Route to Recovery

A trip through the epicenters of the recession

Home of the low rollers

November 6, 2009

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Photos by Lucy Nicholson

LAUGHLIN, Nevada – There is an name for the kind of gambler that comes to this town in this northern southern tip of the state: “low rollers.”

Las Vegas, some 90 miles to the north, is infinitely more famous,action-packed and expensive. Laughlin is calmer, cheaper and caters to a different crowd, mostly retirees from California or “snowbirds” – a somewhat derogatory term for retirees from northern states who flock here for the winter – who have settled here.

“This ain’t Vegas, Toto,” said John “Mac” McCollum, a realtor over the Colorado River in Bulhead City, Arizona, who refers to the Laughlin crowd as “Q-tips and erasers” (“lots of white hair or none at all,” he explains).

Casinos love high rollers, who spend big and gamble big, looking for a good time, late nights and a lot of fun.

Their more lowly kin are a sedentary bunch on fixed incomes. They drink less, party less, tip less and – most importantly for the gambling industry – they gamble less. They are an interesting bunch to observe, quietly and intently wiling away the hours gambling, often sitting on their own at slot machines.

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A few miles away from Laughlin proper is the Avi Resort & Casino, which is owned by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. The tribe (and duty manager Jay Johnson, a really pleasant, easygoing man) let Lucy Nicholson wander about to take pictures of the clientele after the security guards had outlined certain restrictions on what she could and could not photograph.

Over the course of an hour Lucy found that the average age of the people she photographed was about 85. Amusing themselves by gambling while they await death in Laughlin, they really didn’t care whether she took their pictures or not.

In the meantime I found myself, purely by accident, at the bar, where the bartender had to shout at his elderly customers to make himself heard, even though we were somewhat removed from the constant cacophony of slot machines and other devices with flashing lights, bells and whistles designed to coax money out of your wallet.

Welcome to the world of the low roller. Vegas it most certainly ain’t, Toto.

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28 comments so far

This article must have been written by a 15 year old. First of all, those people are sitting there out of choice. And what more, if you really want to get down to brass tacks, aren’t we all just doing something, like writing articles, waiting to die? What makes your life so much more significant than those people? Do you know anything about their lives? The author of this article is a shallow, youthful fool.

- Posted by ted

Gambling is akin to sex.we do both because they create pleasure and excitement>only the ratio changes with age!
That being said -this writer is (was )a mathematical physicist and fully understands the odds -you cannot win
over any extended period.It is mathematically impossible!
However I live near a cancer clinic and see the pleasure gambling gives to patients-distracting them in an entertaining way from their serious problems.My problem is the industry is demonstrably corrupt and I can prove it!This should be no surprise as too much money corrupts all processes

- Posted by Frank

“Over the course of an hour Lucy found that the average age of the people she photographed was about 85. Amusing themselves by gambling while they await death in Laughlin, they really didn’t care whether she took their pictures or not.”

What the heck is this? First of all, I find it hard to believe that the “average age” of those people she took pictures of are 85. If you take a picture of somebody in their 70s, you’d have to get one in their 90s to average out to 80, let alone 85. Seems to me you are exaggerating, which isn’t good when the media is in such low regard. And that second sentence is simply outlandish. It sounds like these people are just sitting around spinning wheels waiting to die and that their lives are worthless. This stuff is REALLY outlandish.

- Posted by Scott

Sounds good to me, I’m only 70. I will be a young man
and maybe get some action!
Have to plan a trip.

- Posted by robin hendersom

I’m pretty sure that Laughlin and Vegas are both in the southern part of Nevada. If you want to name a northerly city how about Reno?

- Posted by mark

The author is an absolute ‘Tard.

“There is an name for the kind of gambler that comes to this town in this northern tip of the state: “low rollers.””

Hey moron, Laughlin is near the SOUTHERN tip of Nevada.

- Posted by johnpend

If all the “low rollers” left Vegas or Laughlin, both towns would revert back to sand dunes. If you owned and operated a hotel/casino, who would you rather visit; a few thousand “high rollers” or a couple hundred thousand “low rollers”?? Sinatra or Martin or Sammy Davis didn’t build Vegas. Vegas was built by the millions of us “low rollers” who came to see them and drop a few bucks on the tables or in the slots along the way. Next time you’re in Laughlin, take a head count in the “high rollers” section vs the general casino floor. Guess who’s keeping the casinos alive?

