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By Janelle Eckardt         

November 1, 2008 (Alpine) - I
firmly believe that we make our own luck. We each control how we react to different
situations, therefore we play a hand in the ultimate outcome of any given scenario.
If we’re
lucky, we come out on top as clear victors--though sometimes we hit when we
should have stayed and lose our entire pot. The majority of the time, however,
we simply enjoy the fact we’re still in the game. I also believe in reading
signs and rewarding yourself when you deserve it. Now, it has been my experience
that these two philosophies work really well in building a happy life. But
I had to wonder how they’d pan out as actual gambling tactics. When looking
the dealer in the eye, do we really control the fate of our hand, or are we
at the mercy of the deck?

I wanted answers, and I found them at Viejas.

While I appreciate the bright
lights and stimulating colors of slot machines, I’m a card girl all the

push a button and hold your breathe when you can pick how many cards you get,
and what to do with them? The only problem I usually have with playing card
tables at most casinos is that instead of staring in awe at the perfect blackjack
or royal flush laying before me, my eyes are transfixed in horror at the massive
wads of what I can only pray is bubble gum stuck to the underside of the table--because
I sit too low to even see the hand I’m dealt. This
height barrier, my friends, does not make for effective betting. Luckily, many
casinos like Viejas understand the needs of the height-impaired and now provide
a number of low card tables that are wheelchair-accessible. Slot machines are
also more accessible then they’ve ever been, with removable chairs and
buttons replacing
the iconic pull-handle of old.

I’ve played at casinos across the West
Coast, and have noticed that much has changed in the way of accessibility accommodations
within the last five years. In San Diego especially, tribal-owned casinos have
largely gone above and beyond recognizing federal laws (like ADA regulations)
that they may be immune to in some instances. For example, The Disability and
Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) notes that if a casino is wholly
owned and operated by the tribal government, then it is not liable for ADA-standard
accommodations. So how does Viejas Casino fare on my accessibility meter? Pretty
darn well, I must say.

The layout of the casino is quite easy to navigate,
and the intriguing design elements that morph from one section to the next
invite guests to explore the entire premise. The huge tree that branches out
into a perpetual evening sky in the center of the main room complements the
blinking lights and loud noises of the slot machines, even though I cannot
rationalize why. In comparison to other local casinos, the non-smoking section
in Viejas is quite large and notably more successful in actually quarantining
the smoke.

After surveying my options
and watching a member of my company lose the last of his stash to the new slot
game, King Kong Cash, I had an itch to try my home-made luck at the blackjack
table. I brought twenty dollars to gamble with, and was fairly confident I
could trade it in for something better. The only luck I needed, however, was
getting a seat at one of two accessible blackjack tables in the section we
were in. Ironically, the two designated accessible tables were completely full,
while three standard tables with the same minimum bet sat empty. After circling
like vultures for ten minutes or so, my nurse and I swept into a seat and braced
ourselves for victory. This is the part where I could claim my right to use
poetic license and tell you, yes, my two favorite philosophies are worth their
weight in gold, and I’m writing
this column from a beach in the South of Spain … I could, but I won’t.
The truth is I played my twenty dollars at a five-dollar-minimum table for
30+ minutes and came out perfectly even. This outcome is respectable; this
outcome screams L-U-C-K from where I sit.

I was lucky this trip – I enjoyed
almost an hour of hard-core playing time without so much as losing an eyelash – I’m
only sorry I wasn’t
as lucky for the rest of my company. Viejas Casino does justice to its modern
elegant design by providing a space that is accessible and accommodating. The
casino staff is incredibly helpful, and will even ask seated table players
to move if a handicapped guest asks for a seat. But again, you have to be willing
to ask. Ultimately, the lowered tables are intended for guests who have mobility
impairments, and should be available to them at all times. I suppose these
few tables are hot commodities because not only are they always full, but they
are coveted by the non-mobility-impaired guests as well. As awkward as it is
to insist that someone give up his/her seat for us, it’s our only option
right now. Until casinos figure out that, in fact, most players seem to prefer
low tables, and act on popular demand, disabled guests must put on their best
poker faces and call the bluff.

After all, you can’t make your own luck
unless you have a table at which to play.      

Eckardt graduated last year from UCSD with a B.A. in English literature. She
is currently feeling out her place in “the real world,” while
simultaneously devising a formula for Guinness-flavored lip gloss. Janelle
is a native of this most beautiful of counties, and is absolutely bent on showing
it off to the world: bumpy sidewalks and all. And if she knows anything, it
is this: bucket lists are for procrastinators–live as though you are…living.