5 Fun facts about gambling and casinos Part 3

South Africans are world famous for our competitiveness and our never-say-die attitude. Even when we’re thoroughly outmatched on a soccer field or at an Olympic event or during a 5-day test, we never give up. We always fight to the end.

It’s not because we have an unrealistic expectation of our skills, it’s because we do two things no matter what we are facing: 1) we do our research and 2) we know that Lady Luck is always standing on the side-lines ready to throw a spanner in the works and upset every expectation. But as the famous adage goes: the more we practice, the luckier we get.

And there’s actually a third aspect – we find enjoyment in everything we do. We are a nation that thrives under pressure and goes into every challenge with a unique spirit of “Let’s have fun while we do this!”.

How does this relate to gambling? Well, obviously, it has to do with 1) research, 2) luck, and 3) having fun.

That’s how we come across all those weird little factoids that make up our famous lists and articles. We’re researching, then we luckily stumble across something weird or interesting, and the next thing you know we’re having fun throwing ourselves down a rabbit hole of trivia and left-field learning.

Since our last fun facts list, we’ve discovered a bunch more factoids for our CasinoPlay fans, snippets that we think you’ll enjoy, that may teach you a thing or two about your favourite online gambling and casino pastime, and that were super fun for unearth – or rather unveil like a like sly straight flush on the poker table.

You can’t keep a gambler down

Gambling laws can be even more confusing and nonsensical than lockdown, quarantine, and social distancing rules during the Covid pandemic. Some countries have fully open gambling laws. Some countries have outlawed gambling completely except for in a certain place – like China where gambling is a criminal offense unless you do it in Macau the world’s biggest gambling city/area. Some countries outlaw gambling but still allow a national lottery, a gambling game with the absolute lowest RTP and the most ridiculously low odds of winning in history (although the money does go to the state so…).

But gamblers will always find a way.

In Canada, for example, games of chance that use dice are illegal so craps players in this country use cards. In Japan, gambling is illegal but pachinko is practically a national pastime so players buy pachinko balls, play the game, and then exchange all the balls they win for ‘vouchers’ or ‘gifts’ which they can then sell to special shops for real cash. And the most famous and lucrative (for casinos) betting game ever, the slot machine, began by giving winners sticks of gum or cigars or food tokens which could then be ‘sold’ for money.

Just a few examples of how gamblers will get around any laws and regulations in the most semi-legal way possible.

Seeing the light

One of the most famous gambling and casino sights in the world is the insane beam of light that shoots from the top of the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The Luxor Sky Beam is so bright that it can be seen from over 440km away. This means that pilots circling Los Angeles can see the light beam!

At 42.3 BILLION candelas (a candle flame is one candela), it’s the strongest beam of light in the world and the 39 xenon lamps are so powerful they raise the temperature in the lamp room to 150º Celsius.

While it is an iconic feature of the Vegas skyline, it has also had an unusual effect on the environment (apart from insane light pollution). The beam has attracted so many and such a diverse range of insects, bats, and owls that it has developed its own unique ecosystem.

Luxor las vegas

Also seeing the light

Speaking of seeing the light, have you ever noticed that land-based casinos seem to be stuck in the middle of massive buildings? Think of Montecasino, or the casino floor at Sun City, or even the gaming floors at smaller casinos like those in Mmabatho or Bethlehem.

Ever wondered why?

It’s for the same reason that there are no clocks on display in casinos – they want you to forget the passage of time and stay and play for longer. By creating those fake but impressive settings like the Tuscan village in Montecasino, keeping the lights at a permanent dusk setting, and stopping you from seeing when the sun sets or rises, the casino keeps you in a relaxed mental state and unaware of just how much time is going by.

There are some interesting notable exceptions though.

The casino floor at the Atlantis in the Bahamas has floor to ceiling windows that let in all that glorious Caribbean sun. Understandable when you have a slice of paradise as your backdrop. And, apparently, the VIP floor of the Sibaya Casino in KwaZulu-Natal has views over the sugar cane fields to the ocean– but we can’t confirm that because we haven’t been invited to check it out. Yet. C’mon Sibaya, comp us a few nights to check out your operation!

Playing the long game

As any poker player can tell you, sometimes the cards fall your way and you can be up a bunch in just an hour or so.

Most poker games are a test of skill and patience and can last anywhere from half an hour to an entire day of high stakes action, but the record goes to an alleged game that happened in Arizona in the 1880s – 8 years, 5 months, and 3 days!

The Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona (yes, THAT Tombstone, made famous in untold Westerns through the ages) was opened as a high-class entertainment establishment in 1881, aimed at bringing a little culture and theatre and art to the residents of this Wild West town. Unfortunately, when you have a clientele made up of miners and desperadoes, the entertainment options tend to quickly slide into the more insalubrious events.

Belly dancing and topless dancing soon replaced theatre productions. Champagne was out and rivers of whiskey became the go-to libations. The upper balconies, meant to be VIP seats and booths for the fancy-pants of the area, were soon more famous for patrons not having pants at all as they became a brothel.

And, in the basement, a high stakes poker game began that would run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a reputed 8 years, 5 months, and 3 days – the longest running poker game of all time.

The Bird Cage poker game attracted some of the biggest and most famous names of the time to sit at the tables including George Hurst, Diamond Jim Brady, Doc Holliday, and Wyatt Earp. Interestingly, Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp (along with the rest of decidedly dodgy Earp clan) were two of the big names involved in the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone.

The reputation of the Bird Cage Theatre became so notorious that it was called “the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast” by the New York Times in 1882.

Bird Cage Theatre
Fun facts about gambling

Pack up your troubles

There are hundreds of stories about punters hitting it lucky. One of the biggest online casinos slots jackpots wins was a €19.4 million jackpot of a €100 stake in 2021. And there was the player who won $39.7 million at Excalibur Casino in Las Vegas after spending only $100. And what about the British chap who sold everything (including his clothes), travelled to Vegas and bet it all on one spin of the roulette wheel? He went in with $135,300 and walked away with double!

That takes balls.

But it pales in comparison to William Bergstrom who in 1980 packed all his troubles into a kit bag and went for broke. Well, actually, he went to Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas with two suitcases. One suitcase was filled with $777,000 in cash. The other was empty. William Big Stones – sorry, Bergstrom – put every cent on one throw of the dice, won, filled his second suitcases with his winnings, and walked away into the Nevada sunset!

And that’s a fact!

Send us your facts and trivia using our Contact Page and we will publish them for all our CasinoPlay fans to read!

And, if you feel like these snippets of info have got you wanting to play a little, visit our reviews page to find all the online casinos and casino games we recommend as trusted and licensed partners where you can have some fun.

Remember to watch your time (this is not an attempt to set a new poker playing world record), manage your money (a suitcase full of dollars can just as quickly be lost on one throw of the dice!), and gamble responsibly.