It’s a Gamble

Being brought up as a good squeaky clean fundamentalist/Baptist with my hair combed, I remained a casino virgin until I was in my forties. I was on a speaking gig in Detroit and one of the good Catholic businessmen named Bob took me to lunch at the casino and taught me how to play craps. It was fun and he could afford to gamble. But I learned my lesson. More of that later…

Today The Telegraph informs us here that American casino owners plan to build a Las Vegas-style gambling strip in Spain. Of course a good number of the Europeans are overjoyed because the creation of 180,000 jobs will help bail out their disastrous economy. Its another example (along with Burger King and Pizza Hut in London, Disneyland in Paris and fat pale English youths going trick or treating and to the ‘prom’) of Europe importing the worst of America and ignoring the best.

I guess it will be called ‘El Vegas’ or ‘Euro Vegas’ or some other such vulgarity. What I learned in my trip to the Detroit casino is just how wicked the whole casino industry really is. My friend Bob could afford to gamble because he had the loot and didn’t mind losing it. He said, “You have to remember. This whole business is a professional, and legal way of taking as much of your money as possible as quickly as possible. They’re good at it. Furthermore,” Bob  added, “You’re not allowed to cheat, but they do all the time. Everything is stacked in their favor. Every game gives them the edge.” Learning to play craps was fun–especially on Bob’s dime.

However what I noticed was all the lower class people who were there–people who were rangy and poorly dressed; people who couldn’t afford to eat out at Kentucky Fried Chicken, much less gamble. Bob agreed, “Some of these guys are out of work and they’re trying to win money to pay the rent. They lose.” Then I saw the number of old people. These weren’t the sun tanned oldies who wander around the golf links in retirement communities. These were blue collar folks plugging quarter after quarter into the slot machines like zombies.

Bob said, “What the casino owners do is send reps out to all the rest homes and retirement communities. They give the old folks a voucher for two free nights in the hotel and all the meals they want and ten dollars worth of chips. So Fred and Gladys, who haven’t been able to have a vacation for they don’t know how long, turn up on the bus the casino provides and they end up gambling away what little savings they had which was supposed to pay for their nursing home one day.”

The more Bob talked the more disgusted I became. Here are people who are already fabulously and disgustingly rich devising schemes to bilk poor, elderly, unemployed people out of the little bit of cash they have on hand. Their sin is totally pre meditated, planned and well funded.

Once you begin to realize the iniquity of the gambling industry and how it preys on the vulnerable, the poor and the stupid, you start to think again about our whole society. The gambling addiction runs through our culture everywhere. State lotteries do the same thing. Essentially they prey on the poor to provide goodies for the rich. Yes, yes, I know….nobody forces anybody to gamble. They have a choice and all that. They have choice like any addict has choice: in theory. A person or an government that provides gambling to a gambling addict is just like a drug pusher who keeps the junkie hanging for his next hit.

And now we’re exporting all this to Europe, so the All American gangsters and thugs can use their flashy schemes to rake in even more cash. This is why I believe in Hell. I demand justice. Call me judgmental, but people like that must sizzle as far as I’m concerned.

  • Rachel Bostwick

    I hate it, too. You talk about how it pervades out culture – even to our children, really, when they offer a chance to win a fabulous prize if you talk your parents into buying you a box of fruit roll ups. I hated seeing that look in my son's eye when he got excited about that – I now have them watch as few commercials as possible, watching our cartoons on Netflix instead. But my husband buys lottery tickets. So there's no protecting them from all of it.

  • Kevin

    There is a long sordid history of legalized (and non) in America. It may not repeat itself but it will certainly rhyme.

  • Quanah

    I stopped at a casino on a road trip to get dinner. I was deeply disturbed by how zombie-like the people at the slot machines were. You nailed it, Father.

  • Fr. Gary V.

    I have known people who were addicted to casino gambling and it devastated and tear family apart. The person addicted is sometime in state of denial or promised to reform but after long hibernation they let loose in the casino like there's no tomorrow.

  • Agnes B Bullock

    And four casinos are coming to Ohio, thanks to the stupidity of our voters!

  • Paul Stilwell

    People don't know what money is for anymore. All what they know is that it's something they need to acquire lots of. No good – economic or otherwise – can come out of the proposition of making money from people who give the money in the hopes that they will win money.I hate the lottery. I hate my local casino (which happens to be maybe a little bit ennobled by also being a horse-track, but not much really). I hate the credit card companies (which are pretty much pure evil).And too often the people who do win the "jackpot", their lives turn to hell.Every time I pass by the strip bar in town I pray to the Holy Family to bring an end to what goes on there. I suppose one should do the same for one's local casino. Maybe go and pray on the premises, with sacramentals.

  • Just another mad Catholic

    Reminds me of 'casino bankers' who are bailed out by the taxpayer and then continue to award themselves huge bonuses. As for gambling I swear that I will NEVER do it, I've been tempted many times but I will never do it.

  • Old Bob

    Thank you, Fr. L. Being somewhat savvy about probability and statistics, I learned long ago that not matter how much money you wank into a casino with, you will walk out with nothing — even if (get this!) the casino has no edge!

