Germany offers upscale gambling options off base
January 30, 2008
STUTTGART, Germany — The room is surprisingly quiet. The people inside are well-dressed. It’s like being at church, or at a board of directors’ meeting.
There is no music, only the murmur of conversation and the clacking sound of little metal balls bouncing into spinning roulette wheels.
“Funf und zwanzig,” says the dealer gently to those gathered around his table. The little metal ball has dropped into number “25.”
Spielbank Stuttgart is one of several dozen casinos in Germany, owned and operated by the German government. It has a dozen or so roulette tables, some for standing and others for sitting. There are blackjack tables, too, and a room for baccarat.
Gambling and sports-betting are legal in Germany. Spielbanks, or gambling casinos, are one of the choices Americans have to get their gambling fix off post if Congress outlaws gaming machines on U.S. military installations, as a current bill proposes.
The German casinos are high-brow compared to the gaming rooms on military bases. Men are required to wear a jacket and tie. Women dress accordingly.
Instead of slipping coins or a debit card into a video slot machine on post, pricey gambling chips represent currency at German casinos. The cheapest chip costs 2 euros, or about $2.90. Players can also purchase chips at 5-, 10-, 20-, 50- and 100-euros, then take their stack of chips to the nearest table and try their luck.
After calling out “funf und zwanzig,” the dealer places a shot glass on the number “25” square, and then rakes away all the losing chips from the table.
Winning bettors — those who laid a chip on or adjacent to “25,” or who picked “red,” “odd,” “third-12,” or left-most row — are then rewarded. A few people win; most lose.
Then the next round starts, and bettors place fresh bets on the blue felt table until the dealer proclaims, “nicht gemehr,” or no more bets, just before the ball drops into the winning slot.
The Stuttgart casino feels formal. Men in tuxedos do the dealing while others in tuxedos float among the crowd keeping an eye on things.
There is a classy, European-style cafe where coffee, tea and alcoholic drinks can be purchased. Off to the side of the sleek, modern-decor gambling room, which is about the size of a basketball court, there are sleek lounges in which to sit and relax.
For those who don’t want to get all dressed up to gamble their money, Germany has working-class gambling venues, too.
Many bars and small restaurants have the very type of video slot machines that might be removed from U.S. installations. In these places, customers can just sit and play in peace, or enjoy a plate of schnitzel or mug of beer during their gambling foray.
Most cities have Spiel centers that, in addition to the most modern video slot machines, feature electronic games of chance such as video roulette.
Small stores offer “lotto” games just like back in the States, where an ultra-lucky guesser can, for example, pick six numbers out of 49 and win a few million euros.
Sports betting parlors take bets on dozens of sports from around the world, including Formula One racing, cricket, alpine skiing and, of course, soccer.