The Washington Times-Herald

Our Perspective

December 23, 2011

Christmas and people on the other side of the economic table


Richmond —

In my father's era, bookmakers cut off bettors on losing streaks. There have been few, if any, real moves by states to keep gamblers from harming themselves. Usually the effort involves a few public service announcements, urging problem gamblers to seek help.

Most of the time, the help doesn't come until a person is broke and bottomed out.

Legalized casinos, which have several games of skill and reasonable probability, gear most of their operations to the highly profitable slot machines and video games.

Lotteries have evolved from a form of gaming called "numbers," formerly very popular in poor, urban neighborhoods. If you go into a grocery or liquor store in any poor neighborhood today, you will see people who can't afford to lose even a few dollars, standing around playing scratch off lottery games until all of their money is gone.

I rarely if ever gamble. I don't have any moral or religious problems with gambling. (I'm Catholic, come visit my friends on bingo night.)

I just can't just stand to part with my money on something that I know is a bad bet.

Unlike Mitt Romney, I'm not up for dropping $10,000 on a wager.

My few trips to casinos have been bad experiences for the house. I bet very little and I am a terror at the low-price buffet. I play high probability games like sports betting and won't go near a slot machine. I have a certain profit margin in mind and leave the second that I hit it.

In short, I am a person casinos do not want to attract.

Gambling for rich people, such as options trading and sophisticated stock market games, have always been allowed.

When I passed the stockbroker's test many years ago, I called my father and asked, "Why is futures trading legal but betting on the Bengals illegal?" There is no logical answer.

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