Monday, October 25, 1999

Week of 10/25/1999

Bet On It!
Gambling Is Life
- by David Matthews 2

A devout Christian started hearing voices from above. The message was always the same: "This is God. I have chosen you to help me." The man first thought it was his imagination. But then God shows the burning bush, makes it rain inside the guy’s living room, and rattles the room with thunder and lightning.

The man goes to the local church, the priest listens carefully to what the man was being told. The priest talks to the other ministers and they all agree that it has to be God who is talking. They tell him he’d better do whatever it is God tells him to do.

God tells the man to quit his job and sell all of his belongings. So the guy quits his job, sells his house and car, and everything he owns. God then tells the guy to take all of the money and buy a plane ticket to Las Vegas. So the guy takes his money and flies out to Vegas. When he gets to Vegas, God tells the guy "Go to Caesar’s!" So the guy goes to Caesar’s. "Go to the fourth roulette table!" The guy goes to the fourth roulette table. "Put all of your money on Red 36!" So the guy puts all the money into chips and puts them all on Red 36. The roulette dealer spins the wheel and drops the ball. The ball bounces around and around as the wheel slowly spins down…

The ball lands on Black 42.

"DAMN!" God exclaims.

No doubt a certain Alabama governor feels the same way.

Governor Don Siegelman had been in office less than one year, after having thrown out incumbent deadweight Fob James on the promise that he would help bring a state lottery to Alabama so it can help pay for education. Governor James had opposed any kind of state lottery because his masters in the Christian Coalition told him so. Fob James’ head was so high up the collective rectums of the bible-thumpers that ministers had to go see a proctologist in order for the governor to have his dental checkup. So after the voters tossed out Governor James and his bible-thumping masters, it was believed that a state lottery would be certain.

But the religious wrong would not go down without a fight, and they decided to use the lottery referendum to make Governor Siegleman pay for crossing them. The religious wrong came out in droves to push voters away from a state lottery. And in the end, they managed to convince 55% of the voting populace to say no to a state-run lottery.

Now, full of themselves, and still having the taste of fresh political blood in their rabid mouths, the dysfunctional elite are poising themselves to spread their anti-lottery moralism to the state of South Carolina, where their own lottery referendum will be decided by the voters in November of 2000.

Their rationality against the lottery, however, is where the real problem lies. Anti-gambling moralists content that gambling hurts poor people and the elderly. The moralists LOVE to talk about the people who gamble away their life savings, or even their meager paychecks, just so they could buy lottery tickets. Of course, they don’t talk about the 74-year old retiree who buys a lottery ticket on a fluke and wins big, or the simple families, whose father or mother buys a lottery ticket every so often, and then wins the big money. No, you don’t hear those tales much… and certainly not for the moralists. They much rather point towards the people who spend recklessly and foolishly in hopes of winning the big money. It’s not THEIR fault, contends the moralists, it’s the lottery that’s to blame for their lot in life!

Then there’s the hypocrisy of Alabama’s vote against the state lottery. The moralists contend that a state lottery would supposedly introduce legalized gambling to the state. Apparently they forgot that Alabama already has legalized dog racing, as well as bingo. Oh, but that isn’t the same as a lottery, right folks? Yeah, right.

The lottery system is as old as the nation. The Continental Army that beat back the British redcoats was funded by a lottery. The Statue of Liberty, the gift of freedom from France (long before their streak of socialism) was paid for by a series of lotteries. In fact, gambling was perfectly legal until the 1820’s.. when they were outlawed by none other than the bible-thumping moralists!

There is perhaps no greater sign of hypocrisy amongst the bible-thumpers here in the American south than to drive past a church with a sign that says "GAMBLING IS EVIL! SAY NO TO LOTTERY!" while over their front door they have a banner that reads "BINGO 7PM." Oh, so a lottery is evil because it is gambling, but bingo, which is also a form of gambling, is okay because it’s for the church, right? That’s the logic the dysfunctional elite is trying to use. Gambling is evil.. unless it’s for their purposes.

Let’s get brutally honest here.. gambling is a part of life, whether you know it or not! Gambling simply means putting your trust in factors outside of your control, and if that is somehow evil, then we are all evil to the core!

