Flames and Games — FireKeepers casino burning a hole in students’ pockets

FireKeepers Casino opened in August, 2009, just 21 miles from Albion’s campus in Battle Creek.  With 2,680 slot machines and 78 table games including blackjack, craps and roulette, according to their Web site, there are many ways for students over the age of 21 to gamble, if they’re willing to risk their cash in hopes of hitting the jackpot.

“Casinos are physically stimulating.”

Some would say that entering into a venture (say, a casino game) knowing that money will most likely be lost is foolish.  But the expansion of casinos into 48 of the 50 states over the last 35 years shows that there is something about gambling that some people just can’t resist.

“Gambling is enjoyed by all statuses, races and genders,” said Andrew Brandt, psychology professor.  “Up and down the board, we see gambling from all types of people.”

Brandt cites things like changes in heart rate and perspiration as clear-cut signs that gambling strikes a physical cord.

“There really is a heightened sense of excitement when people think about winning something that they don’t already have,” Brandt said.  “People can know up and down that what they’re going to do will lose them money, but it doesn’t stop that person from being entertained enough to gamble.”

“Casinos are stupid and pointless.”

After visiting two casinos in her lifetime for birthday celebrations, Stevie Collini, Higgins Lake senior, is through.

“I just don’t see the point,” Collini said.  “I’d rather just take my money and have the guarantee that I can buy something rather than take a chance with it.”

More than just a potential waste of money, Collini is put off by the atmosphere of a casino.

“High rollers might have a lot of fun, but so many of the people are there because they actually want or need money — they don’t take it as a game,” Collini said.  “And then they’re not friendly.  The atmosphere is never as fun as the movies.”

“Casinos are more fun with chicken wings.”

Katy Van de Putte, Grosse Pointe 2009 alumna, has visited FireKeepers on occasion.  While she does go in with a small allocation of money to spend on the roulette table, for Van de Putte, the thought of hitting it big isn’t her favorite part.

“It’s the people watching,” Van de Putte said.  “Casinos are like water parks — you see the best and the worst, the happiest and the saddest parts of humanity all in one place.”

“Once, I was just doing some laps around the casino because I was out of money, but the people who I came with were gambling in various locations,” Van de Putte said. “I was walking down a row of slots when I saw a lady pulling chicken wings out of her purse and handing them out to, presumably, family and friends who had taken over an entire row of slot machines.”

With a $20-$22 all-you-can-eat buffet, food is another draw to FireKeepers.

“I could sit there (the buffet) for hours,” Van de Putte said. “Not to gorge, but to enjoy all of the delicious food — soups and salad, pizza, chinese, sushi, filet mingon, salmon.  And I know it’s a casino so it sounds weird to say that their food is so good, but it’s truly incredible — better than restaurants in Albion.”

“Casinos are exciting.”

Ashley Peterson, Marquette senior, was excited with the news of a casino opening in Battle Creek and has been to FireKeepers around a dozen times.  Playing mostly the penny slots, Peterson says that she thinks that her money lasts longer and enjoys the thrill of potentially winning.

“When you win big on the penny slots, it’s pretty big,” Peterson said.  “Once I won $250 on one spin.  It’s the coolest thing in the world, but you also know it’s never going to happen again.”

Peterson equates the money lost at a casino to the money she’d lose in other social activities.

“If you go in knowing that you’re going to blow 20 bucks in 2 hours, it’s not a big deal,” Peterson said.  “If you went to the movies, you’d spend close to that for the same amount of time, but at the casino you get to be social, too.  I’ve probably lost around $200 there, but I’ve spent many hours with good friends, so it doesn’t bother me at all.”

“Casinos are my best friend and my worst enemy.”

J. Robertson, Flint senior, is no stranger to gambling.  After studying in Africa last semester where a casino was in close proximity, and returning to campus this semester to find FireKeepers up and running, Robertson says that he loves it.

Sticking mostly to blackjack but dabbling with roulette and craps, Robertson says that he is down a couple hundred bucks if he includes his stint in Africa.  But being in the hole hasn’t slowed his attendance.

“I go alone, usually,” Robertson said.  “People don’t want to go gambling at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  But I do.”

In a single visit, Robertson has gone up as much as $700 or down as much as $450.  His final opinion:

“Stay away (from casinos) — you’ll lose your money,” Robertson says.  “But if you do want to come, call me.”

Photo courtsey of Jamie Adams

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