I did it.  I went to Pittsburgh’s casino yesterday. I was going to play a few dollars worth of quarters in the quarter slot machines, but quarter slot machines no longer take quarters!  You have to buy a card with credits on it.  Forget that.  Instead I enjoyed a free whipped coffee from a push button machine.  And I watched a chicken play tic-tac-toe.

A couple of thoughts.  Surely places such as Chuck E. Cheese (in my neck of the woods it was Sports Park USA) exist to cultivate young gamblers.  Their look and feel is a perfect match.  Curiously, when you become an adult you advance from losing your money by playing games that might earn you tickets for cheap stuff you didn’t want in the first place to simply losing your money with the push of a single button.  Is that progress?  I’m not sure.  That’s not to say a wager here and there can’t be fun and worth its cost in amusement value alone.  It’s just that most of the people in these places don’t really look like they’re enjoying themselves.  Vapid blank stares are the norm.

So about that casino card you need to use to play the slots…  Many a patron kept his on a lanyard worn around the neck while meandering through the facility.  Sort of like Frodo did with the ring on his way to Mordor.  One woman had her card inserted in a machine while also keeping the lanyard around her neck.  While sitting down, the card was a little bit above the level of her head.  A noose, as it were, or if you want to be kind, a leash.  My precious, indeed.

I have to say, the whole experience made me very proud… of what I strive to do.  Make an honest living.  Deliver a real product to customers with every transaction.  Create something from nothing while benefiting my community, my farmers and suppliers, my employees, and myself.  Aspire for affluence through hard work rather than a stroke of dumb luck at the pull of a lever.  Enough tooting my own horn, though.  There are lots of people who do worthwhile things.

The point is that the difference at the core of a business like Franktuary and a business like The Rivers Casino is nothing short of monumental.  Call me crazy, but I’d like to see even more innovative small businesses around this city.  Starting them is the kind of gamble I support.  Even if you lose, you win for trying.  Plus, when you compare starting a restaurant to winning a casino jackpot, the odds of success don’t seem so very long at all.  Alas, small business success will never occur at the simple flip of a switch.  Granted, there should be less red tape to cut through on your way to starting a business, but that’s a whole other story.  In spite of the red tape, in spite of the risk, in spite of the sacrifices you might have to make, go for it anyway.

Otherwise Pittsburgh might cease to be known as a city with a rich history of creative energy and tangible accomplishment, instead forever associated with games of chance like “Man vs. Chicken“.  The choice is ours.  Gamble the right way.