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Max Brand



13 September – 8 November


The hotel Lisboa is the first port of call. From the outside it’s a large building with a kind of electric pumpkin at the base. On the other side of the road is the Grand Lisboa which is also part casino, part hotel, part unimaginable. The two are linked by a passageway that passes beneath the road for ease of access.


In the lobby is a desperate spectacle of opulence. Chandeliers, water features swooped on by ceramic eagles, gratuitously detailed carvings emerging out of organic hoods of jade, blocky concrete sculptures, vases, encrusted stuffed peacocks in vitrines, etc. Of course all this ornamentation serves one main purpose and that’s to get you horny for all the money you might win downstairs.


I take the escalator down to the casino past a kind of casual looking security checkpoint. The first room is principally jackpot machines. They have all kinds of alluring names. Fortune Cat, Bank-Buster (picture of a pig in a police outfit), Golden Goals and Cinderella. There is something for almost every kind of fortune seeking protagonist here, whatever their chosen fantasy genre.


Beside the machines are the bankers dealing out chips on green tables for some generic looking gambling game. I take the escalator down and find myself in another very similar hall. There is free tea on offer to keep the clients wired enough, but its the staff who look most tired.


A treasure chest revolves on a spinning disc in front of the chips dispensers. What silly pirate left it there? Feeling like I have had impression enough I decide to make my way toward the exit. It’s harder than I thought to leave. What I thought was the exit leads to another similar hall as does the next escalator and the next. It dawns on me the sheer scale of this place. I submit to being lost and take a look around yet another room purpose built for gambling. This is the most curious of all the rooms. In the middle of it is an oversized glowing egg, it cycles between greens, reds, pinks, blues. A colour for every mood perhaps? It sits on what can only be described as a jewel studded lipstick base and its place in the centre asserts it as the psychic epicentre of this hive.


It’s raining hard outside but I decide to fit in a couple more casinos now I have a point of comparison. The Presidents Casino was pretty low key. Less ostentation then I had come to expect. A few showy ornaments in the lobby, that’s it really. Upstairs was a tired smoking den, seedy but non-threatening.


It might once have been a prouder place, hinted at by a royal red that one can see through squinting amidst the carpet's camouflage of stains. As there is very little to look at, I leave as quickly as I entered.


Ryan Siegan Smith

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