The Thin Green Line
- February 10
This past week, the sporting world was rocked with the
announcement that legendary hockey player Rick Tocchet
was accused of being involved in a massive gambling
ring. Included in the accusations of people who either
ran the ring or people who were placing bets in the ring
were many hockey players, as well as the high profile
wife of one Wayne Gretzky. After reading the news, one
thought quickly and clearly passed through my mind.
Should we really be surprised?
I mean seriously, should we? I am personally surprised
that this didnt happen earlier with a higher profiled
organization, or that more people arent involved.
Pardon the pun, but I think the opening round of the
investigation is only the tip of the iceberg. It
wouldnt surprise me if a greater net is cast and you
get at least 30-40% of the league affected by this in
one way or the other.
I am not trying to single out the NHL. The fact of the
matter is that gambling is such a proficient influence
on society that it would be nearly impossible to think
that theres only one organization thats doing it. I
would make a wager (proverbially, not literally) that
all of you know someone who is involved with a gambling
organization whether you know them or you dont.
At least when the whole Michael Jordan gambling
controversy came out in the 1990s, he bet in a casino,
a legit organization
which is where another point
comes up. What is the difference between legal and
illegal? I would also gather that most of you have done
some sort of illegal gambling in your lifetime. Yes,
most of you. You ever gamble on-line? Illegal. Ever
place a wager with a bookie? Illegal. Sure you know
those two things, but lets keep going. You ever
participate in an NCAA Final 64 Bracket or a Football
Square Pool? Illegal. What about playing cards with your
friends for money? Illegal. Yes, according to most
governmental law, any playing for money that is not
regulated by your government can be deemed illegal.
But on the other hand, why shouldnt you continue to do
illegal gambling deeds especially when you are being
spurred on by the same media that tells you that
gambling is bad? Look at the subculture of gambling and
how it has grown over the past 3 years alone with the
emergence of the World Poker Tour and the World Series
of Poker. Lets look at Poker Royale, High Stakes Poker,
Poker Superstars Invitational or any other show that
glamorizes the poker world and how any shlub off of the
streets can, with some playing and a little luck, be an
instant millionaire and have his finances taken care of
forever. Who cares about Stu Unger or the hundreds of
people who spend upwards of $10,000 of their own money
that they probably could not afford to do. Its the
American Dream, right?
This is how the television media is trying to get its
ad dollars now, and if youve seen all of the online
casino commercials in those same sort of shows, you can
figure out that its working big time. According to
medialifemagazine.com, in 2005, worldwide gambling
revenue reached $10.9 billion this year, about 20 times
more than whats spent on digital music and 10 times
more than online porn. And thats just the vig, or fees
charged to players. EMarketer says more than $200
billion was spent on playing games. The $10.9 billion is
a 28 percent increase versus $8.5 billion last year.
Thats billion, with a B. EMarketer attributes some of
the growth of online gambling to 2003 World Series of
Poker winner Chris Moneymaker, who qualified for the
tournament through an online poker site, giving amateur
gamblers everywhere hope.
Gambling is the new prohibition, the new forbidden
fruit, the new potent portable that can get you drunk
and lose your inhibitions. I mean that in every sense of
the phrase. Most of the on-line gambling is illegal
because the government can not regulate it, but at the
same time, legitimate brick and mortar casinos are
popping up quicker than rabbits. It will only be a
matter of time until the major casinos will be able to
set up their own on-line establishments, where the lure
of racking up player points will be enough of a
motivator to get people off of partypoker.com. Of
course, those internet sites will still be operational
because not everyone lives an hour away from Donald
Trump or Steve Wynn.
But like alcohol, gambling has its own addictions. As
you all know from WLTI, I am a proud member of
pokerroom.com. I put in a $50 investment in October of
2005. Not only have I gotten it back, I have also
withdrawn over $400 from that site. The key is that I
have never had to put in anything besides the $50.
Consistent and sharp tournament play on my part has kept
me in the black. However, not everyone plays the way I
do, nor does everyone play as responsibly as I do. I
love to play in the Sit and Goes, where $5 can net you
as much as $25. One of the plays thats continually made
is that one person on the first hand puts all of their
money in the pot to try to get lucky and get a nice
sized stack where they can bully people around during
the game. More often than not, the strategy doesnt
work, which leaves the person out 5 bucks in around 30
seconds. Should they do this technique even 3 times in a
day, thats $15 down the tubes daily. $105 weekly and
$5,460 yearly. $5 here and $5 there does add up to a
lot, and people who dont count their money are not
going to realize that.
The gambling is not just on poker. Many foreign on-line
sites have betting odds on Survivor or The Apprentice.
Think you know based on insider information whos going
to win The Amazing Race? Then plunk down $300 and see
what happens. Maybe a bet on Stacy Keibler to win
Dancing With the Stars 2 or on the Brittenum Brothers to
be in the Top 12 of American Idol is in order. If you
want to part with your money, the internet gambling
services that be have devised hundreds of ways for you
to do so all from the comfort of your living room and
all of which a handful of clicks away.
Im not saying that I am taking the high road on this
far from it. But how can any government responsibly go
after one or a group of people for something thats only
deemed legal because they dont have a piece of the
action? And how can you tell the youth of America that
this is a problem when you are constantly selling this
impossible dream on your television set? The well its
only bad because its not from us mentality didnt work
in the 1920s and its not working now, because all that
the youth is doing is following what they are seeing on
television television that is being provided to them
by the adults of America.
If you REALLY want to curb the problem, then education
and regulation is the key. Let the government figure out
how to get a piece of the action. And if you do want to
see a movie that doesnt glamorize a casino, I highly
suggest to pick up the movie High Roller The Stu
Unger Story if you want to see the real world of
gambling. Lets see if GSN can find the time to add that
to their Anything to Win collection during their
Japanese Slot Machine infomercials or their 18,000th
on-line casino advertisement.
Gordon Pepper will take your money and run... We
oughta start calling him the Whammy.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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