but I’m already jaded by such things.

What struck me most about the casino was how pathetic it all was. I saw many people who clearly couldn’t afford to be losing money throwing it away nonetheless. All of the games are rigged in favor of the house, obviously. With many of the card games it’s a bit hard to calculate the odds in your head, but Craps and Roulette are very obvious: all of the available bets go against you by several percent. Many of the casinos had large sections that were full of just row after row of slot machines. Most of them are digital these days, so you insert some bills, get a number of credits, and keep pressing buttons to “spin” over and over again until you either lose it all or tell it to print out a ticket that is redeemable for cash.

One of my coworkers, who had like me never been to a casino before, had some good luck at a Blackjack table, turning his initial free $100 chip into $210 (though going as low as $30 in between). I had convinced him to play at the lowest minimum wager Blackjack table, since Blackjack is the fairest game in the house so long as you know the proper strategy, and he knew it. I, on the other hand, have never spent any time studying Blackjack strategy, and I wasn’t entirely sober either, so rather than throwing my money away, I was content to watch. I especially liked watching the Blackjack dealer, who never said a word the entire time I was there, and acted in all aspects like a human automaton, accepting money, pushing it through the slot in the table, dispensing chips, making pathetic flourishes with his arm across the table to indicate betting was closed, dispensing cards, and taking and giving chips with robotic precision, all the while showing an utterly blank look on his face that sometimes appeared slightly bemused. It seemed pretty absurd that this was a job that necessitated human employment, and a highly profitable one at that.

Afterwards, I convinced my coworker to come with me to screw around on the nickel slots (because I was in a casino and I was going to lose some money before I left, dammit). The slot machines were networked and had three levels of bonus prizes that were tabulated casino-wide. I put in $5 and proceeded to lose it all. He, on the other hand, put it $5, played for awhile, won $10, and ended up in some convoluted jackpot process (which of course you have no control over whatsoever), and won the smallest jackpot available of about $50, and then immediately cashed out, for a total take of $65. Lucky bastard. I did end up plus $5 on the night, however, as my coworker paid me back double the money I lost on those machines for convincing him to play them. So while I did lose money to the casino, overall, I didn’t lose money at the casino, thanks to selfless generosity, a character trait that seemed much out of place.

Most of my other coworkers weren’t so lucky. Speaking with them this morning before heading home, it seemed like the average net amount of money after the few hours of gambling the preceding night was -$200. Very few people even managed to break even, let alone take home a good chunk of change like my coworker I was mostly hanging out with. I’m pretty glad I made the decision not to put anything serious on the line. I can’t help but feel sorry for all of those addicts I saw in the casino, many of them old, throwing away money at a feverish clip to feed the ravenous casino beast that it might grow larger. Us IT consultants can afford to throw away some of our money on rare visits to the casino, but many of the regulars I saw in there absolutely cannot.

2 Responses to “Company meeting at a casino”

  1. arensb Says:

    The architecture attempted to be grand and ritzy, but mostly came off as cheesy and hokey.

    You’ve never been to Vegas, have you?

    I had the opposite experience: I passed by Foxwoods while on vacation one time and stopped in, but was disappointed at how conservative and tasteful it was: casinos are supposed to be gaudy and tacky, dammit!

    I also managed to turn 75 cents into $5.00 in the first two minutes, at which point I figured I should walk away while I was ahead, so I did.

  2. Cyde Weys Says:

    No, I’ve never been to Vegas, and if it’s anything like how it’s depicted in film and television (which I’m sure it is), then yes, you’re right, Vegas is a lot more cheesy and hokey than Foxwoods. I wouldn’t call Foxwoods tasteful and conservative though, merely less extreme than Vegas. You can’t beat Vegas.

    As for leaving when you did, that sounds about right.