only game in town

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An allusion to gambling venues, as in:

  • 1908, Upton Sinclair, The Metropolis, ch. 8:
    "It's like the story they tell about my brother—he was losing money in a gambling-place in Saratoga, and some one said to him, ‘Davy, why do you go there—don't you know the game is crooked?’ ‘Of course it's crooked,’ said he, ‘but, damn it, it's the only game in town!’"


only game in town (usually uncountable, plural only games in town)

  1. (idiomatic, almost always preceded by the) The only opportunity, activity, or resource available.
    • 1973, Stanley Elkin, Searches & Seizures: Three Novellas, ISBN 9780879232535, p. 265 (Google preview):
      It was the first elected position he had ever held, his single incumbency and, he had to admit, his best prospect, the only game in town.
    • 1995 Nov. 12, Adam Rogers, "Now For Some Hotjava," Newsweek (retrieved 1 Jan 2014):
      Java won't long be the only game in town. Microsoft already plans to publish a rival software, code-named Blackbird.
    • 1999 Dec. 12, "Will The Yen's Surge Do Japan In?," Businessweek (retrieved 1 Jan 2014):
      When exports are the only game in town, currency gyrations can be a killer.
    • 2013 Oct. 24, Adewale Maja-Pearce, "Nigeria’s Talking Shop," New York Times (retrieved 1 Jan 2014):
      Political power, after all, is the only game in town that ensures unfettered access to the nation's oil riches.