My Month on the Boulder Strip

The Boulder Strip gaming market is a division used by the Nevada Gaming Commission for a segment of the casino industry in Las Vegas Nevada. The region is named for the Boulder Highway which is the dominant highway in the region. It’s also a crazy place.

Boulder Strip “proper” is the area between Eastside Cannary and Boulder Station. Sam’s Town is in the middle of the Boulder Strip and is the area’s largest casino. There are a large number of extended stay motels scattered along the Boulder Strip.  The “Strip” area is represented by a large transient population. Its also a typically suburban neighbourhood which includes a Wal-Mart, McDonalds & Yum Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut).  There’s a Starbucks in Boulder Station and another one at the corner of Tropicana & Boulder just south of the Strip.

I stayed for a month at Arizona Charlie’s and my daily average room rate was $26.87 from Hotels.com. I carried just over $9,000 in my backpack as I went about my day.  Each day I would encounter many beggars who were asking for change. The weekends are especially boisterous on the Boulder Strip as revealers fill the motel rooms. My plan was to complete training for the Las Vegas marathon by mid-month and then play promotions at Sam’s Town.

During the month of November, “B Connected” members, which is Boyd Gaming’s main players club, received $5 of freeplay for every 50 points earned on Thursday to Sunday at Sam’s Town.  This amounts to an extra 1% for video poker players.  This promotion alone put many video poker games at Sam’s Town over 100% including some higher denominations. On Friday and Sunday, video poker players also received 7X points.  This adds another 0.70% for video poker players.  The best game for me becomes “Progressive 9/6 Jacks or Better”.  This game at Sam’s Town is one of the best video poker games in the world. It has a the lowest variance and a high base game return. Due to the high volume of play, the progressive level almost always makes the base game return over 100%. I play with a $5,000 bankroll for quarters and a $20,000 bankroll for dollars. On quarters, this game yields 2.5 cents per hand. I play 400 hands per hour which pays $10 per hour which brings the overall bankroll yield to $160 per week at 16 hours per week or 160% annualized. Its a great rate of return, but its boring…

I encountered many prostitutes & pimps during my month on the Boulder Strip. Walking home one afternoon following dinner, I was asked if I would sell my leftover chicken. I saw a tattooed motor biker chase a guy on a pedal bike into a parking lot and disappear.  I watched a gun fight from 7-11 on the “corner” where a new batch of maniacs fight with each other every night.  I didn’t hit any royal flushes, but I did make friends with Kevin, who asks for change on the street, and who also receives $700 per month from the state of Nevada and is enrolled in Medicaid. It isn’t a lack of financial resources that keeps Kevin sleeping in shelters, his problem is he has no friends, poor relationships with his family, and a weak tolerance for temptation. Kevin relies on Jesus to help guide him and he hopes that one day he will be an entrepreneur.

Gambling and Homelessness

I was very disappointed to read an article published in the National Post referencing a study published in the Journal of Gambling Studies since the article misrepresents gambling addiction.  The National Post article, referenced below, implies that problem gambling is a cause of homelessness. This is a misrepresentation because the homeless are more likely to have all sorts of problem addictions including various drugs and alcohol.  Gambling is not a cause of homelessness, but gambling addictions are the outcome of the challenges that the homeless have.  Also, those who struggle with addiction are also much more likely to struggle with more than one addiction. The addictions are an outcome of other mental illness.

Articles such as the one published in the National Post imply that if we reduce gambling, then we can reduce homelessness. But this logic is flawed because it’s not gambling addictions that are causing homelessness, but rather, addictions or all sorts are the outcome of other mental illness which is the root cause of homelessness.

As per the two articles below, about 35% of the homeless are estimated to have had a gambling problem, but 50% of the homeless also have alcohol or other substance abuse. The addictions are an outcome of other mental illness.