Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gambling or Gaming?

"The safest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it in your pocket." ~ Kin Hubbard

I like to listen to Laura Ingraham's show in the mornings, but there is only one radio station in the area that broadcasts it and unfortunately it only broadcasts 2 of the 3 hours. So, I listen to it on the internet, on the same radio station that broadcasts Lores' show, "Just a Woman", KRLA out of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the two hours of Laura's program starts at 10:00AM here on WRNR in Martinsburg WV. And I have to be on my way to work during that 1st hour on Mondays. So that explains why I was listening to the local program instead of Laura's yesterday morning.

I really can't complain too much, however, because the local show that is on, hosted by Tom Tucker, is usually a very interesting show involving local politics and issues that concern those in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.

Now. I said all that to say this:

On yesterday's program, Tom's guest was the president of Charlestown's (WV) Racing and Slots, the biggest "gaming" industry in the area. I put quotes around the word, "gaming" for a reason that I will go into in a minute.

These people look happy, don't they?

Usually, I agree with Mr. Tucker and his guests. He is a Conservative. But I have to object to the content of yesterday's program which glorified, in my opinion, legalized gambling. I believe gambling is very destructive to the family. I know it is supposed to create jobs, improve roads and schools and lead to the betterment of the quality of life in general. And I suppose, although I've never seen any proof of it, that it does do those things.

But at what costs?

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to take a cruise on a ship in the Caribbean. The ship had casinos on board and they were the most popular places on the ship. I had never gambled before, except for small friendly bets among friends, and I thought I would try my luck at the slots. I quickly won about 50 dollars more than I spent.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

But herein lies the root of the problem. This is how gambling sucks you in. I now understand why people get addicted to gambling. That big score seems right within our grasp. Just out of reach. Just around the corner. One more bet and I'll be set for life. Right?

Encouraged by the lure of winning more money, I continued gambling until I had lost all that I had won, plus another 50 dollars. That is where I stopped, and have never gambled again. Good for me, right?

Unfortunately, some people don't know when to stop. And then gambling becomes an obsession. And when it becomes obsession it destroys lives.

But gambling is fun, right?

I've heard a lot of people describe gambling as fun, and I suppose it is. Right up until the your luck changes. Then it's not so much fun. My ex wife became addicted to gambling. I'll never forget the evening she asked me for $50.00 and didn't want to tell me what she needed it for. (She didn't need to ask, it was just as much her money as it was mine) She didn't tell me why she wanted it, but I knew. I told her to just go ahead and flush 50 dollars down the toilet and stay home and save the gas. Of course, she didn't. She went. And she lost it all.

Today would have been our 16th wedding anniversary.

Gambling is fun, right?

I once heard a radio interview with an opponent to legalized gambling, who described the veritable plethora of pawn shops in the immediate vicinity of the casinos in Las Vegas. He spoke about interviewing some of the pawn shop proprietors, one of which produced, from under the counter, a box full of gold teeth. Collected from gamblers who were so addicted to gambling that they actually pulled gold teeth out of their mouths to pawn for more gambling money.

But gambling is fun, right?

A few years ago, back in Kansas City, which has river boat casinos, I was in a pawn shop looking for cheap electronic equipment. A woman came in carrying two shotguns in their cases. The clerks there knew her by name. One of them said to her, "Harvey's been to the boats again, eh, Mrs Jones?" (not their real names) I'll never forget the look of desperate resignation on her face as she nodded wordlessly in the affirmative.

I wondered if she was trying to gather together enough money to pay the rent, or utilities, or feed her family. How miserable that family must have been! How sad!

But gambling is fun, right?

And now, the government passes laws allowing gambling in many states in America. Saying the tax revenue produced will go to improve roads and schools and civic improvements of diverse kinds. The gambling industry's lobby is one of the most powerful in Washington, and in the various state capitols.

Oh, yes, state and local governments reap the benefits of the tax monies generated by the casinos and race tracks. While individuals lose every cent they have earned, along with their houses, cars, possessions of every kind, and their families.

But gambling is fun, right?

And while the casino owners line their pockets with money that might have paid somebody's rent, or bills, but instead, lost it to the dealers, or the slot machines, or the ponies.

But gambling is fun, right?

And these scum bags that promote this evil that destroys families and lives smile and call it "gaming". Does any one besides me see that as an intentional use of an innocuous word that has a more acceptable connotation than the word, "gambling"?

