Throughout the centuries that casinos have been popular they have seen many high and low points in their fortunes – just like the gamblers who are addicted to the thrill of the game. The “up” periods, not surprisingly, have tended to coincide with the times when the economy has been booming. After all, that’s when there seemed to be more spare money in people’s pockets and entrepreneurialism was being widely encouraged and celebrated.
In the 80s when it came to the fashions people were wearing and the cars they were driving extravagance was the key – and naturally casinos were keen to ride on the tide of this excess.
So the early 80s saw a number of big openings including the Playboy Casino and the Tropicana. It was also the decade when Donald Trump’s casino ambitions were at their peak. He not only opened Trump Plaza and Casino in Atlantic City, he also added Trump’s Castle Hotel Casino to his portfolio heralding the most successful period ever for the East Coast’s rival to Las Vegas.
The 80s were also a more formal time than today so a visit to the casino back then was definitely a chance to get dressed up with tuxedos the order of the day for men and long evening dresses for women – both of which added to the air of sophistication and wealth that every establishment wanted to foster.
One thing that hasn’t changed to this day are the games that were played – although you could argue that some were more quintessentially 80s than others. These were the ones where huge bets could be put on a single outcome – offering the chance of a sudden big win to be celebrated in typically ostentatious style with champagne and cigars. Yes, you could still smoke in public to your heart’s content in public back then - well maybe not literally to your heart’s content.
One game that certainly fitted the bill was roulette – not only was it quick to play with a simple win or lose mechanism – it was also a great spectator sport. And there’s nothing that ostentatious wealth likes more than an audience.
In 1987 Volkswagen even based a whole TV ad round a gambler who lost a fortune at the roulette table – a sure sign that the image of the 80s casino-goer was very much part of the zeitgeist.
Of course all of the other casino games were very popular too including blackjack, craps and poker, but it was the spinning white ball that really encapsulated people’s perceptions of what the casino was all about.
And let’s not forget slots either – another picture most people conjure up in their mind’s eye of the 80s casino is row upon row of the machines with players perched on stools pumping in coins in the hope of a life-changing jackpot. Today slots are just as important, and give the chance to win multi-million dollar jackpots, but technology’s moved on to make the old-style mechanical machines seem old fashioned and a relic of the past.
In fact, slots, and the size of their prizes, aren’t the only things that have changed in the casino world. Today a far wider range of people visit – and even more play online from the comfort of their own home. But does that necessarily mean that the 21st century casino experience is better?
Well there are many that wouldn’t agree.