  • Victoria

    A family member lost his marriage and his children's respect because of his addiction to gambling. He is now approaching retirement age with nothing in the bank and only his government pension to rely on.This particular casino in Australia has no clocks on the walls and the ATM machines (from which the gamblers can withdraw from their bank accounts) are on site. Smoking is banned in most of the casino but the ban is lifted in the "high rollers room". The casino has a rule that a gambler is not permitted to put any money in his/her pocket whilst at table i.e. if a gambler wishes to limit their losses by keeping some chips aside to cash in later – this is not permitted.If a gambler feels that his gambling is out of control he can voluntarily exclude himself and has to jump through a lot of hoops to cancel this exclusion order.

  • kkollwitz

    "This particular casino in Australia has no clocks on the walls" I remember 2 things about the Vegas casinos around 1980:No clocks.No happy faces. I was more surprised by the latter: I had thought gambling was supposed to be fun.

  • brucefdb

    This week's gospel says 'resist not evil' and 'love your enemies'. That's the toughest Gospel I have had to deal with in my year as a catechumen. This post is a good illustration of how difficult that message can be to accept. I get it, but it is very hard.

  • Anthony S. Layne

    I was still with A Major Home Lender and very early into my blogging efforts when I first started to think about the differences and similarities between gambling at the casino and gambling on the NYSE. After working in both home lending and credit cards, I can say both bear an uncomfortable resemblance to casinos as well. Because you're gambling you'll have the income to pay off the debt, and because while you have that debt, the lenders are thinking of any other way they can get you to put more future income on the pass line.I wasn't in the belly of the beast—more like near the top of the esophagus—but I'm glad I'm out.

  • bbmoe

    I've had several conversations with my friends on the right and Libertarians (I am on the right politically/socially/economically as well.) They are appalled when I say, no, not all "business" is good. There are many business models that depend on the gullibility and weakness of the consumer. I wouldn't own a bar or a casino, because those business models depend on people who are addicted, not bright, or just weak. Same goes for many, many lending institutions who lobbied for relaxing rules for loan qualifications. And before anyone says, "We need more rules!" I will remind him that it was the legislators that re-wrote the rules to get the votes of the folks who couldn't really afford the loans but suddenly, miraculously became qualified to own their own homes (which they promptly lost in the downturn.) Thank you, Father, for this timely observation. When economic times get worse, lotteries and casinos look like the "easy" way to make money. It's really a poor tax.

  • Howard

    Is it possible to gamble on the stock market? Yes! That is called speculating. In fact I wonder about the morality of putting money into growth stocks, which don't pay a dividend but which I hope to unload on some even more gullible sucker in the future. In principle, though, there is — or should be — an important difference between gambling and investing. Gambling is at best a zero-sum game; whatever you may win someone else must lose. To the extent that investing helps promote the production of actual goods, it is not a zero-sum game; it can be a game from which everyone wins.

  • George

    I've seen the devastating effects of gambling in my own family, it's horrifying. Glad you mentioned the state lotteries too. Where I live, the state now has $30 scratch cards – this is abusive. Governments are resembling the mafia every day.

  • Equipo Técnico

    Father:"Las Vegas" is already a Spanish term. It means the meadows close to a river. My grandfather owned a land plot called "Las Vegas" not far from Toledo (Spain)."El Vegas" makes no sense at all, as "el" is singular and masculine and "vegas" is feminine and plural.Best regards.

  • Equipo Técnico

    I forgot to sign. My name is Bruno Moreno (Madrid, Spain)

  • missjeanevil

    The only gambling my grandparents did was bingo and buying raffle tickets; they always taught us to see it as a "donation" – no way were we going to get our money back, although my grandmother was prodigiously "lucky" especially when she put the raffle tickets in the names of friends. However, my parents never gambled. My mother said she didn't like the idea of throwing her money away, since it was so hard to earn. And my father had like horseraces in his youth, but the first time he was in a casino he saw an old lady plunking nickels one after another into a machine, like a grim robot.

  • Marija

    I agree with you all about not gambling. We have a huge casino in a town nearby and it is always busy. I have gambling friends who call it the "redneck investment center."So, what are we to think of this: In our parish bulletin this week is an announcement for another area parish:"CASINO/BINGO NIGHT: At St.___ on Saturday March 5th at 6:30 pm in the Hall. Gaming includes blackjack, Texas holdem, craps, roulette. Door prizes awarded. Tickets are $25 for adults (21 and older) which includes $300 in playing chips, cocktails and appetizers."

  • Suburbanbanshee

    Casinos and gambling houses were invented in Europe (and Asia, probably independently). Monaco is pretty much one big funnel to their casinos, or used to be, and Spain is hardly devoid of gambling establishments. I agree that there's a difference between the Tivoli and EuroDisney, but not all that much.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    "The ECA (European Casino Association) represents the interests of more than 1,000 casinos and 83,000 employees in 23 countries across Europe."So yeah, this time it's American coals to Newcastle, but it's coals to Newcastle, still.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    And it's generally American law that you don't have to provide any proof-of-purchase to have a chance to win a prize. If your kids are that excited, you can have them sending self-addressed stamped envelope prize entries from now until doomsday, and their chances of winning will probably be as good or better than people who buy the box. (Especially those who don't send it in.) That's what that book about the prize-winner housewife from Wooster, Ohio was about — she helped support her family by sending in for every prize that had free entry.Prizes are for marketing, not gambling. They want somebody to win. If nobody wins, the company is stuck with a lot of merchandise stuff they don't want.