>Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time, on the slots.

>Pennsylvania has been getting casinos, and there is one in Bethlehem. We were in the area earlier this week, so we decided to drive over and check it out, since we’d heard stuff about it. It’s built on the grounds of the old Bethlehem Steel Mill, a huge expanse of metal and brick down near the river.

It looks as if the casino (operated by Sands) is the first step of a grand plan to rejuvenate the area, which will include shops, restaurants, a performance space, residential units. It looked great in the model under glass. In reality there is still a heap of old metal and brick out there, and an economy not exactly encouraging for city renovation (unless they are getting some of that stimulus money, or the casino is paying for it from its profits. There certainly were plenty of customers there on a Monday afternoon.)

Honestly, I never understood the draw of casinos, especially these days, when I can waste hours playing computer games and not lose money doing it. The house wins in the end. The lure of winning big by gambling has never reached me, and that’s probably a good thing. And who am I to tell people not to play the slot machines if that’s what they want to do, if it entertains them?

About 10 years ago I was on a road trip and we stopped in Vegas for a few days. Before we checked out of our hotel we needed cash for the road, and the nearest ATM was in the hotel’s dreary, run-down casino. It was 8 AM on a sunny Sunday morning, and there were people at the slots, maybe from the night before. It was kind of sad.

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