- Posted by billbrady

LAUGHLIN, Nevada – There is an name for the kind of gambler that comes to this town in this northern tip of the state: “low rollers.”

While I enjoyed the article, I would think any serious writer would know that Laughlin is in the southern tip of the state of Nevada, not the northern tip.

- Posted by Robert

I found this to be a poorly written article which seemed to say more about the authors disdain of the elderly than of the actual state of the economy in Laughlin. His lack of research and grammatical errors were reminiscent of my childrens grade school papers instead of an educated journalist with something important to say.
Shame on Reuters for sponsoring such poorly written material!

- Posted by nan

Relax Lucy and Nick, your day is coming. The first time I went to Vegas thought it was great. Then a year or two later while traveling form Calf back east I stoped in Laughlin for a day ended up staying two. Much better than Vegas, less hectic. Not wall to wall people. Could actually find a bar maid to bring a drink in a timely manner.
Just went from Calf to Colo and back last month. Split the trip in half spending the night on Az Nev state line, casino called Virgin River. Again a good time.
Had two teen grand kids with me they liked Virgin River, but didn’t care for Vegas, which I thought for sure they would that is why I stopped.
My recommendation going Nev. stay with smaller towns, and casinos. At least it won’t take two hours to find the nickle slots.

- Posted by Bob Tussey Merced California

Interesting article. I have to agree that the writer has the “average” age of the people who visit Laughlin slighly off. Although…I’m 55 and visit Laughlin about 3 times a year. When I arrive, I feel like the “youngster” of the crowd! I work full time in a very stressful environment, therefore, Laughlin is my escape! No crowds, no one bothering me; I have a blast; enjoy the mindless entertainment of the slots and go home happy whether I win or lose. Naturally, I’d rather win. Vegas is the party town – those “youngsters” are there to party, not gamble. Laughlin is for those people who have been there – done that and they have got the money to gamble baby! :)

- Posted by Geri Bryan

Oh forgot one thing (getting old 64). Anyway normally a snow bird is a retiree who owns an RV. They follow the sun, their heart and enjoy each others company. A great life if health, and $$ permit it.
It is not wasting time it is enjoying life, doing the things you had to give up or could not do when you had kids and work.
Wasting time is driving for two hours to get to a job you hate, your tired of doing.

- Posted by Bob Tussey Merced California

Notice the machines are of the ticket kind, not the fun ones we all remember that paid in coins. Nothing replaces the sound of the coins tumbling out of those coin catchers when jackpots were won! Nothing!! Those new machines are crap that are controlled by computers in the front offices and are all rigged. The casino folks KNOW when a machine is going to win, and start walking toward that machine in ADVANCE of the so called ‘winning’ handle pull. Most of those pieces of hi-tech junk won’t even have working handles any more. The faces are pooter screens. Waiting for death…those poor wretches are dead already, just like the spirit of the old departed gamblling machines.

- Posted by chester drawers

Many thanks to “TED” who sent in the following comment; but I think that you were complimenting the author, Nick Carey, when you call him a shallow, youthful fool–I believe that Nick is a piece of manure, plus all of the things that “Ted” called him! :) )

This article must have been written by a 15 year old. First of all, those people are sitting there out of choice. And what more, if you really want to get down to brass tacks, aren’t we all just doing something, like writing articles, waiting to die? What makes your life so much more significant than those people? Do you know anything about their lives? The author of this article is a shallow, youthful fool.

- Posted by Uncle Stinky

I work in the casinos. The front office or any office does not control the outcome of machines.I’m a certified tech on the machines.Sorry you like the old technology but the new designs are there for a reason.Such as electrical consumption and other labor costs related to maintaining the equiptment.As far as controlling any machine its not possible and if you look theres standards set by gaming law that have to be upheld.The concept of casinos controlling wins were created back when machines were 100% mechanical and could be modified.Now theres no way.The programs are sealed the components to alter and change games is sealed and closed by gaming inspectors.Casino employees have no idea when a machine is going to hit and do know after the fact.All it is in slots is being at the right machine at the right time.This idea was born in the old days and carrys over to new times by people that have lost and are bitter.No casino is going to risk losing a license over one or a bunch of machines that are fixed.Machines are spot checked and tracked for license violations all the time.This needs to end its a myth.

