Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bringing down the House

I was in Goa last week, and went to one of the newly opened casinos. Invariably, on the blackjack table, the subject of Bringing Down the House came up, and how a group of MIT students made money counting cards in Las Vegas. One of my friends had a different take on it. He thought that the casinos had sponsered the book to fool those who have a high opinion of their intelligence into believing that they could make money off casinos. It is definitely one of the most compelling conspiracy theories that I have heard - more compelling than Nasa faking the moon landing in 1969 or USA carrying out the 9-11 itself to get an excuse to attack Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Interestingly, there weren't a lot of slot machines on the casino ship, unlike Vegas, where one finds slot machines beginning from the airport itself. The manager of the casino gave us a simple logic. While slot machines have a assured and high ROI, it is primarily the old that play the slots. The casino going demographic in India is very new and primarily young, so it doesn't make sense to have a lot of slot machines. In a few years, if the casinos start seeing an influx of more older people, they would also have more slot machines. 

The casino was actually quite good. I was expecting a seedy joint with five six tables, with foul mouthed gangsters smoking grass all around. The ambience was more like that of a small newly opened Atlantic City casino - it was definitely better than the Trump Taj Mahal (on that note, India should patent the name Taj Mahal) . It is backed by the home minster of Goa, which is not surprising.  Who else can open a casino in India, where normal residential towers take five years to complete.  

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