Easter Casino was the first playscheme to take place in The Garage. The Garage was based in Roscoe Street, around half a mile away from the Blackie; it provided a home for the Blackie during the first rebuilding programme.
Left Dave Rickus and colleague staffing the door for the Easter Casino Playscheme dressed appropriately
The inspiration for the playscheme was 'The Sting' ; 'the film' of 1974. So the setting would be that of an American Speak-Easy with arcade games and casino games. The lighting would be low and the staff would be dressed appropiately - long dresses, tuxedos, sharp suits, etc.
A secondary input was the inspiration of kinetic sculpture such as Lilaine Ljin's plate on which metal balls rolled around, apparently randomly, in response to magnetic fields. Such works would allow younsters to bet on where the moving balls would stop. But they would also be engaging with contemporary kinetic sculpture.
The Blackie debated the morality of running 'a casino' with young people. Whilst games of chance, card games and gambling had long been a Blackie activity (both in and out of playschemes) this would take them one step further. On balance it was decided that the opportunity to debate the problems of gambling, plus the general education in calculating the odds, etc. meant we should go ahead. And indeed even though the 'Casino' was filmed by Granada TV there was no adverse effects or feedback.
There was however one unexpected outcome. The fact that the staff were dressed up(in evening wear and smart suits) meant that the young people themselves modified their behaviour for the better. Perhaps being concerned that they might damage valuable clothes, the younsters gave much greater respect to the personal space of the staff.
How It Worked
Because the playscheme involved young people from age 10 upwards it was decided that the casino area, which would be secluded, would be for seniors (14 upwards) only and would therefore operate in the latter part of the evening.
The arcade area would be open to all and would be where the 'radio station' was based, as would the area which accommodated 'entry' games and games with moving parts
In addition the garage had to accommodate the inflateable, and both a 'run around' and a 'chill out' area.
Setting Up The Casino
Establishing a Casino which could successfully operate under the strains of a playgroup meant that the bureaucracy needed careful thought. This was done by creating a Casino Office from where all the gaming equipment, marking systems, record cards and chips could be controlled.
Right young people queuing for their score cards, chips, etc.
On entry people wishing to play in The Casino had to call in at the Casino Office where the 'clerk' would take their name and give them a card. The card was marked in sections from 1-24; it allowed the holder 24 chances on the 'entry games'. The card was the only means by which players could register their bets.
When choosing to play an entry game the player handed their card to the croupier who would punch a hole in the card next to the game being played. The winner of the game would be credited with a star. Once the player had completed 24 games they could return to the Office where they would be handed a Casino Card and 10 chips for each star they had achieved.
The Casino Card allowed the holder to play 10 games in the Casino. All players of each casino game had to hand in their cards to the croupier who would note down the amount of chips staked, won and lost. After 10 games the final total would be marked on the bottom of the card which would then be returned to the Casino Office.
At first sight a complicated system but one that proved robust, was easily handled by the young people and eliminated false claims, etc.
The arcade was a highly coloured area. It housed games such as pin ball machines, table football, bar billiards, video tennis, etc.
The top picture shows the arcade in operation followed by pics of the various games.
These games were open all to all and could be played as the numbers of people attending allowed.
These were games designed primarily for the juniors but could be played by seniors for fun only. The games were Astro Darts, Pinball, Video Tennis, Bazooka Balls, Golden Raindrops and Climb The Ladder.
Where we know how the game was played and scored it is described below - the remainder are lost in the mists of time. Unfortunately we do not have much in the way of good photographs.
Players needed 300 points to complete the journey and their progress was marked by a space ship on the scoring chart.
Above the young people playing Astro Darts with the score board to the right.
Theoretically this was a game of skill but since it was played by juniors it turned out largely to be a game of chance.
