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Glimpses of Greece:
Crisis Cash Flow

One day recently, as I was walking through Omonoia Square with all its druggies and hustlers, I noticed something unusual.  Next to the police truck was the tourist bus, but next to that was another bus, a shiny red one labelled “Loutraki Casino”.  It had mainly pensioners filing in, and keenly.


Intrigued, I asked the bus driver for some details, and I decided to join them.  It turns out that the Athens casino is actually 70 kms out of the city, at Loutraki seaside resort.  A leisurely one-hour ride later, and we were there.


So this is the Greek crisis in action.  Hundreds of people flitting money away like there’s no tomorrow, and on a weekday.  One wonders what happens on the weekends!  I actually saw one man (and no, I am not making this up) lose €25,000 in 15 minutes.  But most of the betting I saw was in small amounts.


Still, it begs the question: is the crisis over-rated?  It is indeed the pensioners (and public servants) who whinge the most about the economic situation.  In the casino, yes, I saw some rich people and some hardcore addicted gamblers, but I also saw plenty of pensioners and other “ordinary people”.  And I wasn’t hearing too many celebratory yelps either.


In fact, it was a strikingly “neutral” atmosphere in there.  Rows of poker machine players, with their poker faces, sitting patiently waiting for a jackpot.  And then others at the roulette wheels, marking down the resultant numbers on their cards, like scientists noting down lab results.  Willing participants in these games of chance, and no doubt losing more than winning.


The casino can be seen as these people’s “recreation”.  Instead of going to bars, restaurants, theatres, football games.  Has the crisis stopped people from going out?  You can bet your bottom dollar that it hasn’t!  These bars, restaurants, theatres and football stadiums are filled every night!


I have heard some alarmist statements in this time.  That Greece will soon be like it was during the wars, or the Great Depression, that there will be nothing to eat.  Really?  Excuse me for being cynical, but I don’t see it.


Let’s face it, Western Culture is obsessed with money.  The capitalist ethos is such that people complain when there is even a slight downturn in profit.  And then they overspend and complain about their debt.


The only sympathy I feel is for the people who are genuinely affected by the crisis, and I would estimate that to be about 10% of the population, people like small business owners.  As for the rest of the population, sure, there is a little fear, but, really, the crisis just gives them something to grumble about.


The “Greek dream”, of enjoying food, wine, song, the weather – this dream is alive and well.  I’m afraid corruption and exploitation are far greater worries for Greece than this crisis.


Crisis?  What crisis? All aboard the casino bus!

© Bill Mousoulis 2010
This article first appeared in Neos Kosmos, 2010.