Welcome to the Machine
City Paper sent Mr. Wrong and $100 to Maryland's first casino--only Mr. Wrong came back
Published: October 6, 2010
The following is True but not necessarily Accurate:
The Noise, it’s huge, man, and it wraps itself around your head immediately like The Alien in the Major Motion Picture Alien, some kinda high-pitched mosquito-frequency eeeeeEEEEEEEeeeeee . . . eeeeeeeeeeeeee . . . eeeeeeeeeeeeee and people talking blahblahblahblabbityblabblabblah and then all these tinkly music-chime slot-machine sounds going bingbingbingbingbing, pingpingpingpingping, gadingadingdingdingding, jinglejinglejingle, and money coin-sounding clinkclinkclinkplinkplinkplink-clinkclinkclinkplinkplinkplinkittyclink all on top of a low bass, almost sub-woofer mhhhrrrrrrmblbrmmmmmblrrmmmmhrmmm that coats the din like a giant helping of sound-gravy: The Noise of a Fully Operational Casino at around 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. The Noise of Winning, it sounds like! But not really.
There are more than 1,500 machines in the Casino and right now every single one is Occupied, and there are people Winning in that Noise, but there are also people Losing. It’s really just the noise of everybody playing The Machine all at once, and if you can hear The Noise, you are inside The Machine, helping it run.
I am inside The Machine. The Noise is painting my head, plugging up my ears, pushing in on my eyeballs with barometric-style pressure, I swear, it is wearing me down, muffling my brain-pan, smothering All Independent Thought, but I’m here on Official Business, I’m here to Play, baby! I got my “Club Hollywood” card (fig. 1), plus, I’m not even playing with my own money, arrroooo!!!! Some Editor at City Paper musta actually been reading some of the Mr. Wrong “columns” I have filed, carping about Gambling and Wagering and Betting and my complete lack of understanding of the Whys and Howcumzits re: Slots Casinos in Maryland and Why We No Have, especially in Baltimore, and that aforementioned Editor got the sum of One Hundred Dollars and No Cents (fig. 2) pried out of the Hot, Live Hands of The Man and placed in mine with the idea that I would go to Perryville, Maryland, which until now has (maybe) mostly been known as the place with the outlet malls you see after you pay your northbound toll on the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge. The place you never stop at really, because you are on your way to New York to be a tourist, or maybe even to Atlantic City or Delaware to Strike It Rich at a casino, but no more, man, now you can Exit at Perryville, Maryland, U.S.A., and Let Yourself Play. The parking lot is completely full.
Maryland’s new Casino (OK, right now it is Maryland’s only Casino) is the Hollywood Casino, situated in a freshly paved parking lot valley-looking depression about a mile off I-95 in Perryville, Maryland, U.S.A., Earth, right after you cross over the Susquehanna River on the Tydings Bridge, which costs five bucks headed north, but look, if you jump off 95 at Aberdeen and get on Route 22 and then Route 40, you can cross on the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge, where for 10 bucks you can buy a sticker for your car (fig. 3) that will get you over that bridge for a year, and then you can get to the casino on Route 222 (fig. 4) , so think about that investment, seriously, because if you’re into Gambling and you want to keep your losses inside the State of Maryland, where those dollars will go to Education or something, then the Hollywood Casino is the Only Game in Town, if you will, even if it’s nowhere near Baltimore, because it doesn’t look like that vacant lot down by the Greyhound station on Russell Street is turning into a Gambling Machine any time soon, you know?
Now look, I’m no Investigative Journalist or anything, OK? I just file a column every four weeks (approximately) in the print and pixels of Baltimore’s Free Alternative News and Entertainment Weekly That Is Weekly But Only Runs My Column Every Four Weeks, so when they (and we all know who They are) decided to junket my ass to the Hollywood Casino in Perryville, I’m pretty sure they knew what they were going to get, especially since I said I would forgo my usual Honorarium for pooping out this Feature—OK, Featurette, maybe, at most—in exchange for 50 percent of whatever I walked away with at the Casino. It’s Wagering within Wagering, man, arrrooo!
