Gambling Your Life (and Savings) Away
Last year was great for casinos as they reportedly raked in a record $14 billion for the third quarter. As 2021 came to a close, they were on pace to break their $43 billion-plus annual record, set in 2019.
With the NFL gearing up for wild card weekend in two days, I can imagine betting fever reaching an even higher pitch. Especially since it’s been impossible lately to miss ads (TV, online or other forums) for the sports gambling sites that have proliferated like Southeastern kudzu.
Like most football fans, I enjoy this time of year, especially the playoffs. Often the first weekend is better than the last, with everyone’s dreams alive and upsets possible at the drop of a pass.
But when it comes to gambling, I am also glad that I treat football like the lottery: I just don’t do it.
Losing Your Shirt
There is a sound reason for this—I’m no good at it. After half a dozen years of trying to pick winners in the local newspaper and ESPN online contests, I have only come out on top twice.
As a friend remarked, “Twice out of all those weeks isn’t too good.”
Indeed it isn’t. That’s why I treat it like a hobby. It costs only the time I invest in guessing weekly outcomes. I also enjoy the never-ending surprises that are a prime reason most gamblers lose their shirt while the house rakes in the winnings.
Thanks to the Supreme Court decision that opened up the floodgates a few years ago, the odds against the average Joe are getting stacked even higher.
Now it’s not enough to bet on the outcome of a game. There are the ubiquitous over-under wagers on total points scored. Now there are bets on whether the next play will be a run or a pass. Or how many touchdown passes a particular quarterback will throw in the first half. The list goes on and on.
Over the past three-plus years sports betting has been legalized in 32 states, with 10 more contemplating following suit.
In a recent story warning about the hazards of gambling, Les Bernal of Stop Predatory Gambling called this development part of the relentless march by state governments and powerful gambling companies to introduce extreme forms of gambling into as many homes as possible.
That includes going after youngsters; Bernal says the United Kingdom experienced an epidemic of children betting after the legalization of online sports gambling there in 2019.
The method behind the madness: to sucker kids into other forms of gambling once they have grown up thinking betting on games is normal.
“The goal is not getting people to bet on a game once a week for 17 weeks of the football season,” Bernal says. “The real profit margin is getting people to wager 365 days a year in their home.”
Like so many social ills, gambling comes in cycles. Once abuses become bad enough, the corruption runs deep enough, and the damage obvious enough, we may return to the days when folks who wanted to wager had to fly to Las Vegas.
Until that happens, I’m afraid the house will keep winning while millions lose a lot, whether as small as some butter-and-egg money or as serious as the gambler’s life’s savings.