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Frank Scoblete - There?s No Such Thing as Responsible Gambling

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  • Frank ScobleteYou?ll notice some casino ads, events and/or press releases that promote the idea of ?responsible? gambling. Just as there is no ?creature under the bed? in little Timmy?s room (except if little Timmy is in a horror movie or a novel), there is no such thing as ?responsible? gambling, at least not in this world -- nor need the casino industry pretend that there is to make itself appear socially conscious or to justify its existence.

    Gambling in and of itself is an irresponsible act, a frivolity, like miniature golf, or going to the movies, or dining out or watching most television shows. Anytime you give up ?X? amount of money in order to receive a return of ?X-Y? amount of money (?Y? being the amount the casino edge extracts), you are acting irresponsibly. Yes, you are having fun; yes, you are experiencing a thrill ride; and, yes, some nights you might even go home or back to your hotel room with more money than when you started.

    Still, no one would invest in a stock if they were guaranteed it would lose money in the long run. We would say such an investor was irresponsible. In fact, we?d say he was a jerk.

    So why do casino industry people promote the idea that there is such a thing as responsible gambling when they know (or should know) that any gambling against a house edge is irresponsible? A few reasons:

    The anti-gambling forces are always phrasing their arguments in moral terms as they cite this or that statistic showing that this or that percentage of casino gamblers are ?problem gamblers.? The industry then reacts by attempting to defend the morality of their enterprise by citing job growth and economic development as a boon to the communities where casinos are located.

    The anti-gambling forces blame the casinos for encouraging problem gambling by not discouraging it as though it is the responsibility of the industry to police the personalities of their patrons and exorcise whatever demons those patrons might have. The industry then tries to show that it is trying to help problem gamblers by pushing the oxymoron of responsible gambling, or, at the very least, having the 800 number for Gamblers Anonymous in their advertisements.

    By falling for the moral trap that was laid by the self-righteous foes of casino gambling, the casino industry is often ?hoist with its own petard? and made to look foolish and hypocritical. After all, if Big Timmy just blew his weekly salary at the craps table, that?s Big Timmy?s problem, not the casino?s problem. But if the casinos are caught up in this ?responsible gambling? chimera, then it becomes their problem (by extension) because they aren?t helping Big Timmy when he?s playing.

    If no casino gambling is responsible behavior, as I contend, then Big Timmy is just more irresponsible than the hordes of other irresponsible players who aren?t blowing their salaries, but just a portion of their net worth, on frivolous casino games. You can?t morally blame the mountain and the snow when a skier takes a tumble, breaks his leg or wraps himself around a tree, can you? The skier bought those skies, put them on, paid for his lift to the top of the mountain, and deliberately pushed off and let gravity do its thing to him ? the way the house edge does its thing to casino gamblers. There?s no such thing as responsible skiing, just degrees of irresponsibility.

    It is my belief that the casino industry should never be on the defensive when it comes to the moral questions that surround gambling. The morality is irrelevant. The morality should be ignored. In fact, I know very few players who agonize over questions of morality when it comes to their gambling. They just want to play!

    If the self-righteous don?t like the casinos, they don?t have to go to the casinos. The self-righteous can content themselves with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and feeling superior to the rest of us schnooks who like a little irresponsibility now and again. An essentially amoral (not immoral!) industry can only lose when it attempts to be on the side of the Almighty Divine when, in fact, we all know it is clearly on the side of the almighty dollar.

    Strangely enough, the only ?responsible gambling? by certain patrons isn?t gambling at all ? it?s advantage play. Here certain players have attained a slight edge over the casinos by their expert play at certain games such as blackjack, video poker and craps. These players are therefore highly responsible individuals because they stand to make money in the long run, just like a good investor. Yet, you don?t see advertisements by casinos that read: ?Make sure you learn how to count cards so that you have the edge over us! That?s responsible gambling!? Aside from being suicidal, it would be stupid. Yet, it is just as stupid to pretend that folks who are the antithesis of advantage players can somehow be acting responsibly when they essentially give their money away, albeit in exchange for tremendous thrills and fabulous fun.

    Just as movies, skiing, or eating at fine restaurants are frivolous behaviors ? after all, you are throwing your money away on something that really doesn?t last very long ? so too is casino gambling. The fact is casinos should take a leaf from the players? manual when confronted by questions of morality or when asked to justify their existence ? don?t even bother to think about it!

    Some of Frank's most popular books can be purchased by clicking one of the image links below:

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