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State may benefit from the frailty of others

Jeff Ackerman, Publisher
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If California is successful, it will one day balance its budget on the backs of losers. Just as they do in Nevada.

Indian gaming works pretty much like any other gaming. In order to be profitable, the casinos must lure gamblers with promises of riches, pour free cocktails down them until they don’t know a flush from a fish, and get them to empty their wallets all the way down to their versateller card.

Then send them home with instructions to “have a nice day.”



As a resident of Nevada for several years and frequent visitor to the casinos that support that Silver State, I’ve seen firsthand the toll a good video poker machine can extract on a sucker who hasn’t learned that a human generally cannot compete with a computer chip when it comes to cards.

Especially when the computer chip hasn’t had nearly as many gin and tonics as the human.




Now, much to the probable delight of the gaming industry, Nevada wants to legalize marijuana. “Dude,” the stoned gambler will soon ask, showing the dealer a jack and 10 of spades. “Is that a blackjack?”

“Nope,” the dealer will tell him. “That’s a bust.”

Using the “glass is half full” approach to marketing, the casino industry in Nevada likes to boast its winnings, hoping to delight its no-state-taxes citizens (Nevadans like to brag about the fact that they don’t pay state taxes as they slam money into a slot machine).

“Casino winnings hit $5 billion for the quarter,” the newspaper headlines proclaim every three months.

That seems much better than headlines that could just as easily read: “Losers drop $5 billion in casinos.”

At least gamblers in Nevada have a fighting chance, thanks to the state’s Gaming Control Board. There was a time you could see the shavings from the slot machine wheels scattered on the floor amid the quarter roll wrappers.

I really haven’t seen much evidence that Indian gaming is controlled to the extent that gamblers can be assured the odds against them will be any better than, say, dying.

If you don’t believe the odds are seriously stacked in the casino’s favor, ask yourself why there are pawnshops next door to casinos and not Lexus dealerships.

Unfortunately, most of the losers can’t afford to lose. Walk through a casino and you’ll see lots and lots of senior citizens on what they call “fixed incomes.” The casinos have fixed it so that their income is squandered.

Then there are the casino employees. I’ve seen single mothers spend eight hours lugging trays of free cocktails, only to play the slot machines until every dime they earned that day had been sucked from their purse.

And then there are the other social problems that generally come with the gambling package. Nevada routinely ranks among the top in terms of suicides, domestic violence and alcoholism.

It’s an industry that thrives on weakness. Gambling itself is an addiction. One that has nothing to do with winning, but with the possibility of losing. After awhile, players get hooked on the rush that comes with a game of chance.

“(Gambling) is the most horrible thing that I can imagine because it does not create revenue, it simply takes money away from other businesses and it becomes a tax on those who can least afford it,” said David Robertson, chairman of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling in a recent interview with the Sacramento Bee.

It’s a safe bet, however, that the revenue-strapped Golden State is licking its chops at the prospect of getting a percentage of the losses. If it’s true that there’s a sucker born every minute, California has a baby bonanza of suckers on its hands.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,


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