Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19, 2011 - G is for Gambling

I just got back last night from a short trip to Atlantic City and I have to say it’s good to be home. Not that I didn’t have fun, but the three hour drive is a tiring. At least I had my music to keep me company in the car! That’s the best thing about long drives, don’t you think? I already knew from my impending trip what my “G” post was going to be about from Saturday, since I was in Atlantic City, so here goes:

“G” is for gambling

I have a love/hate relationship with gambling. I never gambled until I started going with my parents to Atlantic City a few years ago, other than the occasional lottery ticket. Of course gambling is never really a good thing, but there’s something about the possibility of striking it big that keeps people (including me) going. I have enough sense not to expect to win when I do gamble, but sometimes you can definitely get caught up in the heat of the moment.

My one win…

About three years ago, I was in the Tropicana casino in AC with my family and we had all split up for a couple of hours to do our own thing. I was playing one of my favorite slot machines, a five-cent ‘Blazing 7’s’ machine. I put a twenty into the slot and on the very first pull I hit five blazing 7’s….a jackpot of over $5,000. I was stunned! I’d never won anything even close to that.

I needed to get somebody’s attention. There wasn’t a soul around. I tried calling each of the four members of my family who were with me, but no one was answering their cell phone. Finally, after about 45 minutes, an attendant showed up to check me in and get me my winnings. By that time, my dad had shown up and was waiting with me and soon my mom and sisters were there to help me celebrate. Ah, if only that happened more often, but alas it doesn’t. That’s why they call it gambling!
AC, we have a problem…

Gambling can be a dangerous addiction, as so many billboards in AC demonstrate:

Have a gambling problem? Dial 1-800-GAMBLER

I find these billboards and advertisements so ironic since the casinos do so much to feed people’s addictions to gambling. I’m not a table player, so I can attest to all of the bells, whistles and enticements that go into the so-called “one armed bandits.” With state of the art graphics and surround-sound motivators, today’s slot machines are more like video games than the traditional slots of yesterday and thereby attract more people.

Slots as video games…

There are so many different kinds of slot machines these days and they’re all meant to entice gamblers not only with their graphics, but with their themes. Slot machine themes are often based on favorite characters, television shows and movies, making them even more attractive to slot players like me, and thought they’re fun to play, they still take your money. There’s the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ the all-new ‘Sex and the City’ and many, many more. They’re designed to imply fun, all the while intended to take your money.

Playing with pennies is better, right?

Slot graphics and themes aren’t the only way casinos entice gamblers into losing their money. Slot denominations come in virtually every denomination these days, the most recent and the most popular being what they call “penny slots.” Penny slots are all over the place these days, and the very notion of playing with pennies gives players the idea that they’re spending less money gambling, right? Wrong! In order to win anything on a penny machine, you often have to play 50 to 100 and even up to 600 credits per pull! So, oftentimes you’re really betting more with penny slots than with the traditional quarter ones.

State sponsored gambling

There’s so much more I can say about casino gambling…enough to fill a book probably. But I want to talk about another form of gambling, and that’s the lottery. Whenever I walk into a stationery store or a 7-11 these days, I’m amazed at the huge variety of lottery games out there. There has to be at least 50 different kinds of scratch off tickets, each as enticing as the video slots in AC. Daily numbers have gone from once a day to two or three, and the number of ‘mega’ lotteries has increased from once a week to practically daily.

Now all of this is perfectly fine, but why is it that if you and I play a poker game for money it’s illegal, but the state can target lottery players relentlessly? Usually it’s the less fortunate who play the lottery anyway, so I think that they unfairly target poor people by promising “a dollar and a dream.” States are the biggest purveyors of gambling and I think this is government hypocrisy at its worst!

There, I think I’ve said all I want to say about gambling. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with it, but it needs to be done moderately, like anything else. I go to AC only once or twice a year and yes, I do play an occasional ‘Mega Millions,’ but I know that the odds of ever winning anything big are slim to none, so I don’t put too much faith in that. Neither should you! Thanks for reading!

By the way, if you get the chance, check out this article on Atlantic City:

Weekend Getaways: Atlantic City, New Jersey

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