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12 Hours in the Montreal Casino

The night I was born, my father rushed home for a hockey game. He had money on the Boston Bruins. “What a bad night,” he likes to say, cursing goaltender Gerry Cheevers.

Despite this potentially inauspicious start, I’ve never been afraid to gamble. I don’t, however, like casinos: polka-vested dealers, germ-laden chips and large crowds always killed the appeal. Lately, though, I’ve been hearing a lot about them. Cities like Toronto and Miami have been debating their pros and cons.

Is legalized gambling a negative societal influence or a harmless boost to a city’s finances? I had no idea where I stood and was curious.

To inform my stance, I spent a day at the Montreal casino.

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Montreal Stinks

I once thought my wife was part greyhound.

“Do you smell that?” She’d ask me, pointing vaguely at some unseen presence. “It’s horrible. You really can’t smell it?” She’d insist, like someone having a nervous breakdown. Her borderline supernatural sense of smell has, in her mind, forever linked entire cities with odors and stenches: Florence (dog shit), London (urine and beer), Barcelona (sewage), Paris (car fires). My nose has never been strong enough to refute her (it may be for decorative purposes only), so I’ve often wondered if she was right. Could cities have a signature scent?

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An Immodest Proposal

Turn onto Mont-Royal from St-Laurent, and you can see it, that gloomy, melancholic phallic symbol thrust up into the air. Continue moving east, and it gets harder and harder to avoid, looming over streets, potholes and crumbling infrastructure like a proud father. From a distance, then, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is a success; it is the Eiffel Tower-like structure that former mayor Jean Drapeau hoped it would become.

Look a bit closer, though, and cracks start appearing.

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