The Washington Times-Herald

Our Perspective

December 23, 2011

Christmas and people on the other side of the economic table

Richmond — "And the Christmas carols sound like blues

but the choir is not to blame"

-Jim Croce

My late father was a professional gambler. Toward the end of his life, he was an active volunteer at a soup kitchen in Cincinnati, which was run by the Sisters of Charity.

One day, as dad was dishing out food to homeless people, he was approached by the nun who ran the program.

"Joe," she said, "What do you do for a living?"

"I'm a gambler," replied my father.

"Joe," she said "This is the first time we ever had a gambler on THIS side of the table."

Problem gambling has pushed a lot of people into poverty.

The key to my father's success in gambling was that he was always on the house side of the table.

He started in bookmaking, in the glory days of Covington and Newport, Ky., and moved into organizing junkets for Las Vegas casinos, when wide-open gambling faded from the Northern Kentucky scene.

He understood that if the house has the odds in its favor long enough, the house will eventually and always win out.

As he often noted, "You never see them tearing down a casino because people beat them out of money."

First with lotteries, and now through slot machines and casinos, governments realized that a easy way to gain revenues is by allowing and sponsoring gambling.

The games that have been legalized bring in a great deal of income from those on "the wrong side of the table."

Some European countries limit access to the casinos to those who prove they have sufficient assets. We don't in America.

Various forms of stock and option trading, which is a more elite form of gambling, require that those who invest in those instruments have the net worth to survive a loss.

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