Gambling across borders

A blog about the productive life of risk

Posts Tagged ‘Krk

Taking a Chance on Data

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In December 2012 I set out to explore the site of what once was a Penthouse casino on the Croatian island of Krk. I had only one piece of information: in 1972 an American-run casino operated for a couple of years in a luxurious hotel on the Croatian coast. Then it was closed. My search through archives and historical records provided little further insight. Counting on word of mouth as the best strategy to learn things in this part of the world, I decided on a different route: I started asking around.

A good friend of mine whose family originates from the island of Krk offered a helping hand. He too has heard of the infamous but long forgotten casino. It was part of the prestigious Hotel Palace in Haludovo, today known mostly for being in the state of utter dilapidation. We set out to look for more friends – the locals – who would navigate us in this inquiry.

Once we told people what we were looking for, a peculiar thing happened: many remembered the days of American gamblers being flown on junkets to Haludovo, but most of them wouldn’t say much more than that.

Our local guide arranged meetings with several women who worked as waitresses in the hotel. They greeted us into their houses and offered coffee and cake. I listened to the stories of how people lost jobs once the nationalisation of money and property begin after the fall of socialism. They were sad stories: people felt they had lost more than just a regular pay-cheque. When the steam was let out, I gently asked: ‘and what about the time before, when the Penthouse casino was running?’

In each house my question grew more ominous: it produced no insights, only silence. The lack of words and the lowered looks were the only information I gathered on my trip to Krk. The absence of memories spoke more loudly of the Penthouse casino significance than the anger the locals had for todays market-based economy challenges. As we left the last house we visited, the woman set us off with a warning: ‘you won’t get any of the Penthouse Pets (girls who worked as croupiers) talk to you, they are grandmas now, ashamed of what they did in those days.’

With nothing but silence as data, I went to the crumbling Palace Hotel. Just like people, the building offered only traces of the times past: broken windows, destroyed hotel rooms, wrecked piano bar. I transformed from being an anthropologist into being an archeologist. I walked through this sinister place, left with no one to talk to, only with my own impressions of what things were like in the golden days of the Penthouse casino.

Can no data still be data? I look for the answer in the film I made while strolling around the hotel ruins.

The film has been selected for the ‘Totally Lost’ exhibition, held in Forlì, 4-16 June 2013 in the ex deposito delle corriere ATR, in Piazzetta Savonarola 2.


Written by Andrea Pisac

June 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Posted in News

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