How many of you participate in the stock market? That, too, is gambling. Oh sure, Wall Street executives can swear up and down a stack of bibles that it’s not gambling, but let’s be blunt - it IS gambling. You’re spending money on a business in the hopes that the value of your stock will go up. You can’t control how that stock fares, and if that business loses value, you’re out money. How different is that from putting money on the dog track, or buying a scratch-off ticket?

The only difference is that betting on the stock market makes more people money. How many people have made millions on companies like or Red Hat or Yahoo? Even the movie "Forrest Gump" talked about making a lot of money by putting stock in "some fruit company" called Apple. The latest "play-to-win" game pieces include stock in Martha Stewart and the World Wrestling Federation. They made fast trades on their first day. Even solid companies in the market are successful because the people who invest in them do so for the long run instead of the buy-low, sell-high, cash-in-now crowd. Ambrose Bierce said it best when he said "The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling."

Of course, that’s not the only activity people gamble on. How many of us commute to work in congested rush hour traffic? That too is a form of gambling, but the stakes now are more than just money - the stakes are life and death. You don’t know when a driver who is still waking up forgets to put on his brakes until the last second, or if he decides to do a lane-change at the last moment. I don’t know how many times I’ve come across people who are in the left lane suddenly dart across three lanes of traffic in order to get to the exit on the right hand side of the road. You could be driving alongside someone when - POW - they blow a tire. Or suddenly a truck ahead of you drops a ladder on the road. Atlanta is legendary for it’s numerous "ladder in the road" alerts. You don’t know when these things will happen, and if they do happen, only the fates will determine whether or not you will be involved in them. And take it from me, no matter how good your driving skills are, there is a chance you can get involved in an accident.

How about sex? Eddie Murphy did a great comedy routine a few years ago comparing the singles scene to a craps table. Dating is a form of gambling, because you don’t know if the person you’re seeing is mister or miss perfect fit, or someone who will rob you blind and break your heart. Even sexual intercourse is a gamble. Sure, you can time it right and have all sorts of protection, but if the rubber breaks, the diaphragm slips, or the pill not work fast enough, you could end up contributing to the population growth. And nowadays, pregnancy is the LEAST of your problems! Some married couples are finding out the hard way that their spouse may not be completely honest about their sexual history, and are contracting sexually-transmitted diseases like AIDS, herpes, syphilis, or gonorrhea. So sex is also very much a gamble, but with a different kind of reward.

And, believe it or not, religion is also a gamble! The philosopher Blaise Pascal considered religion to be a sure bet, even if God didn’t exist. When you choose one particular religion over another, you are gambling that your religious belief is the correct one. Who is to say that should the much hyped day of reckoning come, your religious belief will be the one that passes God’s test? The Baptists certainly feel they have the inside win.. so much so that they want to convert Jews and Hindus, whom they feel are on the losing side. Who is to say that they will be right?

According to the Book of Revelation, only one-hundred forty-four thousand people would survive the Apocalypse. The Christian Coalition alone boasts a membership of two million. Even if the Baptists were the "chosen people", what would Pat Robertson tell the remaining 1.85 million members who don’t make the promised cut? Sorry? Thanks for playing? He certainly wouldn’t be able to say "Better luck next time."

Of course, there’s the other reason why religious people oppose gambling.. one that people really don’t talk about, because it’s purely financial. Ministers oppose gambling because it takes money away from the causes THEY support - namely themselves. Let’s get really brutally honest about this - that’s why churches love bingo but hate the lottery, because with church-sponsored raffles and bingo games, the money goes to the church! Bet it on the dog track, and the money goes to someone else. Bet it in the lottery, and the money goes to the state. Either way, it doesn’t go into their hands, which is why they oppose it.

Then again, the good thing about the Alabama ministers leading the drive against that state having its own lottery system is that it keeps Alabama money going to Georgia, where that state’s lottery is still going strong. So on behalf of all the Georgia residents, I say thanks to all those bible-thumping moralists in Alabama for ensuring that your decent, God-fearing Christian people will continue to come across state lines and spend their money in our businesses and for our state’s lottery system. It’s a sure bet that your continued dysfunction will bring in more money to Georgia’s businesses, while keeping Alabama away from the "stain" of gambling.

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