Gambling takes to the friendly skies

I’ll take a Diet Coke and five dollars on seat 23E.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before gambling made its way into Vegas-bound flight rituals. Yesterday, as I groggily made my way through the friendly skies from Boston to Las Vegas, I encountered a new form of in-flight entertainment: The United Lottery.

About halfway through the Chicago-to-Vegas leg of my trip, a perky flight attendant, whose name I can’t recall, got on the intercom to announce it was time to play a little “game.” A Vegas game, in fact.

As the flight attendants wheeled their free sodas up and down the cabin, they collected money in a bag atop the cart. We were invited to put in as many bills as we wanted in the denominations of our choice with our seat number written on the back. When everyone who wanted to contribute had done so, the United staff would pull one wrinkly bill from the rest and give all the cash to the passenger whose seat number was listed. Ready. Set. Gamble.

I, of course, abstained. “I live in Vegas,” I tell people when they ask if I hit the tables much, “so no, I don’t really gamble.” Plus, getting a dollar would have involved fishing out my wallet from a backpack stuffed to bursting and lodged beneath the seat in front of me.

But there it was, a slight pang of regret as an announcement revealed that the lucky flier in seat 12A would be departing our flight $140 richer. Our little experiment in national-airspace gaming was probably the closest most people on our flight would come to winning big in Vegas. What’s next? Video poker on Jet Blue’s personal TVs?

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