Climb The Ladder
Played by one person at a time. The ladder was placed with the rungs/steps facing the player. Each rungs had a score starting with the lowest at on the bottom rung and the highest on the top rung. The player had to 'climb' the ladder by standing in front of the ladder and bouncing a tennis ball through the rungs. Each player was allowed three attempts at each run/score. A players total was calculated by adding up the scors of successful attempts, not including the positions he or she failed up.
These were the games by which players gained stars which could then be turned into chips for use in the casino. At any one time there were three entry games organised to accommodate six players only. They were all based on chance, and had only one winner and therefore only one person could collect a star each game.
The games were Silver Wheel, Magnetic Rods, Funky Fingers, Nail Cascade, Flashing Posters, and Gambling Is... We do have descriptions of all these games but we do not have much in the way of photographs.
The games consisted of a circular table marked in section 1-6. And next to it a flat table also divided into 1-6 sections. On the circular table were 2 balls, one large and one small. The table was rotated by means of a converted record turn table and slowed by a foot switch.
To place a bet the players placed their cards on one of the six sections on the flat table. The circular table was then rotated and stopped by means of the foot switch - the winner or winners were those who had bet on the section in which the small ball finished.
Played for one week only.
This was set within an outer black and white ring which had numbers 1-6.
Players bet on a number by placing their entry cards on the outer ring. The central wire would vibrate and then stop between two of the rods thus indicating the winning number.
This was achieved by placing magnets between the marked sections which were wired upto a uni-selector, once turned on this would randomly select one of the 6 magnets. The central wire was controlled by a different power source, and it vibrated whilst the power was on, when the power was turned off the wire turned to the magnet which had been selected by the uni-selector.
Consisted of drawings of fingers in 6 different positions on top of small table. The players bet on one position. The Croupier had a 2" square dice which replicated the 6 fingers on its six sides. Once the bets had been placed the Croupier rolled the dice and whichever position showed on the top of the dice won the game.
Played for two days only this consisted of a box within which nails had been partially knocked into the base. The nails were arranged so that they ended in 6 numbered nail 'pockets'. The box was placed on slope and a marble rolled in to it. On a table next to the box the players could bet on which 'pocket they thought the marble would end up in. If they got it right they had won. Left two youngsters using the Nail Cascade as a pin ball machine!
Consisted of a box divided into 6 sections each of which contained a light bulb, each light bulb being wired to a uni-selector. Over the top of the box was placed a large sheet of oroglass with 6 posters taped to its underside. Each poster was of a past Blackie event and had been created by people who were also likely to be attending Easter Casino. (James Brown, Kong, Stevie Wonder, Damon Harris (of The Temptations), Michael Jackson and The Persuasions).
Next to the box was a table divided into 6 and marked with the names of the posters. Players laid their entry cards onto the event they thought would win. Once bets had been placed the box was turned on and the light bulbs flashed illuminating the posters. It was kept on for a few seconds and when turned off wherever the light finished indicated the winner.
This game was played during the second week, replacing the Silver Wheel.
The game consisted of a circular table with a central circular section which revolved. Each circle was divided into 6. Both the inner and outer section had a statement within each section. One of the 6 inner sections had Gambling Is... on it. The outer section had statements such as 'trying to beat the system', 'living in Liverpool 8', 'attractive, exciting, immoral, normal, infectious and 'sometimes addictive'.
Pictures showing the inner and out sections of Gambling Is and young people placing their bets
Players bet by placing their entry card on an outer section. The inner section then revolved controlled by way of a foot switch. When the inner section stopped Gambling is... lined up with one of the outer section to complete a sentence. The player who had bet on that section was the winner.
The Casino Games
The Casino Games were based on Roulette, Black Jack and Dice. They were all played with 'chips' which were washers marked with their value.
In roulette the wheel is marked 1-36 alternating black and red numerals. The table has the same numbers on it plus sections marked red and black and odds and evens.
Above Steph and Chris running the roulette table
As played at the Blackie the card was handed to the croupier who marked the bets on it. For the first week only, bets were accepted on Black, Red, Odds and Evens which all paid even money; and on any of the three columns. If anyone bet on the column containing the winning number the house paid out 1 to 2.
