By CHERIE ILG HAAS
From the “cha-ching” of a casino’s slot machine to the chirping of a campground’s sparrow, Casino Cruisers’ rallies provide plenty of variety.
Chapter President Rob Spaulding, F297532, formed the chapter a year ago this month after concluding that motorhoming and casinos seemed like a natural combination. Apparently he was right: more than 40 families already make up this enthusiastic group, which is the only FMCA gaming chapter east of the Mississippi. Most of the chapter members reside within the geographical scope of FMCA’s Great Lakes Area, but some also hail from Kentucky and elsewhere. Rob lives in Dayton, Ohio.
“When we conceived the idea of Casino Cruisers, it was primarily from the angle that we thought many people liked the idea of gambling, and RVing would be a great way to get there,” Rob said. “What we are finding out is just the opposite.” He added that the focus is actually on RVing and group gatherings. “Gambling just happens to be a part of the rally experience.”
Chapter rallies have been held in Louisville, Kentucky; Rising Sun, Indiana; and other locations. “Our plans are to try to have one rally each year that takes us out of our area,” Rob noted. “For instance, in March we ventured to Tunica, Mississippi.” Rally activities include side trips and the sharing of coach information. During a typical rally, members gather on Friday night for a “meet and greet” at the host’s motorhome where everyone brings their “lawn chairs, favorite drinks, and longest tales.” From there, some members mosey to the casino while others stay at the campground to socialize around the campfire. “We are evolving with each rally, trying to gauge the interests of the overall group. A big hit in our last rally was a euchre tournament,” Rob said.
By keeping their options open, this chapter hopes to gain membership and welcomes new members to join. “Recruiting new members is always a challenge and we remain committed to attracting fun-loving people who like to toss a nickel in the slots now and then,” Rob said. So far, no one has lost their motorhome to a casino, but Rob did jokingly mention that before joining, members have to sign a statement saying they’ll lie about how much they lost, or won, for that matter.
Aside from gaming, the main interest truly seems to be camaraderie. “Everyone who joins our group genuinely seems to enjoy our morning gatherings, which we normally schedule for an hour, but usually last much longer. [At] the last couple of rallies we have had potluck dinners on Saturday evening and they have been a big hit. The food is great and the atmosphere is festive,” Rob said.
Former FMCA national president Charlie Atkinson, L10327, and his wife, Marcia, have played key roles in the formation and growth of the Casino Cruisers. Rob said they were very knowledgeable about putting together rallies and recruiting members. They “gave invaluable information in terms of chapter format and general guidelines to follow,” Rob said. Charlie is currently serving as the chapter’s national director.
Regarding the chapter’s goals, Rob said, “One thing we hope to succeed at is not to take things too seriously. The primary focus of this group is to have a good time and enjoy each other’s hospitality. Many chapters have admirable goals, but our aims are a little different. If we can make some worthwhile memories to our members, and have fun doing it, we look upon that as a successful mission. It wouldn’t hurt to hit a big jackpot along the way.”
If interested in joining the Casino Cruisers, contact FMCA’s Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-3622.