Line Gaming: A Bit of Vegas in Missoula

By JEN SLAYDEN

For Christmas vacation, I traveled with my family through four states and down to Vegas.

The blue skies smiled at us during the day, and the city lights enticed us in the evening. The trip itself was somewhat of a remake of Chevy Chase Vegas Vacation, and we were giddy to get home. I like to think I brought back a little sunshine from Sin City as we returned home to unusually warm temperatures for Missoula, but if I say that, I may have some skiers blaming me!

What I did notice (other than the valuable reminder that there is no place like home) was apparently something bigger followed me back from Vegas than a bit of sunshine.

For just the next day, as I took the Bonner exit heading home, a new sign was being installed at the Travel Plaza. I wasn’t sure what was going in until my next trip to town, when I spotted a snippet of Vegas. Bling had hit the strip outside the gateway of my community. A colorful and catchy new LED digital sign advertising that LINE GAMING was now here.

Line gaming at the Lucky Lil's truck stop in Bonner, Montana.

That evening, I heard the news report on Senate Bill 361, which had passed in 2011 to legalize Line Gaming. Existing Keno and Poker machines would be modified to support the new game, taking effect at 12 a.m. on New Year’s Day. The casino owners stated they were all hoping that these new games will bring in lost revenue from the 2009 smoking ban.

Here is a one-liner that I understand better:

“Money talks…but all mine ever says is good-bye.”

Yep. Call me chicken, call me frugal (Erin Turner would be proud), say I’m just not into it, but in Vegas, I tried one of those line gaming machines. I just wanted to pull the handle and hear the ring of coins! Alas, most of the machines are computerized and did not serve my old-fashioned fantasy, which included pulling the handle, winning thousands of dollars and having to find a bigger purse to open up to catch them.

Instead, I lost ten bucks. I could have had a few huge lattes. (Which were what I really needed to keep up in the busy city!) See what happens to priorities when you leave town on vacation?

Thing is, I’m not sure about how I feel about a little more Vegas coming into Zootown. The new LED sign in Bonner is obnoxious and a distraction to drivers. Are other casinos going to follow their lead? I am happier with seasonal Christmas lights and an occasional, awesome lit-up M on Mount Sentinel.

I worked at a restaurant and casino through college. What I witnessed were regular customers coming in to cash in social security checks and playing keno and poker all day long, in hopes of chasing the big dollars. I think there is legitimate concern about gambling as a whole, and promoting more line gaming could possibly entice a different crowd to play, creating more opportunity for gambling addiction.

I’m a fun gal, and I have nothing against local businesses trying to make a buck, or people enjoying a little bit of gambling. I feel fortunate that the gaming establishments in our town are non-smoking. The casinos in Vegas are a mix of smoke, and perfume-blasted air to try to mask the smoke. Which ends up just smelling like crap. Coming home was such a great reminder of our wonderful, naturally beautiful, and mountain-scented town.

Do we really need line gaming? Or is it overindulgent?

Will this be next?

Over 350 lbs. eats free! The Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas.

What are your thoughts, Missoula? Any good one-liners from you?

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Enjoy this post by Jen Slayden? You might like some of her other musings on life in Missoula: Missoula Moms Test Senator TesterMissoula is Like Relaxed Fit Jeans, and MissouLOVE: Things That Make Missoula Home.

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Jen Slayden is a Missoulian who makes her home on the outskirts of town with three outdoorsy kids, a fly-fishing guide husband, and an outdoors-loving black lab named Cody. She juggles her time teaching music, life coaching, playing music in her family bluegrass band, and taking in all the great recreational and cultural activities that Missoula has to offer. Then, she writes about it all on her own website: Find Your Harmony.