Those of us that so choose could always seek out risk to gain reward here in the United States. Our reality is no different than all the cultures that have followed since the invention of six-sided dice in about 3000 BC Mesopotamia. Gaming havens like Las Vegas and Atlantic City once cornered the vice market. They fenced in legal bettors from citizens who might frown on such activity. Illegal gambling has, of course, always been discoverable. Yet today’s would-be gamblers need not travel to these specific sanctums or shop the local black market to find some action. In fact, I would assert they need not get off the couch! 

"Our reality is no different than all the cultures that have followed since the invention of six-sided dice in about 3000 BC Mesopotamia."

I am not judging any of us who enjoy venturing. We are the freest of societies, and gambling can be considered an entertaining perk or even a present-day (uncertain!) career choice. My remarks are mostly observational. However, you would have to live under a rock and/or have your head in the sand not to acknowledge the proliferation of advertising and accessibility with regards to gambling in our country. Even then, you’d still likely take notice if you happen to be in a room under the Hard ROCK Casino and/or poked your pate in the SANDS hotel!

Utah and Hawaii are now the only two states remaining where no legal gambling is allowed after the federal ban on state authorization of sports betting was struck down in 2018. It seems from that point on, all types of gambling have become mainstream. Even unorthodox chances have bubbled up. I know in football games for example, one can now usually bet on the opening coin flip and in-game selections like fourth-quarter total possessions. It reminds me of far-fetched bets my friends and I would make in our youth. We conjured “mound ball” at our High School games and laid odds on where the baseball would end up after the final out of an inning (infield grass, on the mound or out of play?)  It just must be in American’s DNA somewhere to try and parlay our enjoyment of competition.

"It just must be in our DNA somewhere to try and parlay our enjoyment of competition "

All of us are now inundated with various ways to wager and can simply push buttons on our phones to do so. A word of caution may be in order; we all can’t be James Holzhauer! I remember my first All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet as a child with my father. His advice then may apply to the need for personal moderation with gambling. Dad warned, “Go ahead and fill up but don’t make yourself sick!” We should recognize a concern for those of us that might be susceptible to overdoing it. Thankfully, this new wave of accessibility does coincide with a “woke” understanding of mental illness and addiction. I do, unfortunately, see a similarity between the initial “free” bets being offered by the ubiquitous sportsbook companies and the first-time customer samples distributed by back-alley drug pushers. It’s important that we all show a little backbone in our responses to aggressive marketing campaigns and help those who struggle with a pertinent reminder- the house usually wins!

By the way, gambling itself is not mentioned as a transgression against any divine law in holy texts, only greed or love of money is considered a universal moral evil. We can all probably agree there is no real harm in winning (or losing) money in a friendly game of cards amongst friends. Still, it is interesting to see our country’s progression. For decades now, there has been a “World Series of Poker.” The stakes are a bit higher than in your neighborhood gathering; the 2021 winner just netted 8 million dollars! Our country was founded on Judeo- Christian values, but there is no moral high ground here. Haven’t pious folks regularly raised funds for the new social hall through Friday night bingo? Perhaps the lax acceptance of padding the budget this way indirectly paved the way for the NFL to glut its coffers with sportsbook advertising money. I’ll let others decide if it opened the starting gate atop a slippery slope. Let’s just hope the integrity of our beloved sports leagues will hold up with more and more money at stake on contest outcomes. Regardless of one’s view of this new “recreation”, we should all recognize that this mushrooming industry needs internal support. The relaxed regulation has created jobs and hopefully the popularity of betting goes to the greater good through a massive tax source. 

"Our country was founded on Judeo- Christian values, but there is no moral high ground here. Haven't pious folks regularly raised funds for the new social hall through Friday night bingo?"

I think we can all agree that the 2018 decision has changed the promotional landscape in America about gambling. It wasn’t that long ago that the sport’s leagues lawyered up to prevent an association with Las Vegas. Now not only is wagering sanctioned and lucrative by and for these same organizations but the Raiders and Golden Knights call “Sin City” home! Our country will always stretch and reinvent itself into new monetized markets, which is to be expected. We live and promote our free-market ideals, and those same tenets reward innovation despite our varied opinions about lifestyle.

"So America enjoy the easy opportunity to have some skin in the game!"

So America enjoy the easy opportunity to have some skin in the game! Do your homework and gain as much information on your play as you can. In fact, take a statistics class and focus on probability- then sit on the edge of your seat and root yourself silly for your team to cover the spread, surpass the over or even whether the winning side douses their coach with Gatorade. Yet, if you find yourself losing more than your discretionary funds, remember to set aside enough for your move. How about a bungalow in Hawaii or a cottage in Utah? Pick either paradise; it’s a lock that you’ll be free of constant temptation!  – JAH

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John A. Hughes

John Hughes hails from Wilmington, Delaware. He has lived throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England in his 35 years working in the Commercial Furniture Industry. He remains an active parent of 2 children in their twenties and enjoys running and golfing.

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