Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Bit of a Flutter

The news that Britain is to have a new super casino or two must have brought tears of joy to the eyes of the crime syndicates of the world.

I quite understand the desire to get rid of that hideous white (or rather, grey) elephant now lying in the less savoury reaches of East London, but turning it into a destination of choice for the obsessive gamblers of Britain strikes me as being an even more bonkers decision than the one to build it in the first place. Demolition would have seemed to be a better option – at any rate time might heal the pain inflicted on the tax payer.

The second exciting locale being considered is Blackpool. I have been there. It is hard to see the attraction unless you live in somewhere like Wigan or Preston since the cost of the train fare there will get you a flight to the south of France and the sunnier climes of Monte Carlo, where they’ve been doing this business for quite a number of years.

During the Kennedy administration in the USA, Meyer Lansky, the Mafioso master mind behind Las Vegas (he had bankrolled Bugsy Siegel) came to Britain to bring his own criminal enterprise to London. The notorious Kray brothers claimed that he was paying them for ‘protection’ but in truth they were probably being paid to stay away from the operation.

George Raft, a fading Hollywood star, was promoted as the visible face of the casino, an odd choice, since he had invariably played sinister criminal types.

Eventually, a government wiser than the present incumbents, realised what was going on and shipped Raft and his cohorts back from whence they came.

In a final TV interview he was heard to complain that he failed to understand what it was the British had against Lansky. “It’s not like these guys are Communists,” he pleaded.

Lansky and his like are merely replaced by updated versions and, inevitably, the proposed casinos will provide fruitful opportunities for them.

Gambling is not the oldest profession although it does bear some similarities. I would describe myself as a compulsive non-gambler – I hate to lose and cry easily – but I see no reason why others should not enjoy themselves. A day at the races I can well understand but the attraction in the monotonous task of pulling the handle of a slot machine, escapes me. It’s the sort of labour the Factory Act did away with years ago.

My cousin was a compulsive gambler – he would bet on anything – but he never visited a casino. His biggest gamble was when he decided to breed race horses. He cornered the market in the slowest in the business.

Las Vegas is wonderful, the food and beds are cheap, since they are subsidised by the losers. The pawn shops in the surrounding streets do a roaring trade advancing money on goods that are never reclaimed and the place is a hooker heaven. Just what East London (or Blackpool) needs.

I understand that most Britons are up to their eyes in debt. This is one sure way for many to increase the depth of their plight to way over their heads.

But of course the government will benefit. And so will organised crime.


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