That's kind of like calling an unborn baby a fetus because it sounds less human that way, thereby making it something easier to kill with a good conscience.

Doesn't that tell us all we really need to know about the "Gaming" industry's real intentions? Does anyone really believe that gambling is good for people and families?

If gambling is so good for the people, why do they feel the need to call it something that sounds like fun instead of what it really is?

The gambling industry is required by law, in some states, if not all of them, to provide information to their customers (victims) about what resources they can contact in case gambling becomes a problem, such as Gamblers Anonymous.

If gambling is so good for people, why are organizations like Gambler's Anonymous even necessary?

But gambling is fun, right?

No, gambling isn't fun. Not really. It is destructive.

15 comments:

Dan Trabue said...

ooh, sorry for your loss. Sounds like you're speaking from a very bitter experience.

I'll mostly side with you on this one. Gambling is a regressive tax if ever there was one. Take from the poor (and everyone else) and give to the company.

That they part with their money willingly (eagerly?) does not make it much better.

Lone Ranger said...

I just bought my own slot machine. I've always been attracted to flashing lights. I guess that's why I once wanted to be a cop.

Timothy said...

Mark,
Good piece. I definitely agree... but there is more to it than that... it is also destructive on a spiritual level because those who "game" are looking to something other than God for their identity and sustenance. They are seeking fulfillment from something that, as you demonstrated with your $50, is very empty and elusive.

The reality of it is, that those who fall into that are only showing their true hearts in the long run. Which can be useful in the hands of the HOly Spirit. But if the truth never comes to bear on that reality, it just continues to destroy lives.
Bleessings
BTW, we're it not for God's grace, I would be right there with the rest of them, trying to become significant, happy and satisfied by "gaming."

jgf said...

I agree with you. I have a rather obsessive personality and I know that I could become addicted to gambling very easily.

Erudite Redneck said...

Re, "If gambling is so good for people, why are organizations like Gambler's Anonymous even necessary?"

For the same reason that while "a little wine for the stomach" is a good thing, Alcoholics Anonymous is there for those who are addicted.

Gaambling is not fun. Winning is. I gamble when I have money to burn. I love the horsies. My patience with the slots lasts about $20, then I stop.

Sheila said...

Mark

I had the same type of experience except it was at a dog track in Florida. I'm just plain tight fisted. I see no Earthly fun in losing money. :)

tugboatcapn said...

I was once laid over for two days with an oversized load (crane parts) in Las Vegas.

The best place to park the truck was a Hotel parking lot with a Casino in the lobby.

I had never gambled before, so I decided that while I had time, I would try it.

I took $20 in with me, and left the rest of my money, and my bank card in the truck, and went inside.

I changed my $20 bill into two rolls of Quarters, and began to play the slots. I immediately won $80.

A woman two machines down from me won $4,000 about 10 minutes later.

I then switched from the Quarter slots to the Nickel slots, and the Waitress began to bring me Beer and Food.

I played the Nickel Slots until I lost the remainder of the $20 that I brought in with me, but by that time, I was full, and plastered.

I cashed out, got a Motel room with my winnings, and slept.

The next day, I used the rest of my winnings to do my laundry.

The whole week, I was obsessed with the notion that had I only stuck with it a little longer, I could have won four or five thousand dollars.

The truth is, had I stuck with it a little longer, I could have LOST four or five thousand dollars.

The only good thing about Gambling, as far as I can tell, is the free food and drinks.

I will never gamble again.

I am quitting while I am ahead.

tugboatcapn said...

By the way, Mark...

I have neglected you over the last couple of months.

I apologize.

We like-minded individuals have to stick together, especially now, and even though I have read every one of your posts, you have no way of knowing that, because I have not commented on them.

Once again, I apologize.

I still think that you are a brilliant Blogger, and you are still my hero.

I have just been blogging less lately, and concentrating on the important things in my life, like my Wife, my job, my doggie, and so forth, and paying less attention to arguing with people who refuse to acknowledge facts and logic when forming opinions, which in turn caused me to refrain from engaging the commentators on your blog.

Either they agreed with me, or they weren't worth arguing with.

As a result, you felt left to battle them on your own.

Once again, I apologize.

You are doing a GREAT job over here, and you are not alone.

Keep it up, my friend!!

