I am not a big fan of television commercials. I don’t like seeing car companies selling speed with whooshing automobiles and sexy women salivating over the vehicle which only leads idiots to conclude that driving fast is a good thing and will get them plenty of sex too. I don’t like those drug commercials that sell you on something that has so many side effects it’s amazing anyone lives who takes these drugs. I certainly don’t like those male erection commercials that warn if you have an erection for several days after taking their powerful drug you’d better head for the emergency room. Even as a teenager I didn’t want an erection that lasted several days!
But in my business as a professional gambling busybody, the commercials that have driven me over the edge are coming not from auto manufacturers, or from the chemistry industry, or from the erector set, but from the casinos and casino venues.
Here are a few:
In Tunica, Mississippi, Fitzgeralds had a radio commercial that promoted itself as the luckiest casino in the area. How do you measure that? How can you say you are the luckiest casino? What is the precise definition of luck and how does a casino have more or less of it than some other casino? Had the casino said it pays back more on its slot machines and proved that, well, that is a statement of fact – but to say your casino contains more luck is a statement of fantasy to be nice, or falsehood to be precise.
The bizarre thing is that another Tunica casino, The (now defunct)Grand, was also billing itself in radio commercials as the luckiest casino too. It even had radio commercials where “players” claim that they have the best luck at the Grand. So which casino is the luckiest? Can there be two luckiest casinos?
The Vegas promotion of “what happens here stays here” has generated a tremendous positive buzz around the country – it’s more popular than any quote from Shakespeare. It’s also as false as a “dicer’s oath.”
These commercials are designed to make people think that they can do anything they want in Vegas and no one will ever know. Speak to former education secretary Bill Bennett and you learn his multi-million-dollar slot-play losses didn’t stay in Vegas but made front-page news all over the world when “secret” casino files were released. These “what happens here stays here” commercials are recommending that people lie and cheat on their spouses and fiancées. They recommend giving fake names to people you meet so you can have “carefree” pickups. In short, they recommend the type of behavior you were taught from childhood to avoid – the type that is ultimately not healthy for your mind, body or spirit. Germs don’t stay in Vegas.
Now the massive Foxwoods, Connecticut casino came up with a truly nauseating commercial. It was a takeoff of The Wizard of Oz and had several weird looking people cavorting on the grounds of and in the casino. “Dorothy” looked as if she was seriously strung out. The others looked worse. What is the point of the commercial? That people who look like crack addicts have fun at Foxwoods?
Foxwoods competitor, Mohegan Sun, had its own strange television commercials. One highlighted a middle aged woman using her “psychic powers” to find a hot machine – as if such mysticism actually was the way to winning slot play. It isn’t of course. But it fuels the poor deluded slot players into thinking they too can find a fabulous machine just by using their psychic powers.
Perhaps the commercial that drives me to yelling at the television was Mohegan Sun’s “Nick Felder: I Am An Idiot!” commercial. Yes, I have named it that based on its content.
The commercial opens with a crowded craps table where everyone is madly cheering. A somewhat disheveled young man who has been shooting the dice turns and then walks towards the camera: “I don’t even know how to play this game,” he laughs. “But I’ve got them all fooled. It’s all in the game face, something I call ‘attack force delta.’ So tonight Nick Felder is the deadly green felt ninja. And tonight I’m faking it until I’m making it and no one is going to know the difference.” He then turns and goes back to the table where he shoots the dice and everybody cheers like maniacs even before the dice stop moving.
This commercial was not subtle in getting its points across. It explained that the casino prefers its players to be complete dolts at the tables. Certainly if an idiot such as Nick Felder, the green felt ninja, can play craps than you certainly can too. You don’t have to know anything. Just throw the dice and win! This commercial recommends stupidity as a primary criterion for playing its games, not knowledge of the odds, not knowing which are the best bets.
You have no idea of whether the craps game being shown in this commercial is a good one or a bad one or one in between. Because none of that matters. The casino isn’t selling a good game – it’s selling a mind set for the player or a mindless set to be exact. Just pretend, that’s all you have to do, and you can have “them” all fooled too.
Now to be fair, there are many good casino commercials – showing people enjoying the games, the restaurants, the shows and athletic events, the spas – none of them attempting to promote a mindset that is seriously absent the mind part.
In truth, casino games are tough enough to beat when you know what you are doing. “Faking it until you are making it,” is a sure way to economic disaster.
Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, ebooks and at bookstores.