Strange bedfellows

April 27, 2009

This is, in fact, what it looks like. A giant Ebay slot machine. And it sits on a wall at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa.

I found it, and I found it astonishing. And a little jarring. It’s branding, no doubt, but a little unusual for a tech brand.

But maybe not. The casino and Ebay probably share a target audience.

Ebay’s offices are in my last San Jose neighborhood. I’d see the buildings and logo when I visited friends, went to Whole Foods or bought flowers. And here it was, on the Seminole reservation.

We were at the casino (which is across from the Ford Amphitheatre) to grab a bite to eat before the Jimmy Buffett concert Saturday night. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an Indian casino before (or Native American, to be correct). Although my mother, an inveterate gambler, frequented one near Rochester, NY for many years.

Stale smoke. The clang of slot machines and the seizure-inducing pattern of their flashing lights. The bar band on one side playing a bad version of Tequila Sunrise. An old man nattily dressed in a white suit, hot pink, brimmed hat and shoes with pink sequins. Just know there’s a story there.

It’s huge. Two casinos, separated by a hotel lobby, actually.

Maybe business is off, I don’t know, but there looked to be no shortage of gamblers. “I wonder,” asked my partner, S., “how many of these people sitting in front of slot machines have money in a retirement program.”

That would probably be “none,” or close to it, I think.

Are these the same folks who want a mortgage bailout?
Whose pensions and retirement savings have been decimated by the financial crisis?

There have always been gamblers. These kinds of casinos target the elderly and those with very moderate incomes.

But in a world where we inadvertently gambled our savings in half, in many cases with professional assistance, gambling at a casino seems an imprudent way to spend a Saturday evening.

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