Francis Lynn said...

What is annoying are the retirees who line up at 7am to buy their $30 of rub-off tickets in the deli, while I'm just trying to get a stinking cup of coffee & I'm running late for work because Agnes is undecided whether she should get the "Pot O' Gold" rub-off or the "Lucky Leprechan" ticket. Rub-offs are rip-offs, as is most of gambling.

A pick 6 lottery has 2 million to 1 odds. That translates to about 5,500 years to one day. Think ya gonna pick that one winning day out of 5,500 years worth? Not.

Pick 4 runs 10,000 to 1 odds - that's 27 yrs worth of days to 1. Good luck.

Pick 3 is 1,000 to 1 odds - 2.7 yrs of days to 1. Indeed, lucky carrot if ya hit.

Ya have better odds with Russian Roulette - & it only cost the price of the bullet.

I'm bout 3 hrs from Atlantic City - been there once 10 yrs ago. Did it just to say I did it. Cost $50 for the thrill.

Goat said...

I agree, though they provide quite a profit to my trade about a mils worth of work for casinos in the past couple years. The biggest rip off is the lottery, a tax on the poor, I don't see suits buying scratchers and Lotto, I see very poor folks spending food money.

Mark said...

There are many people who can resist the temptation to let themselves be addicted to gambling. I am one of them, but there are also many who can't resist. The problem is, they don't find out that they can't resist until after they are addicted. That is why it's so dangerous.

That is why Gambler's Anonymous is there.

I will buy a lottery ticket when the jackpot goes over 100 million, but I never spend more than a dollar. Mostly because I don't expect to win so I won't throw more than that away, and partly because I feel since only one number can win it, one number is all I need. If it's going to happen, it will happen with one number.

The point of the post is this, though:
This is one serious problem that legislators on both sides of the aisle are doing nothing to fix. In fact, they encourage it. I find that troubling.

It is sad to see the wasted lives and devastating consequences that go with gambling. The program I was listening to kept insisting that since the gambling casino doesn't attract crime as some opponents have asserted, that it has no unfavorable consequences.

I don't believe they can't see the forest for the trees. I think they ignore both the trees and the forest because it makes them richer, while the poor get poorer.

Empress said...

As long as there are humans on this earth, there will be things that are addictive.

Speaking as someone who has lived in Las Vegas for 16 years, I can sort of agree with your views on gambling. Why only sort of? Because the revenue's we get from all of those casino's are pretty darn good. No state tax being the biggest one. Yes, you can say that it's at the expense of people who have a gambling problem, but it's not the little old ladies in the bingo parlors, or the people who drop the coins in the slots that create all that revenue. It's the "whales" who come into town and drop $50,000 on one hand of poker or blackjack.

Those "whales"are the millionaires that keep this city going, and keep us residents from paying state taxes and help to expand our highways and byways. That's why the Paris Hiltons of the world are welcomed with open arms by the state.

I'm not saying that gambling isn't an addiction for a lot of people. But, to me at least, it's not fair to condemn the entire industry because there are some that have a problem with it. The same could be said for liquor, shopping, sex, the internet and a host of other things that are just as addictive and destructive to family life. Would you do away with all of those things as well?

Now, having said all of that, we need people, like you and all the commenters here, to keep speaking up, to keep these problems in the forefront, to not let the legislators run amok, and to make sure that human beings know that a lot of things that "feel good" in the moment, can turn around and bite 'em in the butt.

And I pray that you've started healing from what your ex-wife put you and your children through.

God Bless.

Mark said...

Empress, thanks for stopping by. Stop in anytime.

Yes, I know and agree with your statements. I think my chief argument with gambling is not so much that it exists, but that responsible and influential people glorify it, and pretend that it's all fun and games, without seemingly caring that it hurts people.

Does anyone think they would spend their money on ads advertising Gambler's Anonymous if it wasn't required by law?

It's not that gambling exists. As you correctly pointed out, people wil always do it, regardless of legality. It is the apathetic attitude of those who profit from it.

And as long as we're on the subject of Las Vegas, I understand prostitution is legal there, also. Do the same justifications for gambling also apply to that?

Dan Trabue said...

RE:
" Rub-offs are rip-offs, as is most of gambling... A pick 6 lottery has 2 million to 1 odds."

I've heard it said that lotteries are a tax on the mathematically illiterate.

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