I like casinos. I admit that I am a slots junkie. And yes, I have a very addictive personality, so having a casino that is open 24/7 less than ten minutes from me is going to be interesting. But it is what it is.

Russ and I went over last Friday and drove around the outside – because there was absolutely nowhere to park, and we were really just curious to see what was going on. So, what was going on, you ask? Like I said, the place was PACKED! And we saw taxis. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a taxi in service in Bristol. And there’s construction going on all over the place over there. I know that a lot of my friends and family are vehemently opposed to a casino here. For lots of reasons. I’m sure that it is going to change things in Bristol. No, probably not all for the better. But it has the potential to do some really amazing things. Now, and when it sees its future come to fruition as Hard Rock Bristol in 2024. The first day they were operational, I saw an article online where they had given a check for $100,000 to United Way. They’ve already sponsored some blood drives that I’m aware of, too. So, yes, they’re receiving from the community, but it’s not a solitary one-way street. There are 600 employees there, with 100 more waiting in the wings, because the operators are realistic that not everyone who starts will find the casino industry to be their proverbial cup of tea. Or glass of beer. Or one-armed bandit. Whatever. Not everyone will be happy, so they’re already planning for turnover. In my opinion, that’s some common sense and decent planning.

On Saturday evening, we drove back into Bristol from taking an air conditioner to my sister Sarah. Bless Russ’ heart, he was tired and nasty from working in her house in nearly 90-degree temps to get it taken care of. But when we got home, he asked, “Wanna go try our luck?” Yes, Russ likes casinos, too. We both spend time in the casino on each cruise. He’s more diligent about it than I am. And usually has better luck because he is willing to risk more than I do. I pay penny slots. I bet the minimum with every push of the button. I don’t always understand the point of the games. I’m easily amused. Take last Saturday night, for example. We stood in line to get our little member cards for probably 35-40 minutes. (Even though the place was packed again that night, Russ found a parking space right next to the handicapped parking, right in front of the building. The man is charmed when it comes to getting great parking spots and has been ever since I met him face-to-face in 2001.) After we got things set up with our accounts, we walked through the whole casino, looking for something that struck our fancy. I’m a sucker for slots that entertain. My theory going in is that I’m probably going to lose the $20-$40 that I’m playing with, so I might as well be entertained while I’m losing it. Past vacations have included me spending time at a machine that played songs by Kenny Rogers, another one that played songs by Dolly, one at the Duran Duran shows in Maryland for New Year’s weekend a few years ago that played Michael Jackson. (And you KNOW that I was hitting the high notes and singing, “Shome On” every time that machine did – the people who worked there kept thinking I was winning because I kept yelling, and Russ assured them that they were indeed wasting their time rushing back to check on me, because I just love music and am loud!) At the Duran shows in Vegas, I played and won some money on a machine that was Goonies-themed. So, you see, what I’m getting at. I need to be entertained. Well, there were some Willie Wonka machines, but, number one, they look kinda creepy, and number two, they stayed hopping the whole night. (I did eventually play like my last $3 on one of them, but I just didn’t “get” the way it worked.) I have a short attention span. The game needs to be pretty straightforward for me to really get into. And if it’s kinda loud at the same time, all the better.

So, as we were walking around the very back part of the casino, we came upon some machines that had four different games on one screen. Initially, I tried doing that. But two spins in and I was completely befuddled. And losing way too much money way too fast. When you’re only playing with $40 and each spin costs $2.40 – well, you’re not going to be playing very long. So, I narrowed it down to one game. Buffalo Gold. I didn’t really choose that game. I chose “1 Game,” and that’s what happens to be considered the first game. So, I started spinning. Three spins in, I have three out of the five reels with buffalo on them. And the game lets out this loud yell, “BUFFALO!” Well, hello, Pete! I’m loving it now! And it told me that I had a “Big Win.” I’ll be honest. I did well on that machine for quite a while. Betting $.60 on each spin, starting out with $40, I was up to $225. I knew that I should stop. I knew that I was going down hard if I kept going. But I got greedy and felt the need to get to $250. Stupid, stupid, stupid! So, you read that bit about the last $3 on the Willie Wonka game, right? Yeah, that’s how my night ended. I gave my paltry last few pennies on my voucher when I cashed out to Russ in hopes that he could make something positive happen. He was way smarter than I was. But… I had fun! I was sitting there yelling “BUFFALO!” at the top of my lungs, loving that winning feeling. It’s a real high. Which is where the real problem is. I do understand that completely.

I went back on Thursday afternoon. My buddy Kandy came down for the day from Wytheville, and we decided we’d try our luck while we over there eating late lunch at one of the three restaurants inside the temporary facilities. For the record, we ate at Brick’d, which was really yummy, and had the sweetest server named Joni. So there’s my food review, lol! And – I lost $40 – I was only ever up to $36 or $37 once I started the descent. She fared far better than I did and had more than doubled her $20 at one point, but had to go for $50, and down she went. But again, we had a good time. We sat there yelling “BUFFALO,” eventually even when we weren’t getting any of the animals showing on the reels, just because it was fun and we’re goofy that way. Yes, we’re both easily amused. Will I go again? Yes, but not for a few weeks. I have so much going on and coming up, that there’s just no time to even think about it. Well, there’s time to think about it, I guess. Because I did dream last night about it, and woke myself up, internally yelling “BUFFALO!”

What I’m really looking forward to, what I’ve been jazzed about since the very get-go of all of this casino business, is the music that I’m hoping will be drawn to the area when the fully established Hard Rock is complete. An indoor music venue that seats 2,000. And an outdoor amphitheater that seats 20,000? I can’t even wrap my head around that happening in Bristol. But I’m holding out for it. That will really be something to yell about!