Anyway, I’m trying to make this like a Real Feature, so here are some
Quotables I Overheard or Was Told at the Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Maryland, My Maryland, Over the Course of Five-and-a-Half Hours, a Period of Time Over Which I Consumed no Less Than 4 (Four) and no More Than 5 (Five) “Blue Moon” Belgian-style Witbiers:
“Yeah, I hear this noise in my head on the way home.”
—Cocktail waitress discussing the high noise level in the casino.
“Delaware Park is way bigger.”
—Assorted patrons referring to the Delaware Park racetrack and casino located in Wilmington, Del., which is another 27 miles past the Hollywood Casino if you are traveling from Baltimore.
“Blah blah blah [negative shit about] Martin O’Malley, blah blah.”
“I can’t believe this place is so close to home.”
—Person whose home is very likely close to the casino.
“You need to put that camera away.”
“The State of Maryland does not let us make drinks in these.”
—Mint-Green Shirt Guy behind the sunset bar in response to:
“I’m the National Rep.”
—Beer Distributor Lady bitching about the size of the plastic cups the Absolut Citron and sodas she ordered were served in. Apparently she wanted a proportionately larger serving of vodka and mixer, not necessarily a stronger drink, just a more-er drink, so she was asking for her drinks to be made in the cups they serve beer in, which are 2, maybe 4 ounces bigger than the cups in which they serve the cocktails, so then she wouldn’t have to go to the bar as many times to re-up. Yeah, sure.
“I have two girls so instead of going out at night I work here and it’s like a party.”
—Another Cocktail Waitress.
“WhhhhhhhiiiiiiiisssshhhhhhaaAAAAAAAAAhhhisssshhhhhhhhh AAAAAAshishshhishaaaaasssSSSHHHHHHHHHHH” . . .
—xlerator “feel the power” hand dryer in the restroom, the one fucking place you think you might be able to get away from the casino racket, but these goddamn hand dryers are like jet engines, for real, you can hear them 20 feet away out on the floor, and if you put your mitts down lower to lessen the sound of the turbine blast shearing the wetness from the hands you have washed for about the 10th time tonight because you are in a completely packed 3,500-person capacity box and quite frankly and not to be judgmental, but a lot of the patrons here do not look (or smell) like they hold personal hygiene in the same esteem you do, the automatic sensor in the hand-dryer shuts it off.
“It just needs more vodka.”
—Beer Distributor Lady, still.
“Smells like home in here.”
—Smoking Lady upon entering semi-outdoor casino Smoking Area, which looks like it is part of the Maryland Correctional Services, as opposed to the Maryland State Lottery Commission, which regulates what it terms “video lottery terminals” (slot machines).
“My money’s gone.”
Anyway, yes, if you saw the Major Motion Picture Casino starring Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone, there’s a scene toward the end where the narrator is bemoaning the Modern Non-Glamorous, Non-Classy Casino, which basically means armies of The Elderly coming in with their walkers and ambulatory health equipment looking for the penny slots and discount buffet.
Titles on billboards advertising current Major Motion Pictures at the Hollywood Casino:
GOING THE DISTANCE
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
You will see people at the Hollywood Casino using walkers. You will see people at the Hollywood Casino with oxygen-breath tubes under their noses. You will see people at the Hollywood Casino in track suits. You will see people at the Hollywood Casino with low-cut tops and their boobs pushed up high under their chins, but they are computer robots. Computer robots who deal cards, seriously. The definition of a Slot Machine now includes these giant TABLE MASTER systems from a company called SHUFFLE MASTER INC: setups named ROYAL MATCH 21 and THREE CARD POKER where five people can sit at a table facing a large video screen, and there’s video running of various large-breasted females dealing cards, either Blackjack or Three Card Poker, and the surface of the table is another giant video screen where the cards show up with all the game info. The dealer-bot video skip-jumps inhumanly like Max Headroom, and they all do this thing where they are looking at the people at the table but the eyeballs don’t really line up with anybody who’s near the table, although it’s super creepy if you happen to be standing over somebody’s shoulder and the automaton looks you directly in the eye and asks you to ante up, yikes. Anyway, what’s the difference between a computo-robot card game and a real one, right? So why don’t they have “real” table games if they’re gonna have Virtual Blackjack and Poker and roulette wheels? This is where an Unseen hand is at work, bleeding out the gaming action in increments, pulling the strings in various adjacent States of The Union, some slots here, some “hey, we gotta be competitive” table games there.
