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Gambling with sanity

Hello. Nice to see you. How are the kids? Still have that job? Looks like you've lost a few pounds. Been on vacation yet? Love that watch. How's the house? Isn't this weather something special. Paris sidewalk café weather. Need anything? Maybe a nice sandwich? Something to drink on my tab? No? Okay then. Take care. Good luck. Be wary and be wise. A good summer to you.

Every so often I like to stop by one of the casinos to pay respect to the slot machine players, because without them, the horse race industry is looking at rusty fenders in the infield, we're looking at go carts turning for home where champions once reigned, we're looking at parking lots where hope once grew.

Slot machines have bedazzled the heartland and also support the horse race industry.


Slot machine junkies now support more worthy subjects than pit bosses, showgirls and dealers. Slot machines have bedazzled the heartland and also support the horse race industry, plugs for bucks, that's what the average weekday race card looks like with routine horses running for fifteen and twenty grand. Who knows how many people a single race horse claimer supports, hundreds probably, from the owner through the beer sales person to the window workers.

Thanks slot players.

Keep those c-notes rolling.

Here's what happened the time before last when I stopped by a casino to feed the money-hungry machines twenty bucks in quarters, which took 11 minutes, that long because I'm a people watcher.

As a writer in search of good topics, I am conflicted by the casino dilemma that brings into conflict, probably a million times a day, this: economic bliss versus personal agony. Big gambling losers are more anonymous than big drinkers. Losing a lot of money is embarrassing, it's stupid. It's hard to find people to talk about what they've wrecked with gambling losses. Casinos make tons of money for the community in the form of jobs and taxes that translate into civic improvement. And many lives break down because of catastrophic gambling losses.

Here's what the casinos want customers to do.

Win a little.

Or lose a little.

Eat up, drink up.

Repeat.

Gamble responsibly, that's what the PSA's say, the public service announcements on TV.

It's a shame that some gamblers aren't responsible.

Not feeling a disastrous loss is not horse racing, it's accepting punishment as a way of life.


The time before last at the casino, I saw a woman win $1,200 on a buck shot machine. Without batting an eyelid. Without standing on her head. Without dancing. Without celebrating. I was more excited for her than she was for herself. She just sat there and kept playing, punching the $3 button for the maximum amount of $1 bets, $3, $3, $3, $3, every 10 seconds or so, what's that on a cold streak, a thousand bucks per hour?

If winning is no fun, why do it?

Here's a horse race story to rival the woman's at the casino.

A couple of weeks ago, a guy showed me his $50-something trifecta ticket that was on the verge of winning great money. The finish of this particular race looked like a small tornado had hit it. At the wire, horses were surging and stopping, side-stepping and dodging. A gigantic payoff was guaranteed, as three of the five horses in the money mix brought around huge odds. The photo light was on so long, you'd have thought they might have to replace several bulbs.

The guy who showed me the ticket lost a bundle as the odds-on favorite, looking like a nag out of "The Mummy's Curse," with tape all over the place, ran its guts out and lunged into third place by about the length of mosquito bite. The favorite was the only one this guy didn't have. Making matters even worse was the jockey on the favorite that got third acted happy, like he had done one fine job of it out there among the ruins. If there is anything worse than losing a big payoff when a terrible favorite runs third, it would have to be being mugged of your big winnings in the parking lot.

The guy with the bad ticket said that's horse racing for you, and he flipped the losing paper to the wind, having obviously accumulated enough loser bet receipts for the IRS, and he went to bet on the next one.

Not feeling a disastrous loss is not horse racing, it's accepting punishment as a way of life.

So this one turns out to be about gambling problems.

If you can't quit a little ahead or a little behind, if a big win is irrelevant, or if sickening losses don't feel different than most anything else, that's bad.