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In Defense Of Gambling: The Flip Side Of The Coin You Are Not Told About

1241 words - 5 pages

A curious thing about gambling in America is that it is extremely popular, yet has a bad reputation--and I don't mean the unsavory way in which gambling licenses are awarded . I am talking about the moral realm, as witnessed in the clucking over William Bennett's expensive habit. Casinoland's high rollers are perceived as inhabiting a zone somewhere between immoral and diseased, and have great difficulty defending themselves. Yet in their own lives most Americans demand ever more gambling opportunities. As things stand now, legal gambling is available in all but three states (Hawaii, Tennessee and Utah), and most Americans admit to gambling sometimes. Surveys done in 1999 for the National ...view middle of the document...

If the members unexpectedly vote against wage concessions, you could make a killing on the bankruptcy.Despite gambling broad popularity, its enemies keep coming at it from all directions. To begin with its least influential bad-mouthers, it is generally disfavored by economists. As postulated in several editions of Paul Samuelson's famous textbook, gambling is a bad thing under the principle of diminishing marginal utility. The principle tells us that the $1,000 won on a 999-to-1 bet can buy something less than 1,000 times as much happiness as the dollar put up for the bet. Thus gamblers are collectively losers, even in the idealized lottery, where nothing is taken off the top for overhead and taxes. And, of course, the real world is far from the Platonic ideal--much is lost overhead. The other economic formulation has gambling as an evil because it consumes time and resources without creating any new output. You could say the same about climbing Mt. Everest, but somehow economists never weigh in on this front. What you absolutely never hear from them is that gambling is terrific entertainment, and that perfectly rational people play the lottery and the horses because they get kicks at a price they find reasonable. The price, of course, is not the amount bet but the amount lost by customers succumbing to the vigorish--the house's edge. You also don't hear this being acknowledged by people whose livelihood comes from fighting compulsive gambling and who are, therefore, somewhat motivated to exaggerate the problem's magnitude. Gambler Anonymous, the National Council on Problem Gambling, the Compulsive Gambling Center, the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems, the Chinese Community Problem Gambling Project, Women Helping Women and the Association of Problem Gambling Service Administrators are all out there getting across the message that compulsive gambling is ruining lives. In an average month the Nexis database adds 200 articles mentioning "problem" gambling and 100 or so mentioning "compulsive" gambling.Yet the overwhelming majority of gamblers are just out there enjoying themselves. The best available--though still flawed--research on the numbers is the study performed several years ago by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which indicated that compulsive gamblers are about 0.9% of the adult population. There is no longer any dispute about the characters in question being seriously self-destructive, as we were reminded recently by the April obituary of Leonard Tose, who was forced to sell the Philadelphia Eagles to pay $25 million in casino gambling debts. (Charming detail from the New York Times obit: It was...

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