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Better Chances at Casino's Lost and Found

16 October 2002

CONNECTICUT – As reported by the Connecticut Now: "There are two ways to reclaim what you've lost at the casino - get lucky, or go to the lost and found.

"At Mohegan Sun's home for estranged objects, you won't find the money you dropped on blackjack. But if you dropped it on the floor, the odds of a reunion are better than you might think.

"`People are surprisingly honest,' Ron Buddington, a keeper of the lost and found, says as he leafs through a binder thick with plastic envelopes containing orphaned cash and chips.

"Buddington works in a cramped but compartmentalized office insulated from the din of the gaming floor in Uncasville. There he and his co-workers sort the detritus of a 24-hour hub of humanity. About 3,600 items - mundane, precious or plain odd - drifted in during September alone.

"…Most of the itemized booty has been stored in brown cardboard filing boxes. Inside them, lost objects are sealed in labeled plastic bags like pieces of evidence. There are:

"Purses, date books, cameras, hats, eyeglasses - about 200 pairs a month.

"Banded stacks of credit cards. Three racks of blazers, windbreakers and coats. A set of golf clubs.

"Beside a box of cigarettes and smoking paraphernalia, a bright jumble of disposable lighters, not quite worthy of bagging.

"One box occasionally rings, when someone calls for their wayward cellphone.

"Then there are the seeming necessities. Two pairs of crutches. Dozens of wooden and aluminum canes. A set of hearing aids in a velvet case with extra batteries. Two wheelchairs came in and stayed, still unclaimed.

"… Buddington recalls the Baccarat player who left his dentures in the high rollers section. He identified his plates - there were two pairs to choose from - by a mark on the front.

"…The lost and found's tracking system is at once precise and low-tech. A constellation of Post-it notes above the desk serves as the staff's short-term memory. Each yellow slip is a heads-up for an item in flux among the gaming floor, the casino's 1,200-room hotel and its security outposts.

"…With an average 35,000 visitors a day circulating money through the casino, plenty filters down into the lost and found's three safes. Hefting September's binder of cash discoveries, Buddington estimates it holds up to $12,000.

"Most money gets turned in by the security guards and cleaners who comb the floors.

"…But considering their mission, even some gamblers show surprising restraint.

"`I think there's some money in here,' one woman said as she handed over a sealed envelope containing $500.

"…Out on the floor, the casino's skewed flow of give and take is apparent. When the reels are spinning, the coins are dropping and the slots are chiming like an orchestra of drunken robots, it's easy to see how someone could lose track of more than a few quarters.

"…But only luck returns what gets lost most at the casino. As a grandmother on vacation from Florida who ran through $25 in short order puts it, `I didn't lose my money. I know exactly where I left it,' she says, pointing a finger across the carpet at a jeering slot machine."

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