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Arizona Gamblers Go 24 Hours a Day

16 April 2003

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MESA, Arizona – As reported by the Associated Press: "Wednesday is about to become Thursday, but at Casino Arizona it's only seen as more time to try to get rich.

"Hundreds of slot players keep spinning the machines in front of them, confident they will turn up enough lucky combinations to make a fortune. Some brush their hands across the windows in an effort to get the reels to stop in the right place. Others feed two machines at the same time. Anything is possible, they tell themselves.

"…While most of us sleep, the casino hops on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. From couples arguing to the occasional cheer of a jackpot, the place moves no matter the hour. The late night-early morning crowd is one reason why casinos generate an estimated $2 billion a year in Arizona.

"…At around 2 to 4 a.m., there are mostly men in their 20s or 30s at the blackjack tables. Some are dressed in leather or suit jackets. They fiddle with chips, stacking and restacking them before betting and while hands are dealt. Whoops go up and friends high-five when the right cards are flipped their way.

"At the poker tables, the age is older and the dress sloppier. Still mainly men, many have a rolling cart next to them, a sort of end table for those who have been seated here for hours. On top of the carts are folded newspapers, ash trays, food, desserts, miniature salt and pepper shakers and bottles of mustard and ketchup.

"…At 4 to 6 a.m., the casino is as still as it gets, and still 300 or so gamblers hang on.

"Ask them why they're here and the reasons are varied. Some say they are insomniacs. Others say it's recreational. For some, it's a stop on their vacation. Others can't stand a night without action.

"…Some are having fun. Some are just passing the time. And it appears that some just can't stop.

"Among Arizona adults, 42.9 percent gambled at a casino in 2002 and 1.7 percent did so weekly, according to a report released in March and paid for by the Arizona Lottery.

"The study shows that 2.3 percent of adults in Arizona have gambling behavior that damages, disrupts or compromises their personal lives or employment. The rate is comparable to those of three other Western states, but significantly lower than the rates of most other states for which equivalent research is available.

"…Casino staff are trained to spot problem gamblers and intervene, says John Jenkins, Casino Arizona general manager. Some are encouraged to put their name on a list that does not allow them to play at the casino.

"…At about 6 to 7 a.m. when the sun is coming up, more people begin trickling in. Some just got off work, and others appear to have just risen from bed.

"…Outside, the birds are chirping, greeting a sky gently getting lighter in the east. The gaudy freeway sign still blazes. Nobody looks rich."

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