“That one has been lucky for me,” she says, pointing to one of the few machines that had mechanical parts and a handle that you could pull instead of pushing a button if you wanted. Most of the others were flashing video devices.
It was mid-afternoon on a Thursday and the place was packed. Some of the gamblers were elderly, others appeared to have come straight from work on a construction job; one man’s shirt and pants were splattered with paint. Hundreds of colorful video displays flashed as the constant sound of electronic chimes permeated smoke-filled air.
Mear, 83, sat at the slot machine next to her favorite, then inserted her player’s card and several large bills. Her electronic total appeared at the base of the device, showing a few ups but mostly downs. After less than an hour and three trips to the ATM, she had lost $300.
“What’s your limit? Mine is $300 a day,” asked the woman who was sitting in Marie’s favorite spot. She declined to give her name but says she is 80 years old and casino gambling is her entertainment.
For a few minutes, Mear stared at the slot machine and the zero balance. She got up and started walking toward the ATM then turned around to wait in line with a coupon she received in the mail for a free George Foreman Grill — a one-time giveaway available only on that day. She carried a coupon for deli food and pulled out a letter from a “casino host” that offered personal assistance and a 24-hour phone contact.
“As one of our most valued guests at Vee Quiva Casino, YOUR needs are very important to us. As YOUR new, personal Casino host, my job is to assist YOU with your entire experience,” the letter, read in part.
Sophisticated marketing efforts track gamblers’ time in the casinos and spending through their player cards, directing promotions and freebies. Mear gets lots of them in her Tolleson mailbox. She used to spend more time at casinos when a friend who has since died went along. She says she misses the camaraderie and the old days when noisy clinking coins signaled a slot machine win. “I asked my son to take me to the casino and he wanted to take me to a museum. I’d rather go to the casino.”