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I have to confess that I had never visited the Western Fair’s Slots until recently, I was next door buying some books from the London Public Library sale and decided on dropping into the Slots.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Association published the stats. “The slots have been opened for the past five years with daily attendance at the Western Fair of 3,900 players a day. This year the City of London received a cheque for $676,467, it’s share of $73 million gross gambling profits.”

Ellis Don’s good wishes in the London Free Press proudly exclaimed: “This project adds life and vitality to the fabric of the city....” -Wonderful sentiments.

I had to see it to believe it and off I went to visit the gambling emporium of our Forest City. The glitzy fluorescent sign “SLOTS” was a beacon to follow.

I dropped in for an hour to experience- “Entertainment With A Spin”. Ella and I made our way into a very large opulent room with 750 slot machines clanging and banging. The sounds of loud background music mingled with the jingle of coins. Strange, there were no windows or clocks.

There is a warning sign forbidding the entrance of anyone under the age of 19. Not to worry - most of the players were middle aged overweight women sitting on high back stools playing the slots. A few men seemed to wonder from machine to machine. Not a suit/tie or women’s formal wear was to be seen. You had to see it to believe it- dozens of people sitting in front of terminals robot-like pushing on buttons.

Every machine had a bilingual message:”Know Your Limit. Play Within It” that warned the customers of the consequences of gambling. The slot machines are divided into categories accordingly to the wagers- 5-25cents/ loonies.

For the big money players, mostly men, there is the Carousel Room to wager the $5.00 tokens. It is all so easy - all they have to do is put their $20.00 into the machine and play until they win, lose their stake trying to win the elusive $50,000 jackpot.

There is a big hullabaloo of bells/ whistles and lights when your machine pays off. The sound and fury seems to last for ever until a young attractive staff member finally show up to give you your winnings. Reminds me of the hustler at the fair holding aloft your teddy bear prize for all to see and keep the “marks” playing.

I quietly asked questions of the players most of whom avoided me . When I mentioned that I was a first time visitor a few gave me the low down on playing the slots. Bob and Mary told me that the odds they thought favoured the “house”. “What he seemed to win she lost including their initial stake”.

Helen told me that she hurries to the slots with her pension check in her purse at the start of the month because she thought her chance of winning were better. She pondered that “most of the women gambled because they are bored with their lives and yearn for the moment that they would win.” Many came to play 4-5 times a week hoping to change their luck.

I found the people kind of sad. The word, addict, seems to be appropriate. The most vulnerable in our society - the poor pensioners pay to play.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours?

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com