Being a fan of tacky Americana I have, however, visited a fair few US casinos in my time.
All things considered they're a bit grim. Very grim actually.
In spite of the bright lights and up tempo decor there's a whiff of desperation about the people who frequent them.
I remember passing one old woman feeding a slot machine in a riverboat casino on the Mississippi a few years back. She had a large cup of quarters held between her legs and was robotically pumping them into the machine. She was covered in cigarette ash and food crumbs and looked like she hadn't slept for days. She also smelled vaguely of piss. On the wall in front of her was a flashing illuminated sign. It read 'Fun! Fun! Fun!'.
I wasn't convinced.
Nor am I convinced by the claim that casino complexes are a powerful tool for urban regeneration. Based on what I've seen in the States, what you get when you build a large casino in the middle of a deprived urban shithole is...
... a deprived urban shithole with a large casino in the middle of it
Let's be honest, if huge casino complexes were so fucking great they'd be built in well-off districts and nobody would bother with tossing around pretending how beneficial they are.
I mention all this because, of course, we've just found out which of the many competing British shitholes (and there is a lot of competition) gets to be home to the UK's first super casino
And it wasn't London
Not yet anyway
But there's no doubt we'll get a few sooner or later. After all, even though it was faced with overwhelming public apathy and antipathy, our government was hot to trot with forty of the damned things.
Forty of them...
What's interesting about the casino story from the point of view of someone intrigued by alternative explanations of how the world works is how neatly the rise of gambling in Britain over the last ten years dovetails in with lots of other stuff that has been going on and the concept of the narcostate and narcocapitalism.
The narcocapitalism model/ conspiracy theory is a complement rather than a competitor to the Bankers Control the World!!! theory and it basically argues that much of what passes for foreign and domestic policy is willfully manipulated for the benefit of the drugs trade
... drugs being the third most lucrative globally traded commodity after oil and guns and, by happy coincidence, often found in the same parts of the world as oil and guns, which can make for some pretty triangular-shaped diagrams
I was once one of those people who found this particular model quite difficult to swallow and an apparent affront to common sense. After all, for the narcocapitalism concept to work its backers would have to wield a tremendous amount of transnational influence. They would have to secure -
- Reliable supplies of raw product
- Somewhere to process that product
- Reliable high-volume cross-border transport routes
- Domestic distribution networks
- A ready market for their product
- The means to launder the proceeds
Advanced versions of the narcostate model also like to emphasise that, as with gambling, pushing hard drugs onto the urban poor is not only fabulously profitable but also an excellent way of keeping the fuckers down.
Like I said, I used to be sceptical about this way of looking at things. Sure, it kind of went on in SE Asia and Central America but that's the sort of shit US Intelligence agencies got up to, not the British.
But now I'm not so sure. It's not as if there isn't historical precedent for this kind of behaviour by the British. In fact there's an embarrassing abundance. And viewing the drugs business as a perfect example of vertical integration would help to explain a few things...
- It would explain, for instance, why our government sent only 3,000 under-equipped troops into a region filled with 1,000,000 heavily-armed Pathans whose only source of income is opium and pretended, is still pretending, that those soldiers could help stem the production of opium in the region (Afghan opium production up 50% to 6,000 tonnes last year)
- It would explain why, off the back of one of the many trumped-up wars of recent years, NATO turned over Kosovo to those drug- and gun-running funsters the KLA
- It would go some way to explaining why our government basically opened our national front doors to just about every organised crime syndicate under the Sun and has lovingly nurtured 'ghettofication' of so much of our cities
- It would explain the record levels of heroin imports (and the consequent rise in the number of heroin addicts) in spite of all that extra border security we've supposedly implemented as part of the 'War on Terror'
- It would also partly explain the phenomenal, and largely unchecked and unregulated, rise of the money-wiring business here in the UK. It's a grand time to be a Western Union shareholder
- And it would explain the push for all those casinos - very popular, or so I'm told, with drug dealers and money launderers
Yes, it would take a mental leap to believe that all of these developments are the result of joined-up criminal thinking but, in a way, it really doesn't matter if you buy into the conspiracy theory or prefer the more comforting belief that we are governed by a bunch of fuckwits who don't know what they're doing. Whether our narcostate was planned or not, that's what we're getting.