Across America these days, there are pitched battles over the rights of people to gamble. In particular, online poker and daily fantasy sports — two cash cows that plunged into our lives over the past 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 believe we all gamble too much, which I’ll discuss momentarily, but I was not put on this Earth — and neither were you — to tell people how to spend their free time and what to do with their money.
(Heck, if I were world czar, I’d put a Ben & Jerry’s on every corner and put every Starbucks into storage. But last time I looked, I am not 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, if everyone is doubling down on 11 against a dealer 6, if everyone is 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 — 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? Okay, with more cash. But as George’s friend Jerry Seinfeld might tell you, “Big deal.”
Sure, Vincent van Gogh would’ve been happier if he hit a 200-to-1 shot at the racetrack or if he sold one of his early paintings for an exorbitant figure, but he probably would’ve 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 DFS.
(And please, don’t sit there and tell me that daily fantasy is not 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 DFS because it allows their fans to connect to their games at a greater level. But the reality is the leagues have found another revenue stream that, ultimately, will empty the pockets of their fans.
Most people lose at DFS, and for those who get hooked, they will lose a lot.
At least some forms of gambling give you a reasonable chance of getting your money back. But DFS feels as rigged as Wall Street — the insiders have the inside track and the rest of us are throwing darts at a dartboard, 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.
The PBS “NewsHour” reported in January findings that 91 percent of DraftKings’s and FanDuel’s MLB prize pools last season were won by just 1.3 percent of the players.
Is poker any better? Actually, yes it is.
But in either case, 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.
Q. At this point, isn’t the NFL suspending Johnny Manziel akin to you blocking all Halle Berry calls and texts? (Mark Cohen; Gibsonia, Pa.)
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, Ore. )
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, Md.)
A. I think 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, D.C.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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Source: Washington Post