HW: Vegas, Baby!

Neon attracts chumps
To one armed bandits with smiles.
All fools bad at math.

Ah, Nevada. Top of the naughty lists and bottom of the nice lists, all for good reasons, yet we draw so many sane people with urgent needs to be separated from their hard-earned doubloons. Why is that? [If state histories bore you, stop now and go do something fun.]

Statehood for Nevada was pushed through Congress during the American Civil War to send our electoral college votes in the 1864 election to Abraham Lincoln. Mining was the territory’s big moneymaker with silver and gold strikes in Virginia City and other sites throughout northern Nevada. Those stakes dried up over the following decades, and our legislative leaders were desperate to find economic relief since our state constitution prohibits a personal income tax.

Their solution: SIN. You can’t spell “casino” without “sin,” you know.

Laws passed in the 1930s shortened residency requirements to obtain a divorce, thus creating a “Reno divorce” (my mom had two or three), and legalized gambling as a mainstream business. Divorcees spending their days yanking the arms on slot machines designed to keep their money was a fair stereotype for the times.

(Related to this: a story from a Lake Tahoe showroom where a very famous comedian asked a front-row couple what they were doing in the hotel. When they said they were play slots, he said, “Oh, so you’re working for the casino?” He was not wrong.)

Skip forward to now, and what’s changed in one hundred or so years? Not much. The slot machines are prettier with lights and music and such, but they still grind nickels and quarters out of the Social Security grandmothers in the smaller casinos. For those who can’t resist the manufactured “grandeur” and “style” of the big casinos on the Strip, we thank you for your continued contribution to Nevada’s general fund.

As for technical notes on this week’s haiku, the above picture says it all. I’ve been seeing grandmothers like her in casinos all my life, and probably will until the day I die.

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