Lots of great casinos from coast to coast!

Oct 14, 2002 11:16 PM

   It’s been said that one casino is the same as another — no matter where your travels take you. I don’t buy that and never have, but why is that the prevailing position among gamblers?

   For now we’ll look at the undisputed king of gambling locations, the surprising Prince tucked away in an unpretentious area of New England, and finally our East Coast entry with as much history on its infamous Ocean Boardwalk as can be found in a study of the Las Vegas’ Flamingo storied past.

   All are spectacular, exciting destinations loaded with plenty of video poker, dining establishments, and entertainment venues — which is what most people see before they get blinded by casino action. And all three have their own distinctive charm that firmly establishes an individuality far from the other two. But these are the three overwhelmingly popular gambling Mecca’s in the US today.

   In fairness, I’ve only been to a full-up Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun once, but I’ve visited Atlantic City at least a dozen times. Some people may ask why it is I chose the tribal casinos in New England as one of my favorite locations. All I can say is visit both of them and you’ll know why — immediately. There’s a lot to say about them all — including my take on what they each offer in the way of video poker — but let’s first see what it is that led me into doing this brief comparison.

   Recently I visited a friend in Reno connected to the gaming industry. He had secured two free tickets to the Moorer-Tua fight in AC, and since he didn’t have time to attend he felt I might be interested. Normally no, but it was a weekend, my wife was free, and I still had plenty of frequent flyer miles to use. I met her in Hartford and we began Friday afternoon with our first real visit to Foxwoods — which is also where we stayed.

   In a word this place — or complex — was almost unbelievable ”¦. inside and out. Rising out of the woods was this huge area seemingly like a city — almost like stumbling across one of the mega-resorts of Las Vegas. Only this was larger than any of them. Right away I was anxious to begin my comparisons, but when I did I found out fast that navigating the massive casino floor of the MGM was an easier task than this.

   Of all the video poker machines I had time to look over, I saw a few full-pay but no positive games. I never play at Tribal casinos because of my own issues with their regulation policies, but it was obvious many, many others could care less about that. It was Friday night, and just like at all casinos, every video poker player was looking for a royal flush — no matter what the cost.

   We checked out early the next morning preparing for a long day. By 6:30 we were over at Mohegan Sun. Just as spectacular, amazing, and numbing to experience as Foxwoods, the casinos of this enormous place had more of a Native American theme.

   With nearly as many of the 6,300 slots on the floors of Foxwoods, it seemed to have a lesser percentage of video poker games. No matter. All is easily forgiven in such a first-class operation. The new hotel tower rose into the sky and seemingly directly into the sun — as it was likely meant to be perceived. I grew up in Western Massachusetts and had spent a lot of time in this part of Connecticut. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined such incredible complexes of this magnitude in my own back yard — outside of Boston or NYC.

   Around noon we pulled ourselves away from Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, vowing that we’d come back someday to continue experiencing the wonder of it all. We headed onto I-95 South. I’ve seen it once before late last year, but when we passed by New York and I saw my wife stretching her neck looking at the area where the World Trade Center used to rise proudly above the city, it was not difficult to see the discomforting look in her eyes.

   Every American needs such a wake up call every so often so as not to become too comfortable with what surrounds us. I’ve had mine, that was hers, and we were on our way. Crossing the George Washington Bridge and its never-ending construction is never a joy, but that’s how one gets to New Jersey above ground from NYC. Once on the Garden State Parkway I though it would be easy sailing southward, but not so. For some reason they seem to like slamming on the brakes every so often and reverse-funnel into lines that you must wait in just to drop a menial 35¡ into a basket!

   Regardless of the monumental traffic mess it creates, the accidents it causes, and the overall foolishness of slowing travelers in the heaviest travel corridor in the country, they are faced with either paying the toll or a $75 fine. Drivers fight each other for position in line, and then race each other to funnel back into the few open lanes of road afterwards. Ingenious.

   While driving to the Taj Mahal we were still startled at the squalor everywhere in AC but the casinos. I thought that would have disappeared years ago from what I read about what the casinos could do for the city. We checked in, had a bite to eat, then played a $2 Bonus Poker machine until we won enough to cover our room — not in comp form, but in paying for it form. There’s a huge difference. At the fight, we were treated to the customary 30-second knockout. Tua made short work of Moorer, and we left almost as quickly as we arrived. We played no more, went out to walk the Boardwalk checking out several casinos for about two hours (which we would only do within eye-shot of the many police who were working the evening of a major fight), and called it a night. In the very early morning we drove to Philadelphia via another TOLL ROAD, paid a hefty fee to cross a bridge, and flew home.

   All in all, an interesting trip. We were completely overwhelmed by what we experienced in Connecticut. Atlantic City seems a bit on the confusing side when it comes to video poker. A lot of the machines are still very old and have yet to be upgraded to the modern ones found elsewhere.

   They have many, many Jokers Wild machines that pay the 4,000-coin jackpot for 5-of-a-kind — and only 500 for a natural royal flush! Where’d they get that idea anyway? In the end I was happy to get home. The next night I was off to Nevada to play another professional session. Although I lost $6,200 on this occasion, I have a 139-8 record out here, and I was thankful for the safe roads and comparative small amount of traffic I’ve had to deal with each week of my 147 trips to date. And I know I won’t be needing a pocket full of change next week. God bless the Freeways!