It’s a good bet that you’ll lose at gambling
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BY NORMAN CHAD
Across America these days, there are pitched battles about the rights of people to gamble. In particular, online poker and daily fantasy sports — two cash cows that plunged into our lives in the last decade or so — are fighting to get back into our homes and relieve many of their customers of a lot of their money.
The simple truth is this: We should have the freedom to gamble more and the common sense to gamble less.
Gambling-wise, all of it should be allowed. Legalize it, regulate it, tax it. Granted, I think we all gamble too much (which I’ll discuss momentarily), but I was not put on this earth — nor were you — to tell people how to spend their free time and what to do with their money.
(Heck, if I were the world czar, I’d put a Ben & Jerry’s on every corner and put every Starbucks into storage. Last time I looked, though, I am not the world czar. Rather, I’m a fast-fading contrarian holding on for dear life.)
I am tired of state laws banning gambling activities, though those very states run the biggest gambling operation in town: the lottery. If I run a numbers game, it’s a crime; if the state runs a numbers game, it’s civic-minded.
But I’m also tired of my gambling colleagues who, in the race to riches, forget the collateral damage.
Gambling is fun until it’s not. The problem with gambling is, well, problem gambling. Indeed, often overlooked in this gambling gold rush is the fact that many people not only lose their shirts, but they also become addicted to the task.
And, frankly, if everyone is gambling, where does that leave us as a community?
To quote the deceptively sage George Costanza, ‘‘You know, we’re living in a society!’’ So what type of society are we living in if everyone is depending on the Chargers to cover the spread, doubling down on an 11 against a dealer’s 6 or waiting for the Powerball numbers to be drawn Wednesdays and Saturdays?
We should gamble more prudently, both from a financial standpoint (you’re probably going to lose) and a spiritual standpoint (life is short, so shouldn’t we be doing something else?).
Even if you’re able to win, where does that leave you at the end of the day? OK, with more cash. But as George’s friend Jerry Seinfeld might tell you, ‘‘Big deal.’’
Sure, Vincent van Gogh would have been happier if he hit a
200-to-1 shot at the racetrack or sold one of his early paintings for an exorbitant figure, but he probably would have been less of an artist afterward. I’m not saying I’m glad he died tormented and penniless, but his lifelong misery probably informed, fueled and produced better lifelong work.
The thing is, everyone doesn’t win. In fact, most people lose.
Which brings us, of course, to daily fantasy sports.
(Please don’t sit there and tell me daily fantasy isn’t gambling. Because, as Michael Corleone told Carlo, ‘‘It insults my intelligence, and it makes me very angry.’’)
The NFL, NBA and MLB love to use the argument that they invest in daily fantasy sports because it allows their fans to connect to their games at a greater level. The reality, though, is the leagues have found another revenue stream that ultimately will empty the pockets of their fans.
Most people lose at daily fantasy sports, and those who get hooked will lose a lot.
At least some forms of gambling give you a reasonable chance of getting your money back. But daily fantasy feels as rigged as Wall Street: The insiders have the inside track, and the rest of us are throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded. I guess it’s sort of like the lottery, except they’re holding 200 tickets and you’re holding one. Not to mention they use computer algorithms to program their lineups and you just use guesswork.
In January, the PBS ‘‘NewsHour’’ reported findings that 91 percent of DraftKings’ and FanDuel’s MLB prize pools last season were won by 1.3 percent of the players.
Is poker any better? Actually, yes.
In either case, though, the house takes a piece out of every pool and every pot. Eventually, if you lock the doors and everyone keeps playing long enough, everyone is broke and the house ends up with all the money.
That doesn’t sound like a real good deal to me.
Ask The Slouch
Q. At this point, isn’t the NFL suspending Johnny Manziel akin to you blocking all Halle Berry’s calls and texts? (Mark Cohen, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania)
A. Speaking for both of us, Johnny Football and I don’t like being grouped with one another.
Q. Why would the Lakers agree to pay free-agent reserve Timofey Mozgov $64 million over four years? (William Baxter, Portland, Oregon)
A. Have you seen housing prices in L.A. lately?
Q. If Budweiser is now ‘‘America,’’ shouldn’t Bud Light now be known as ‘‘Canada’’?
(D. Sands, Silver Spring, Maryland)
A. You just insulted Canadians.
Q. Now that replay appears to be entrenched in professional baseball, how long before MLB will have to redefine what a catch is? (Nelson Marr, Washington.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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