Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 79

Cast of Characters:
Paul: age 37
Mal: my wife


After twelve years in my two thousand square foot store on Chandler Street in Worcester, Massachusetts, I decided it was time to start looking for a much larger space in the hope that offering more products I would increase my sales. I began to scan the real estate rental advertisements and called quite a few of them but I thought that the rents were too high. A local real estate agent tried to convince me to buy a piece of property instead of renting one, but real estate prices also seemed too expensive. I couldn’t justify spending five hundred thousand dollars for a building. I was still only paying seven hundred and fifty dollars a month for my rent and I was nervous about getting into debt by buying a big commercial building. It also seemed to be a bad time to buy property in Massachusetts because of the high selling prices, but the realtor kept looking for just the right property for me.

In February of 1992, the long-awaited “Foxwoods Casino” opened up in nearby Connecticut. A nearly extinct Native-American Indian tribe had finally won government approval to open this casino and they secured financing from a Malaysian investment group to build a huge high-stakes Bingo hall, a hotel, and gambling casino. Foxwoods was a convenient one-hour drive from Worcester and an easy drive from Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. I’m sure the casino was located there to pull as many of the serious gamblers from these big cities as possible.

For me, this was certainly going to be easier than the six-hour drive to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Before Foxwoods opened, a fun trip to a casino required a lot of planning and usually took up a couple of day’s worth of time. Even if I only spent one day in Atlantic City, I’d get home exhausted and it’d take another day to feel rested again. I couldn’t justify making the trip to Atlantic City more than a few times each year but once the Foxwoods Casino opened I could go more often.

The management of Foxwoods expected to have big crowds for the grand opening but the crowds far surpassed their expectations. The news reported capacity crowds for the opening week. Players couldn’t get a seat at a blackjack table because there were dozens of people already waiting for seats. The huge parking lots were completely full. People would drive throughout the lot just waiting for a space to open. This place was an immediate success. I knew I didn’t want to fight these huge crowds so I planned to go there a few weeks after it opened assuming that the initial excitement would be over and people would get back to their “real life.” I went with my wife, Mal, my father, and my sister, Sharon. Although it was still crowded on this Tuesday morning, it didn’t take too long before we were seated at a blackjack table. We played for hours and had a fun time. The management of Foxwoods was certainly friendlier than Atlantic City casino managers. Foxwoods management set up a system to reward players with “wampum points” for playing there. These points could be redeemed for free meals or rooms at the nearby hotel. Casinos in Atlantic City made it far more difficult to receive these “comps.” The atmosphere and attention to detail at Foxwoods was carefully calculated to be exciting and accommodating. I don’t remember if we all won or lost money there that day but I do remember that we had a great time.

I was telling a customer of mine, (I’ll call him Brad, not his real name) about how nice this new casino was and he asked if he could come with me the next time I went there. Brad was more than a customer of mine; he was a friend. Occasionally, I organized poker games with my family and friends and a few times I invited other comic book storeowners. Brad had been to my home a few times when I had these card games and also played cards with other people from time to time. He seemed to be a good card player and was always fun to be around. I never thought about the potential harm that casino gambling could cause because I don’t have an addictive personality and I have no problem controlling myself. Unfortunately, Brad wasn’t as strong.

Brad and I took a trip to Foxwoods one day and we both had a great time. I won a little bit of money and Brad played all-day and only lost a few dollars. He enjoyed the atmosphere of the casino and he was eagerly looking forward to going back another day. The next time Brad went to Foxwoods he won about eighty dollars. This was probably the worst thing that could happen to him because it only encouraged his gambling. Before long he was going on a regular basis, usually by himself. He worked a good, full-time job and he’d leave work at the end of his shift and stay at the casino until late at night gambling, usually losing a lot of money. I had no idea that Brad had a problem with gambling until I went to the casino with him one day and I noticed that he was recognized by most of the “pit-bosses” as we walked by the gaming tables. They’d say, “Hey Brad, how’s it going?” and “Brad, you’re back again already?” Brad seemed to enjoy the attention he was getting there but he didn’t realize that the casino was really only interested in separating him from his hard-earned money.

Next Chapter: The situation with “Brad” spirals out of control.

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