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Remington Park Casino at 3 A.M.

6:31 AM EDT on August 30, 2018

Remington Park, 3 a.m.

It was a chilly April night, only a few weeks before a cerebral hemorrhage tried to take my life, and, more importantly,  miss the deadline for this story. The casino side of the parking lot is full of cars, but there’s not a single soul hanging around outside. But inside…inside a large enough contingency is hanging out in the air conditioning, wired all night on free soda pop and costly ciggs while robotically pushing buttons on the slot machines as the city sleeps around them.

And I’m right there with them...

Casino culture, with all its rules and regulations, is a strange enough lifestyle choice to fall into, but even the lives of the daytime players pales in comparison to those sleepless vampires that come out at 3 a.m. The hardcore gambling addicts, the wicked somnambulists and the eagerly effusive just looking for something to do, head to Remington Park this late into the night, playing until the sun comes up, winning or losing never meaning much to anyone.

The casino is relatively quiet tonight, or maybe it is every night. Sure, you have the constant buzzers and invasive bells going off with regular precision, but no one is talking, no one is laughing, no one seems all that happy to be here. I walk around the gaming tables and vaunted slots, ignored by just about everyone. As I sit down at a Liberty 7’s machine, a woman next to me wins a couple thousand bucks playing dimes. If I won even a scant few dollars, I’d be ecstatic; she just sighs with a Virginia Slims dangling out of her mouth, continuing to bet her winnings down to nothing.

But that’s how you do it, I guess. You gotta spend money to make money, right?

Even if I don’t win any cash, at least they got that free all-you-can-drink soda pop. Coke, Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, Diet Dr. Pepper…it’s all there, along with coffee and tea. Just grab a non-recyclable styrofoam cup and keep filling it up until to your heart is contently swimming in a sea of cheap caffeine. It’s amazing that people don’t take greater advantage of it, I say to myself as I pour my fourth Diet Dr. Pepper.

Probably the best thing about Remington Park at 3 a.m., as I’m slowly learning, is the ability to unapologetically be your true self. Whether you’re a fat dude in a plush jogging suit with a Daniel Boone cap or a fly-guy in a purple pinstripe zoot-suit complete with oversized fedora, a sexy chick with six-shooter high-heels and a curvaceous Puerto Rican flag mini-skirt or a plain old grandma with tight sweatpants and a tighter halter top, it’s come as you and as you want to be. It’s very comforting.

Digging deep in my pockets, I rustled up $20 to blow on some machine, for the sake of journalistic integrity, of course. Finding a well-worn seat at a game my mother’s always seem to have had luck with, Vibrant 7s, I put in my Remington Park Player’s Club card (pro tip: always use your Remington Park Player’s Club card) and slid that stiff twenty inside like a sexual dynamo, with almost immediate pangs of guilt settling in, obsessively thinking of what bills I could’ve—or shoud’ve—paid with it instead.

It was too late now.

Betting nickels and dimes, I watched as that double-sawbuck dwindled in value. When I got to about nine or ten dollars, I actually hit some of those “vibrant 7s” and made a few bucks back. Excited, instead of taking my winnings and leaving, the gambler’s monkey was riding my back and whipping me viciously, whispering in my ear to keep hitting and hitting it hard; this was my night and this was my machine. I started betting quarters, half-pieces and even dollars, hoping praying and wishing for that big payout.

By the time I was done, all I had to my name was twenty cents. Twenty bucks to twenty cents. Ain’t that a kick in the head?

A little morose, a little depressed, I hung my head low and sauntered over to the Round the Clock snack-bar, Remington Park’s 24-hour paean to hungry losers looking to eat their pain away, selling bags of chips and cookies and so on. A quick glance at the board, I ordered a Monty Cristo sandwich, which was pretty good for casino fare. The ham and jelly and powdered-sugar concoction was enough to lift me and my substantial girth out of the doldrums, for the most part.

I looked at my phone, however, and it was nearly five o’clock. I sat around for a few more minutes, sipping my drink, but, truth be told, I was even kind of sick of it by now. The second-hand smoke wasn’t helping matters either, so I got up and left my pay-out for twenty cents there on the table. Hopefully someone could use it, I thought, sniffing the smoke on my shirt collar the long way down the escalator to the parking lot.

In Oklahoma City, so many of us lament the fact there’s really nothing to do after 2 a.m. when the bars close, nowhere to go but home. Maybe some late-night television and a badly microwaved Hot Pocket are waiting for you. But, maybe that pepperoni pouch will have to wait a little bit longer; there’s always the low-pitch excitement and deadened worldview of Remington Park’s Casino, going deep into the dank of night and even deeper into the seams of your wallet.

I didn’t say it’s good, but it’s something to do. Just make sure you bring more than twenty bucks, alright?

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 Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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