Genting Casino Leicester
Posted: 09 July 2012
I tentatively placed single chips on the roulette table and asked what exact sum did I want my cards to total when playing blackjack
Films do a lot to inform us about how to live. People far more clever than me have written about how we would not know how to be romantic, properly intimidating, quirky or sophisticated if it wasn't for films. But, the most important thing film has taught us is how to be cool. We know smoking is cool and we know how to look cool, all thanks to films.
Films also make Casinos look cool. Thanks to James Bond, European casinos are glamourous, debonair joints where the monied elite hang out. Las Vegas casinos might not quite have the same panache as Casino de Monte-Carlo but what they lack in Jet-Set appeal they make up for in illegitimate, underhanded, raw, gangster badassery.
Where does that leave British casinos? Croupier is the only UK based casino film I can think of and, although I really like the film, the impression it leaves of an English casino is one inhabited by middle-aged, wannabe gangsters who have a penchant for wet look gel, sovereign rings forced over their fat stubby fingers and very shiny suits — not that the suits started out shiny, they have gained their glossy finish from decades of wear. Not exactly cool.
As is so often the case, reality and film are in fact completely different. But, do British Casinos belie their less than appealing reputation?
I went to the reopening of Genting's Leicester Casino, after a complete refurbishment. Genting are originally a Malaysian casino company (I have no filmic reference points for East Asian casinos, are they cool?). I know that attending the opening night of a Casino as a member of the press is hardly going to give me an accurate representation of what all UK casinos are like, but it's a start.
In fact it wasn't really a press event, most of the attendees were existing members of the casino. This meant that the place was full of seasoned gamblers. As you would expect all the stereotypical casino characters were there:
Mr Shiny Suit, who I mentioned before, was there but not as easily identified as you'd imagine. Genting have a fairly casual dress code policy (I even saw people in flip-flops, not helping to create the glamour of a Côte d'Azure casino) so Shiny Suit didn't have to wear his solitary two-piece and could relax in a pair of chinos and a rugby shirt. The sovereign rings were still present and so were his shoes; leather slip-ons that he must have bought circa 1988, before he put on a significant amount of weight. Now the shoes are so tight around his swollen feet it looks like it might be painful to walk.
There was also the young loud guy, flashing his cash (well chips, I'll get to that later) letting everyone in the casino know when he won or lost, no matter how large or little the amount might be. This guy is linked with another expected character, the quiet high roller. He paces around the casino dropping big bets on blackjack tables without any fuss and shows no emotion if he wins or loses. One of this man's duties is to supply the loud man with all his chips; usually one big, plastic, rectangular, pearlescent, £1000 chip at a time.
Then holding up the ladies end you have the young pretty females that don't do much gambling and instead mainly hang around the loud mouth guy. Despite the dress code being casual, there is nothing casual about these ladies' attire.
And last, but most certainly not least are the old lady pros. They shuffle around in their gold leather sandals, matching skin and bright white old lady afros. Stabbing away at slot machines, scattering chips all over the roulette table and betting big that they'll be dealt a double/pair on the black jack tables. These ladies are what casinos are all about.
You would expect entering a gambling den, full of these seasoned pros would be intimidating and you wouldn't be wrong. Especially after you've exchanged some real money for some bits of plastic right in front of what feels like a group of very tanned vultures. I assume you don't use real cash, not because it's easier for the croupier to keep track and count chips than cash, but because when you're spending chips, it feels a lot less like you are losing actual money. However, there is no need to be intimidated. It was immediately obvious to the entire casino I had no idea what I was doing as I tentatively placed single chips on individual numbers on the roulette table and asked what exact sum did I want my cards to total when playing blackjack. Instead of singling me out as prey so they could exploit me for my chips, the other gamblers helped me out. The pretty ladies detached themselves from the side of Mr Loud and advised me how to play roulette without it being too risky (I think it was quite obvious I was not prepared to lose vast quantities of money). Mr Loud analysed the cards already on the table and advised me when to continue being dealt cards in blackjack. He was, almost, always right. And the old ladies complimented and encouraged me on the slot machines.
This friendliness makes Casino's, well this casino, a great place to go on your own. A lot of people were there alone, not to make friends and meet people but also not to be a recluse or be rude. They were there to have a nice evening, and risk some of their money. I bet (pun intended) that casinos are great fun in a group, but the temptation to risk higher sums of money because of pride and bravado is even greater. Some of the people that were there in groups had dispersed and gone off to play their game of choice alone. Either to minimise the urge to spend too much or because gambling is best when you're alone. Calculating your next move and trying to minimise your loss takes a lot of brain space and practice. Fortunately I had someone else doing this for me.
I won't deny that a casino seems like a strange place. Full of all these people on their own, half of them ecstatic after a win and the other half on the verge of depression as they were losing. All with Gardeners' World playing on the flat-screen. The way the place sounds is peculiar too. For the opening night there was a singer performing but when she stopped and there was no music you could distinctly hear the clunking of the plastic chips, rattling of the ball in the roulette wheel and chattering of the slot machines when they reluctantly pay out… even over the sound of nice Mr Loud. However, I really enjoyed myself but I'll be honest my view of the Genting casino in Leicester might be slightly rosy, I came out with more money than when I went in.