When you think of Louisiana, one tends to think of the humidity, Mardi Gras, and the coast. Visiting the place for gambling is hardly first on the list. However, Louisiana has a number of different forms of gambling, ranging from slots to poker to pari-mutuel betting on racing. There are a few Indian casinos, but if you are going to visit Louisiana casinos, check out the riverboat casinos for something special. There are also video poker terminals, as well as poker tournaments and other card games, so there is a variety of gambling available.
Of special note, however, is the bingo. In Louisiana, certain games are proscribed for charitable fundraising only. That is, the organization running the game must be doing so for some sort of charity (Indian casinos are exempt from this, but only if federally recognized). Bingo, keno, pull tabs, and casino nights are all proscribed for charities only, with all the other types of gaming available for everyone else.
Because of this, the various charitable organizations have a number of ways to raise funds reasonably quickly, and with little interference from gambling companies. However, there are still a number of different forms of bingo in Louisiana, ranging from the standard form involving a caller, to electronic and televised versions. Keno is also used by a number of organizations, and raffle tickets and pull tabs find their uses as well.
From a gambler’s perspective, this may make it seem like they are small potatoes, but some of the purses get large enough that it makes it worth anyone’s time. Also, the pull tabs may be limited to runs of 4000 with a maximum jackpot of $500, but some have progressive jackpots that get bigger with each run. In short, charity gaming holds some promise for even the professional gambler.
And all of this because of a mispronunciation. When the game originally started, back in 1530, it was a state-run lottery in Italy known as the “lo gluco de lotto” (which is still held every Saturday). When it migrated to France, “le lotto” was in form better known to us today, with tokens, cards, and the numbers being called out. Through the 1800’s, it migrated across Europe, evolving as it went (for example, one form had three rows of five numbers each and nine columns of ten numbers each, and the announcer would draw a number from 1-90).
Eventually, in 1929, a game called “BEANO” (using a cardboard card, a rubber stamp, and dried beans) was played at a carnival near Atlanta, Georgia, where the players yelled “BEANO!” if they filled in a line. Edwin Lowe, a New York toy salesmen, saw the game and introduced the game to his friends. One of his female friends was reportedly so excited that she yelled “BINGO!” instead. “Lowe’s Bingo” was soon popular, and Lowe charged competitors a dollar so they could call their games Bingo as well. By the 1940’s bingo games had sprung up just about everywhere, and it is still easy to find a game rather easily.
If you get bored of the gambling, or just want a bit of fresh air, Louisiana has a lot to entrance the wandering tourist. As Louisiana was one of the few non-English colonies, it can be interesting just to walk around and see the differences in architecture and place names. The beaches are peaceful, protected from the Atlantic by the Florida peninsula and the Caribbean islands. However, be on guard against the humidity, which seems to permeate everything and contribute to the laid-back atmosphere; after all, it seems to warm and wet to be in a hurry to get anywhere. It is also capable of causing physical distress, especially if you’re not used to it, so make sure that you take it easy for the first few days that you are there, and drink plenty of fluids.
The lodgings have the usual variety in inns, hotels, and motels, but make sure that you choose a place with air conditioning, even if you don’t plan on getting much sleep. Also, take note of the dates of Mardi Gras and plan accordingly, or you may be dealing with throngs of party-goers, which can be more than distraction to someone trying to enjoy less physical pursuits, and definitely in New Orleans. Definitely be aware of the local weather, as Louisiana is susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms, which can inhibit travel to and from the state, especially if Baton Rouge and Shreveport are your destinations.
The dining can be incredible, just remember that milk is the best cure for blackened cuisine, and feel free to dive into the local cuisine. Keep in mind that, being a coastal state, Louisiana has some of the best seafood, and remember to try the crawdad gumbo. Be aware also that there are a number of incredible local taverns, each with their own unique drinks, appetizers, and foods (such as alligator fillets), so a tavern crawl may be in order.
Transportation can be an issue, but it can also be a tourist’s dream. If you really want to get a great view of local tourism, stick to the waters, as nothing beats sitting back on a riverboat, or feeling the sea breeze from a motorboat. The local roads are decent, but make sure that you have a good map or you may get lost on the back roads. Of course, getting lost in Louisiana (especially around Baton Rouge and Bossier City) can sometimes be fun and adventuresome to do, so remember to pack a lunch if you’re going to do any driving.
Stepping off the plane onto the gate at Louisiana can be like stepping into another world. Be prepared a range of new experiences, realize that there are some perils and plan for them, and enjoying your time can be highly pleasurable.
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