Gaming Palaces: Entices Gamblers the More

The handsome brick houses that housed games of chance seemed already fairly old--- in relation to the rest of the city, back in 1851.

The population of the growing metropolis confirmed the prominent stature of the establishments by regarding them as evidence of cultural achievement on the far western frontier.

Anxious to demonstrate to the East that they, too, enjoyed the refinements of civilization, San Franciscans adopted the gaming houses as an indication of taste and success.

But the West, of course, always preceded the East in the culture of public and commercial gambling.

The central gambling houses of early San Francisco marked an important turning point in styles of American betting.

They made gambling more public and commercial by turning it into a high-volume industry, and they elevated the practice above the disrepute engendered in under-the-hill dens in the old Southwest.

The glided establishments surrounding the plaza foreshadowed Las Vegas casinos by combining luxurious furnishings with a client�le composed of all classes.

And with the more wide-open styles of gaming and the brand-new setting, the nature of gambling itself changed.

Players still hoped to win, but, true to the commercial character of gambling and society in California, they looked upon betting more as a commodity with losing wagers.

Thrills that came from taking risks had become almost as important as winning, the excitement of the speedy games and the unusual surroundings combined to make even losses seem worthwhile.

The size and d�cor of the gambling saloon enhanced the enjoyment of the play. Many observers found it difficult to resist the temptations offered by the elaborate halls.

After each consuming fire, the gaming houses always 'rose from their ashes more beautiful and more magnificent' than before. The chandeliers and glassware seemed more radiant, the food and drink more plentiful, the women and music more charming, and the paintings of nudes more suggestive.

Running all day, all night, all week long, the palaces provided every inducement that might attract bettors into the room.

Piles of gold atop the gaming tables no doubt constituted the primary appeal, but they were supplemented by every device that art could suggest to swell the custom of the establishment: 'once the Rubicon of temptation is passed, the dazzled vision vanquishes all virtuous resolves, tinges the acquisitive senses, and those who came to scoff remain to play.'

The effectiveness of the unusual setting was heightened by comparison to the rude surroundings. San Franciscans wagered in style even while they resided in crude hotels and canvas hotels.

Such temptations were irresistible to Argonauts and, once inside, they found themselves drawn to the gambling tables, too.