In the second week the 36 numbers on the table were divided into groups of 6. Bets placed successfully in these sections paid 6 to 1.
Blackjack (Pontoon or Twenty One).
This is a game in which the House is represented by the Croupier, and the players must beat the hand held by the Croupier to win.
The set-up at the Blackjack Table was 5 players and the Croupier.
Dave Calder running the Blackjack Table and the table in operation
Blackjack was played as it is in casinos. One card is dealt face down to all players including the croupier. Players are then able to buy a second card based on the strength of the first card. Once they have placed their stake then a second card is dealt with the croupiers second card face up.
If any card gives a player 21 (a face card and an ace) the player must declare this and place one of their cards face up. providing the croupier cannot equal this the player is paid at the end of the game 2 to 1 against the House.
The croupier then invites the first player to either buy another card, or get a free card by saying twist. Players were only allowed to bet the same values as their original stake. If the player goes over 21 they are bust and must return the cards to the croupier. Once a player is happy with their cards the croupier then moves onto the next player. Once all players are happy with their cards the croupier turns their cards over and either plays them or adds more cards.
Players win if their cards are better than the croupiers. In order of value Blackjack (21 with two cards) is top hand followed by achieving 21 or under with 5 cards. In both of these hands if they win the house pays 2 to 1. All other hands are judged by simply adding the face value of the cards.
Dice (Seven Eleven or Craps)
All bets staked are against the house. The game consists of 2 dice plus a table marked with the various wagers available to the players. One player throws the Dice, with the other players betting For or Against the thrower being successful.
Above Mo Bates as Croupier on the Dice table and a close-up of the table.
The game started with one player rolling two dice in one throw and the others wagering For or Against. If the player throws a seven or eleven on the first throw all wagers on the For area are winners, while those on Against are losers. If the player throws Craps that is 2,3, or 12 these are losers and someone else takes over the dice. This happens only on the first throw made by a player in all other situations craps are discounted.
If the player throws 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 then the player must repeat this number before throwing a 7 or 11. If they throw a 7 or 11 they have lost and the dice pass. These numbers are called points and if thrown the croupier invites the players to place bets For or Against the thrower.
Easter Casino was our first playscheme in the Garage so people needed not only to equip the playscheme but also the garage itself. Therefore the playscheme was preceded by a major material and equipment raising effort. We would like to thank the following for either providing, advice, materials (from wood to furnishings) and /or lending us equipment:-
A.J.Beer & Co Ltd., Armitage & Rigby Ltd., Bell & Blount (Caterneeds) Ltd., Bell-Fruit, Coats Cottons Ltd., Fenton Bros., George Wylkie & Co., Lewis's Ltd., Liverpool City Council Works Dpt., Samuel Heaps & Sons Ltd., The Royal Philharmonic Hall, and U.K. Optical Bausch & Lomb Ltd.
Staffing for Easter Casino was a minimum of 21 people when the 'Casino' was in operation and 14 when it was not. 4 people staffed the 'radio station' they were either members of Radio Doom or young people who had been trained by Radio Doom. Therefore, given the number of people needed, the playscheme involved intensive recruitment.
Easter Casino was designed by Blackie Staff :- Martin Brems, Judy Bates, Mo Bates, Mary Copple, Peter Eyo, Mary Kay Giblin, Bill Harpe, Sally Lawson, and Sally Morris. It was staffed by them, alongside Dave Calder, Steph Dodds, Les Dean, and Radio Doom, and with help from Dave Alston, Bob Black, Peter Clyne, Hilary Johnson, Catriona McKenzie, Ben Mercer, Kim Ok, Peter Silver, John Steadman, and Di Wood.
Apologies to anyone we have omitted.
Note: Easter Casino was filmed as a featured item for 'Granada Reports' with Bob Greaves as presenter. This film can be viewed at the Black-E. A print of this film is being lodged with the North West Film Archive.