Miscellany — From the December 2015 issue

Getting to the End

Gambling and suicide in Atlantic City

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I had arrived in Atlantic City in early 1995 and immediately enrolled in what was called dealer school. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission required official certification for casino employees, and local community colleges and strip-mall campuses offered brief tutorials in blackjack, baccarat, and craps.

I made a variety of friends in dealer school, which was encouraging. I had come to believe that there was something a bit Marxist about casinos: didn’t they involve rich people losing money to penniless immigrants? My class analysis was totally wrong, of course, but I was right about the employee demographic. What’s more, the job created relationships among people who might otherwise never have found a way to dissolve the artificial sealants of race and class.

Photograph from Atlantic City, New Jersey, by Robert GumpertMy dealer-school friends included a former high-school basketball star named Les Moore, a jolly Laotian guy named Sy, a Vietnamese girl named Li who looked at people only out of the corner of her eye and called me “Mr. Chris,” and a biker chick who I’ll call Lacey, who drove up every day from Chester, Pennsylvania, where she worked in a dive bar.

I played basketball with Les on weekends, shot pool with Sy in the evenings after school, and occasionally had polite lunches with Li. Lacey had an Appalachian accent and wondrous hair that coiled to the middle of her back. I desperately wanted to sleep with her — and, sensing this, she declined my offers to ease her commute with a nap on my couch. Li was the first to get hired as a dealer, at the Taj Mahal. Les, Sy, and I took our drug tests together and signed on at Bally’s Grand. Lacey never worked as a dealer. She threw a party to celebrate her graduation from blackjack class — it was the only time she had ever graduated from anything — and a short time later, her roommate was reportedly raped and murdered in their Chester apartment.

I received this news secondhand. I never heard from Lacey again.

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