Harry Says Chapter 4: Casino Byzantium

When the crowds were gone Porky sometimes liked to survey his domain, Casino Byzantium.  Others might call it Porky’s Palace and Porky didn’t mind that, but in his own mind it was always Casino Byzantium.  Casino Byzantium was situated in a large converted warehouse in London’s docklands.  The original building had some of the grandeur and confidence that marked nineteenth-century industrial architecture.  There was a touch of the Renaissance palazzo despite the mundane purpose for which the building was built.  Porky had not changed the exterior much (the building was listed anyway) but had transformed the inside.  The first two floors were devoted to the casino and the upper floors housed offices and Porky’s apartment.  Porky’s apartment was remarkable in its own right as adapting living accommodation to the needs of a large member of the peccary family had not been easy.  It had been expensive, but worth it.

The first thing the visitor to Casino Byzantium noticed was the entrance doors.  They were still the original doors and were huge and gold.  Not solid gold of course, but covered with gold.  Not only that, but they had carved panels.  Each door had four panels on the theme of Lady Luck.  Porky had commissioned them personally from a local artist.  Once the punter made it through the doors, and you can bet they were already impressed, they moved into the lobby.  The lobby was a spacious area carpeted in luxurious red.  A marble staircase – Italian marble – led to the first floor.  In a classy touch, the carpet did not go up to the sides of the stairs but was held on about a foot from the edge with brass clips.  The stairs led to the main area of the casino.  To both the right and the left of the stairs on the ground floor were areas devoted to slot machines.  Slot machines were a good earner but they weren’t very classy, so Porky had gone for a compromise.  Have the slots but have them downstairs.  Apart from anything else, people would try their luck again on the way out. Many people had lost nearly everything in the casino proper and then lost the rest on the slots.  Give it one last go.  It was, however, virtually impossible to win a serious amount on slots.

Porky liked to stand inside the doors and look around, then make his way up the stairs into the casino.  Of course making sure that he had no mud on his hooves. The carpet cost fifty newros per square metre and had been commissioned from Wilton, England’s finest bespoke commercial carpet manufacturers. The initial view of the main casino floor was designed to impress.  The casino floor was a large area with two rows of ten columns creating an aisle in the centre. The celling was very high. The columns were Corinthian and the capitals were covered with gold leaf.  The bodies of the columns were clad with alternatively green and blue marble from Italy.  The whole place had the same plush red carpet throughout.  The attention to detail was incredible.  The roulette table was carved from a single piece of an exotic hardwood from northern Thailand.   The chairs were all Italian designer. Even the backgammon board was made of rare and precious hardwoods.

The staff was handpicked to ooze class.  The croupiers, mostly female, were the best in the world.  All the girls working there were stunners, but there were no bimbos. Most of them were graduates and they all spoke at least three languages.  One third of the staff spoke fluent Arabic and four spoke Mandarin.  They were all top croupiers too.  The top guys and girls were queuing up to work at Casino Byzantium.  Porky paid the right people very well and his people stayed.  Where could they go that was better?  Plus, Porky liked to reward loyalty.  He liked to treat people well.  He had a big heart. A human heart. He was a friend to his friends and as for his enemies – well he didn’t have any.  Why make enemies when you don’t have to? Life is too short.

There were no special rooms for high rollers.  At Casino Byzantium high rollers were a normal part of the scene.  The world’s top gamblers had Casino Byzantium on their A list.  Achieving that had not been easy.  It was about a lot of things: location, ambience, staff, image, reputation, networking, financial backing.  Porky had started out as a small-time bookmaker and it had been a long journey to Casino Byzantium. Now that he was here he liked to occasionally sit back and enjoy a moment of silent satisfaction.

Porky’s wealth was only partly created by what happened on the floor of Casino Byzantium.  The real Jewel in the Crown, from the financial point of view, was his online gaming setup.  Porky had built up his business on the back of online gaming, starting with http://www.piggypoker.com.  The online part of the business was administered from offices right here in Casino Byzantium. Piggypoker might be moving towards being a thing of the past but http://www.betbyzantium.com was a major player in online gambling.  Sure, millions could be won and lost on the floor.  But tens of millions were won and lost online.  The casual punter thought that it was all online poker and stuff like that.  But the real money was in sports betting.  The Far East was awash with hundreds of millions bet on sports, and Porky had a nice slice of the action.  It was a big enough slice too. But Porky wasn’t greedy.  He was no greedy pig, though he might be a very wealthy one.

Porky liked to stand in the empty casino and take in the ambience.  He liked the silence.  If there were cleaners around he would tell them to go and take a break. Casinos were usually quite noisy places, full of the sound of people having a good time.  Even people who lost usually had the good grace to wait until they were outside before they cracked up, if that’s what they were going to do.  And quite right because everything that happened was their own choice.  Porky didn’t drag people in off the streets.  If anything he had a hard job keeping people out.  He didn’t force people to make ludicrously bad bets or adopt flawed gambling strategies.  He didn’t force people to get greedy when they were winning or desperate when they were losing.

Online gaming was good for bringing in money but there was more to life than money.  It was having a place of your own that really mattered, a place that people talked about and respected.  Somewhere where people could meet, somewhere where people could build a personal reputation.  And for that Casino Byzantium was the place to be.

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