Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

Related Topics

Outlaws: Crime in Philadelphia
Even the criminals, the courts and the prisons of this town have a Philadelphia distinctiveness. The underworld has its own version of history.

Conventions and Convention Centers
When you have a big convention center, some circus is always coming to town. Philadelphia has always been a convention town, has had and still has lots of convention sites, and hopes to have more of the kind of famous convention we have had in the past.

Architecture in Philadelphia
Originating in a limitless forest, wooden structures became a "Red City" of brick after a few fires. Then a succession of gifted architects shaped the city as Greek Revival, then French. Modern architecture now responds as much to population sociology as artistic genius. Take a look at the current "green building" movement.

New Jersey (State of)
The Garden State really has two different states of mind. The motto is Liberty and Prosperity.

Trapped in a Casino

Everyone who reads a detective novel or sees a James Bond movie is familiar with secret passages and hidden protection devices that suddenly trap the unwary. You aren't supposed to know about these things, but in real life, lots of people have had to know the secret, because it takes builders, architects and workmen to create it. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian emperors may have buried workmen alive to preserve the secret of secret passages, but nowadays that sort of thing is discouraged.


Since nowadays gambling casinos are bought and sold like a bottle of milk, some of the people who just have to be told the secrets of casinos are real estate appraisers; from one of them, the following tidbit derives. Casinos try not to have any windows, so the serious slot machine players won't notice the passage of time, and maybe gamble all night when so inclined. It is, therefore, no surprise the ceilings and walls are usually mirrored, to make these windowless caverns seem gay and cheerful. The casino operator doesn't want anyone to go home for any reason other than running out of money, and depends heavily on the wisdom of Adam Smith, who once said, "The more you gamble, the more certain you are to lose."

{Adam Smith}
Adam Smith

Unfortunately, these palaces of pleasure attract a fair number of cheaters, who attempt to win by memorizing the cards that have been played and changing their bets with the changing odds of what remains unplayed in the deck ("card counters"). Others are more mechanically talented and drill holes into the works of slot machines with battery-driven portable drills, for later accomplices to insert metal rods into vital wheels and whatnot on the inside. And so on. So, the mirrors on the ceiling are one-way mirrors, with people observing what goes on below, and cameras recording every action of everybody. In this modern age, some casinos can bring up videos of what happened on a particular machine at a given time, several years ago. This elaborate recorded surveillance can be used to unravel the activities of visiting crooks, who quite often do their work over a period of some time, coming back to the same machine for another step in their fiendish schemes. Now, there's another consideration at play here. The casino operator does not want a commotion on the gambling floor when some crook is accosted, because that tends to divert dozens of gambling addicts from their incessant gambling in order to watch the excitement. This would definitely be a violation of Adam Smith's law of gambling, and hence would subtract from the value of stopping the crook who was caught. No good.

{Casino Video Surveillance}
Casino Video Surveillance

So, the merry men up above on the other side of the mirrored ceiling will merely watch and record the activity of the miscreant below, apparently letting him get away with it. But sooner or later the crook has stolen enough or has to go the bathroom, or for some other reason leaves the casino floor. Bang, the door behind him closes and locks, and the door on the other side of the trap is also locked. Thus, without any fuss or muss (maybe) the crook is observed by witnesses, recorded on camera, and tucked away in a security chamber until such time as the security guards can arrive to advise him of the management's disapproval of his behavior. Just exactly what does happen when one of these people is caught is not something they need to tell a real estate appraiser, so, unfortunately, I have to leave it to your imagination.

Originally published: Wednesday, May 21, 2008; most-recently modified: Friday, June 07, 2019