Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Right to BARE Arms

Just after midnight on September 1, Bob and I decided on the spur in the moment to stop by Maryland Live! Casino at Arundel Mills.  As I walked through the door, a “guard” at the door asked me to stop.  I thought for a second that I had dropped my bulging wallet containing cash that I was about to donate to the state of Maryland’s coffers over the next two hours or so. 
Instead, she said I cannot go in wearing the shirt I had on.  I asked, ‘what?’  She said that I needed to wear another shirt.  I told her I didn’t have another shirt and asked what’s wrong with this?  She said you can’t go in wearing a sleeveless shirt.  I said, ‘Bull----!  Look what those people inside are wearing (pointing to a few wearing dirty tee shirts and a woman also in a sleeveless shirt).”  I asked her if I look less neat then them?  She asked if I would want to speak to her supervisor and I answered in the affirmative.  Then she told me to stand to the side.

A few minutes later a man came over and asked me what the problem is.  I told him that she was preventing me from entering the casino.  He asked if I had read the dress code.  I responded by asking where is it.  He said it’s on the website.  I told him this was an impromptu visit and didn’t consider checking the website prior to coming in. 
We argued further when I told him this is discriminatory and that I referred to a woman in a sleeveless shirt already inside.  He asserted that women’s clothing is different from men’s.  (At least I learned something new out of all this.)  In other words, women’s arms can show but not a man’s.

He then ordered me to leave under the implied threat of having me arrested, humiliating me in front of a lot of people who were entering and leaving the premises so I exited, promising I would never be back.
I’ve been to casinos all over the country including the surrounding states of West Virginia and Delaware wearing sleeveless shirts—my favorite summer apparel—and never once being refused admission.  On this night, a hot one, I was wearing a clean, rather new light blue tank top (pictured), white shorts, white baseball cap and sandals.  I never thought of myself as a GQ model, but I immodestly believed I looked better than 90 percent of the men whom I saw inside and probably half of the women and would not cause such a distraction to keep people from losing their money.

Other than a capricious, arbitrary dress policy that contains racist and sexist innuendoes and an anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic tinge to it, there was no basis to refuse my entry and causing the embarrassment I received. The arbitrary nature is demonstrated at the beginning of the policy: “Management reserves the right to refuse entry to any person, at any time, for any reason at their sole discretion.”
In the future I plan to patronize the more tolerant casinos in West Virginia, Delaware, Las Vegas, on cruise ships and elsewhere who would welcome my lost dollars with open and yes, bare arms.   I wind up losing my shirt anyway.


The following letter was sent to both Maryland Live! Casino on September 5, 2013 and the Cordish Cos (parent company of Maryland Live) with no response.

To whom this may concern:

I am writing to advise you of a disturbing incident that occurred at Maryland Live! casino just past midnight on September 1.  My spouse and I made an impromptu decision to visit the casino.  As we walked through the doors and began my entrance to the slot machines, a guard stopped me and said, “You can’t go inside.”  I asked why and she said I can’t go in with the shirt that I had on.

I was wearing a clean, fairly new tank top as this was a particularly warm night.  I pointed to a woman inside who was also wearing a tank top—not a halter top or anything that is characteristically feminine—but almost the identical article of clothing I was wearing except for the color.  In fact, there were a number of other women in similar attire. The guard said that’s the policy and offered me an opportunity to speak with a supervisor.

A man came over in a few minutes and I explained that I was being prevented from entering.  He reiterated that’s the casino’s policy and I asked where is it posted.  He told me it’s on the website.  I pointed out that most people don’t routinely check the website prior to going to the casino.

This casino does not post dress codes at the entrances.  One cannot assume that every patron has Internet access, so right away there is a deficiency in the policy.  (There are many others especially in the arbitrary enforcement of the policy as I later checked the website but will not discuss them at this point.)

After a brief discussion, the guard ordered me to leave with the implied threat of arrest.  There was no profanity on my part, although I was particularly angry.  I was not drunk or disorderly.  There were no threats or abuse on my part either.  The discussion was relatively respectful given the circumstances except for the rejection. 

This was a most embarrassing experience as this ejection was heard and witnessed by dozens of patrons entering and leaving.  To be told in public, “You can’t go inside” is degrading to say the least.  In fact, I was asked to explain what happened to a bunch of people in the garage elevator, and they shook their heads.

In my entire life, I had never been kicked out of any public establishment much less a casino.  And for what?  Wearing a tank top?  It is blatantly unfair, if not discriminatory, that women wearing the same shirt I had on can participate in the gambling activities and I was not permitted. 

The shirt was clean and fresh, had no offensive language (it was plain), and clearly I presented to threat to the patrons or employees.  I could in no way prevent anyone from gambling.   This humiliating ejection was ridiculous and any reasonable person would see it that way.

Wearing sleeveless shirts is my choice of attire in the summer and has been for years.  I’m comfortable in them and I don’t look bad in them either as I work out regularly.  I have worn these type shirts in casinos in Las Vegas, Washington, Colorado, Mississippi, Atlantic City, New York, Delaware and West Virginia, and not once was I ever prevented from entering.  I go to casinos in the summer so I always wear these types of shirts.  Yet, only at Maryland Live! does this shirt pose a problem.

I recognize your need to establish a dress code as a matter of decency.  But a sleeveless shirt worn by a male who intends to sit and spend money at a slot machine for a couple of hours is no legitimate basis for rejection.  The better course of action in this particular case is for the guard/supervisor to issue a warning/reminder about the policy and allowed my admission.  It would have been a gesture that would indicate the casino’s management was interested in retaining patrons and a reflection of good customer service.  I’m willing to bet the gross for the entire night there would have been no complaints.

Steve Charing

Clarksville, MD

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