- Posted by Roger

Gazooks! Sitting there waiting to die will help Obama and his health care I guess. What an awful thought.

- Posted by Sue

Well, the jackass that wrote this artical seems to think the older crowd doesn’t have a reason to be around. Well, I’ve been going to Laughlin since being in my 40″s and am now 69 and still loving Laughlin. And for the pessimistic person that thinks machines are controlled “in the backroom” needs to read the gaming laws of Nevada. Yep, they are controlled by a computer chip inside that has a random selecion of what is going to win and when. You just need to be fortunate enough to be sitting there when that time comes. Mostly, go to Laughlin to enjoy a wonderful group of people that are not “waiting to die” but “living in the moment”. You might just find yourself having a good time if you just mingle and talk with the folks around you. Just remember that all that live a number of years gets older and that includes you. See you in Laughlin!!

- Posted by James H. Penland

This is the most condescending article I’ve ever read. Sure, these people are morons for spending so much time in a Casino, but I wouldn’t say they wile away their time awaiting death.

- Posted by Ganz Genau

Nick, you are SO adorable with your freshly minted J-school diploma and trying so hard to sound like HST. I bet ya got the hat and the ciggy holder too…

- Posted by DC

Sorry, you kind of missed it on this article. I do think the crew that is working on this feature is kind of out of tune with the sentiment and condition of the country. The casinos in Laughlin cater to a certain class of gamblers and if they are losing money they will go out of business, and if a certain type of machine has no players they replace it. I think that this article is looking for cats in the dog house because the writer has never seen a cat house(ha ha).

- Posted by f belz

Been to Laughlin several times and really enjoy it. I’m heading back this winter

- Posted by Le 17

Oh my Chester – without saying so – you are showing your age! Give me paper-ticket machines anyday. No more germ filled coins, dirty fingers and swiping the money out of a catcher filled with ashes! You’d better stay home and try finding a new attitude.

- Posted by Geri

Some of the comments are definitely written by “testy” people. I took it as a “tongue in cheek” article. I know that the statement that the average age of people gambling in Laughlin is 85. I will be 75 this month and have been to Laughlin, Vegas, Reno and Tahoe. I love Laughlin as it is never crowded and you can always find a vacant slot machine.

- Posted by Frank P.

Sheesh. I also thought it was a tongue in cheek article about lowballers. The “…waiting to die” crack was pretty cynical. Amateur writer.

- Posted by ThomasinPhoenix

There’s something tragic about the scene. I live about 5 miles from an Indian Casino in California, and the pictures might as well have been from there. Yes, some of us are waiting to die. Some of us aren’t. It is beyond the imagination of a young person to understand what it really means to be alone with a slot machine and why. Find a mature writer next time.

- Posted by AJ Franks

I prefer to gamble on the fate of our grandchildren and how The Great 0 will pay them back.
Will the House now renig on us all, I wonder?
Good, to see the look of panic on Nancy Pelosi’s face, as she knows that eventually she’ll either be annointed “Commissar” in the new American Communist Party – Or face a firing squad in the near future, for treason.
I’ll be happy to be on that firing line, should I ever be asked – And don’t give me that blank round, either.
Notice? The security anti-spam question is “Rent.” Like, uh, wow, just what us seniors need to be terrorized about, just now…
Figures..

- Posted by Rick A Hyatt

Well, if slot machines aren’t rigged…why would anyone care if your a low roller or not playing here or Vegas or anywhere for that matter. The comment 85 and waiting to die is absurd..I’m 58 but the comment should have been keep to them selves….

- Posted by AB

i think the article is an outrage. it is very insulting towards people of a certain age who still have fun and refuse to sit by the window. The article provides an extreme unhealthy insight look into the almost fascist brain of the author who wants old(er) people to go in hiding. He paints a world where the older/senior citizen doesn’t fit anymore. We – rather young visitors from europe – visit Lauglin and Nevada each year in summer and we enjoy the entertainment, the excitement. Why shouldn’t THEY enjoy it too!Please chief – editor, correct this author. And let him (or here) apoligize to the group of people he/she insulted.

- Posted by mike holland

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