Poker, blackjack and slots: The excitement of a casino comes to Homeland


From a dining room to a casino!

Cheers from around the slot machines. Intense concentration at the poker table. Groans from the blackjack table.

If Homeland Center residents can’t go to Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo can come to them. The Homeland Board of Managers worked its magic to make it happen, creating the fun, color, and din of a casino for the annual winter party.

Red drapes framed the windows, with dangling dice as curtain tiebacks. Tables were decked in green cloths and sported play coins, dice, giant cards.

Homeland Center’s unique Board of Managers works to enhance residential life, keeping the facility bright and cheery, and regularly organizing special events. For Casino Night – held on a recent Tuesday afternoon – board members transformed Homeland’s Main Dining Room into a bustling casino floor.

“A lot of work and effort went into this,” said Julie Wilhite, attending the party with her mother, resident Ruth Taylor. “This is beautiful. This is beyond expectations. I love it.”

Lively music playing ranged from Billy Joel’s “My Life” to casino-appropriate selections from Frank Sinatra. The games were brought in by Phantom Entertainment Services, a multi-state provider of novelty entertainment. Personable dealers kept up their repartee, joking with residents, who all received chips.

PokerAt the blackjack table, chip value ranged from a pretend $50 to $1,000, depending on the color. Round after round, resident Sandy Friedman let all her chips ride until her stash ballooned to $1,600.

“I’m winning,” she said. “I like playing blackjack. I’ve been all over the world gambling with my husband. This guy’s good.”

Board of Managers member cited Joyce Thomas as the primary force behind the room’s transformation, but she wouldn’t take sole credit.

“We did it,” she emphasized. “We brought it in, and the residents just played.”

Thomas and a friend started decorating events when they were parents of Cedar Cliff High School students. These days, she fills her basement with the décor needed to transform the Main Dining Room into a themed wonderland.

“The residents love it so much,” she said. “It takes them out of the ordinary. It’s a bit of fantasy land for a week.”

Phantom Entertainment’s Adam Melhorn manned the slots area. It was his first time working an event in a retirement community.

“This is awesome,” he said. “Everyone’s really friendly. Folks are having a lot of fun.”

Residents inserted tokens into colorful slot machines with such names as Kung-Fu Lady and Zak-Zak. Resident Peggy Keiser marveled at the lights and sounds. “Oh, my gosh,” she kept saying. “This is so different.”

When it was Peggy’s turn to step up to a machine, it was her lucky day. The crowd cheered as the machine jingled with winning coins. She hit matching images so often that she finally turned to Melhorn and said, “There must be something wrong with this machine.”

SlotsAll the residents came away winners and used their chips to select prizes from a table loaded with candy, puzzle books, and stuffed toys.

Donna Longnaker watched her mother, Betty Dumas, enjoy one of her favorite pastimes – playing the slot machines.

“She used to go to Atlantic City,” Donna said. “I’m so glad they’re doing this because she really loves it.”