Gambling across borders

A blog about the productive life of risk

Posts Tagged ‘Nova Gorica

Losing is a winning game

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Not all gamblers are the same. I am told that very few know how to lose. Best poker players rarely tell stories about their winning hands. Why? Because winning is expected from them; knowing how to lose with dignity is what earns them respect.

Playing styles reveal much more than just individual preferences. The difference between embracing chance on the one hand and counting odds and probabilities on the other marked the end of an era: out went the aristocratic gambler and in came the rational player with carefully honed skill. The age of Enlightenment gave us a player who didn’t only play for fun: their ambition was to earn money. 18th century French aristocracy was shocked to see this new breed: educated bourgeoisie that played safe and showed neither heart nor interest in proving how much they can afford to lose.

Perla Casino in Nova Gorica (Slovenia) dubbed the European Las Vegas

Perla Casino in Nova Gorica (Slovenia) dubbed the European Las Vegas

Yet, the aristocratic gambler lives on. Stories about people losing half a million pounds on a roulette table impress us. Is it the amount being lost? Or their ability to survive this loss? Top gamblers say that only pure chance games count. They never know when they might lose and there is nothing they can to do influence that. For them, losing big money is where they build character. I was told by my casino informants in Nova Gorica (Slovenia) that a Russian high roller, after having lost more money than they had ever seen, requested the following: to thrash the private room to the ground and, of course, pay for the incurred damage. He still had money for such an extravagance. The equation is simple: the more you can afford to lose, the richer and more powerful you are.

Like a fledgling business, calculated gambling can earn you some cash here and there. Pure chance playing, on the other hand, is the game of big and old money. The more you don’t care to lose, the more you actually have: so I am told.


Written by Andrea Pisac

June 19, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Borders overheating

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Our team has been working on pin-pointing the ‘gambling heat’ around the world: for example, which are the most studied field sites, which academic centres produce most knowledge on gambling and where most gambling conferences take place. The term heat indicates something fairly simple: where the gambling action is. And by this, we mean both the production and consumption of gambling as well as the ‘thinking’ about it.

Three ‘heated’ places, for anyone following the news on gambling, would be Las Vegas, Nova Gorica (Slovenian gambling Mecca but also dubbed ‘European Las Vegas) and from recently Macau. Both in the language of natural sciences and, metaphorically, in the social sciences as well, heat easily moves around, ripples out and affects the surrounding area. Gambling heat is no different: it is ever-changing and it changes the environment from which it emerges. On a map, it would show in red circles around certain areas, but it would also change over time.

As I was exploring the visual representation of gambling heat in the former Yugoslavia (the case study I am working on), I noticed the following: the places with gambling heat now were heated in other ways a few decades ago. These were the borders: national and legislative in particular.


Gambling heat in the region of ex-Yugoslavia

Nova Gorica, a small town on the border between Slovenia and Italy used to be a heated place of dispute over the national borders after the WW2. Through the international arbitrage, the socialist Yugoslavia lost claim to the area in which the leading economic centre was Gorizia, now an Italian town. Its sister settlement – Nova (new) Gorica was built right on the border as a statement of perseverance. The border between these two towns was until 1989 the border between the West and the East. Any flow of people and goods was strictly monitored and controlled. It was the kind of border with barbed wires and an empty strip in-between, where many Yugoslavs were prevented from leaving their country.

And today, this very border is enabling the flow of Italian customers into Slovenian casinos. With the fall of socialism and Slovenia joining the EU, the border, it is said, is no more. Yet, the differences in fiscal and gambling regulation between Slovenia and Italy at once make and unmake it. The money and people travel freely but the motivation to do so stems from the regulatory boundary between the two countries.

The heat spreads further, and it retraces its own steps. If once Yugoslavia was turning up the heat at its international borders, committed to protect itself from ‘evil’ outside enemies, now the same areas are hot from the amount of people and money travelling across. The old-new hot border is between FYRM and Greece, a small town of Gevgelija where two large casinos attract Greek gamblers.

The seasons may change but the climate remains fairly constant…

Written by Andrea Pisac

June 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm

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