A random sampling of slot machines at the Hollywood Casino:
BLACK & WHITE 5X PAY
FOXWORTHY REDNECK RUMBLE
SEX AND THE CITY
So I had a hundred bucks from Baltimore’s Most Telly Savalas Players’ Club Alternative Weekly, but I wasn’t gonna go to the casino alone, OK? I needed somebody to watch my back when I Hit it Big, see? Seriously, you can’t just go skipping up to the cashier to trade in your voucher—because there ain’t no coins or tokens splashing outta machines here into grimy plastic cups, it’s all little printed receipts (fig. 5)—and then go and cash ‘em in without backup. Makes perfect sense; way easier/economical machinery to print receipts as opposed to spitting out tokens, and you still keep the Patron from the Real Dough as long as possible so maybe they will just put it all back into The Machine, right? Anyway, I brought somebody with me whose identity will be obscured to protect their Identity. Even though this time at the Hollywood Casino I did not enjoy the buffet (the epic buffet: $21.95 plus tax for dinner, I forget how much for lunch, maybe like 14 bucks. I couldn’t exactly see what people were eating because they have this ripply amber-colored glass between the casino and the buffet so you couldn’t stand there like a vulture and watch people eat), restaurant reviews usually refer to the people who go along for the ride as companion, so while I was walking around the casino trying to figure out what the hell was going on and when I was gonna start playing with The Man’s money, companion was already all up in the sex and the city machine (fig. 6), where the top prize is tied to “Mr. Big,” and “Carrie Bradshaw” and stuff. And there are fucking video clips from the show that play when stuff happens. There were four sex and the city machines in the casino and they were busy all night. I wonder how much Sarah Jessica Parker’s cut is from this machine?
Names of functional Areas in the Hollywood Casino:
RODEO DRIVE GIFT SHOP
There were even a few slot machines that had real handles to pull on. There’s no place to sit down at the Hollywood Casino unless you’re playing a machine or buying some food and/or beverage. There are self-serve soda-pop fountains in the Hollywood Casino and the soda-pop is complimentary. The carpet at the Hollywood Casino is that typical Casino groovy-Technicolor-vomit-explosion carpet.
Money (not The Man’s) spent at the Hollywood Casino by me and COMPANION:
$60 for SEX AND THE CITY slot machine.
$50 (plus tips) for five rounds of “Blue Moon” Belgian-style Witbier.
There are little tiny shiny dark camera-bubbles spaced about six feet apart across the entire blacked-out ceiling at the Hollywood Casino. The staff at the Hollywood Casino is extremely courteous and polite and able to answer questions. Some of the staff have to wear these ugly-ass mustard-colored blazers. The Crowd noise at the Hollywood Casino is different from a full-on Vegas or Atlantic City casino. There aren’t any of those explosive jubilant outbursts of groups at a real-deal roulette or craps table. I am probably the most pro-gambling employee drawing breath at City Paper. I only made one bet at the Hollywood Casino, at one of the video roulette-wheel screens (fig. 7), a hundred dollars on Red, an almost even-money bet (the video roulette wheels have zero and double zero).
I lost at the Hollywood Casino.
I will return to the Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Maryland, until they build a Casino in Baltimore.
> Email Joe MacLeod