An addiction like no other

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Source : Google photo

Synopsis : An addiction like gambling destroys lives that the blog discusses in some depth.

Today I would like to start this blog with a story. It is a very long story but I have to tell you only the shortest version of it because of space.

There was this gambling joint in San Francisco where all kinds of people dropped by to try their luck at various forms of gambling offered there not to mention the booze and the women who were also there to lend a hand if needed all with the sole purpose of getting your money. It was a very disreputable place as such places usually are where sometimes fights over money broke out with tragic consequences because it was frequented by disreputable people.They were inveterate gamblers who always thought that the next roll of dice will bring them the fortune that always eluded them.

One day a ship docked nearby so some passengers got down and ended up in the gambling joint for a drink and nothing more. That was on the mind of a young German boy who had just gotten off the boat and was thirsty so he ordered a beer. Soon a fellow approached him and asked if he had some money on him that he could bet because he was feeling very lucky that day.

The German boy had never gambled in his life but for some strange reason agreed to give this fellow whom he had just met a good chunk of his money and asked him to write on a napkin the terms if he won and how much and watched with great trepidation his money being used for gambling. To everyone ‘s surprise the fellow kept on winning and betting more until the German boy got 20 times what he had lent.

He then promised himself that he will never gamble again in his life because he realized that he could have lost it all that day. He used this money to buy some sheep and started a sheep farm in a rural area and over the years prospered and kept on increasing his farm and the sheep and worked very hard to become a well to do sheep farmer. He married and had a daughter.

His gambling friend too prospered because his luck was with him for a while and settled on an adjacent property where he built a nice house, got married and also had a daughter so these two children often played together and became friends.

But he was a born gambler and could not stay away from the notorious gambling dens so lost a great deal of money again. His wife was so unhappy that she died of grief leaving the little daughter called Poppy in the care of the gambler husband.

Thus the life of misery started for the little girl who was dragged all over the country from one poor flop house to another by her father who always told her that he will get back all his money but never did and one day did not come back. Poppy did not know what happened to him and what to do so she grabbed her pet parrot and stowed away on a freight train not knowing where the train was going and ended up near the wharf in New York. She was only a child of 10.

She saw huge ships and climbed aboard one and fell asleep in one corner hidden on that big ship. The captain eventually found her when the ship was nearing France and let her go ashore and washed his hands off her. What happened to Poppy is another story that I need not write about here because this blog is about a deadly addiction called gambling and how it destroys lives.

Of all kinds of addictions, gambling surely is a destroyer of lives because a gambler can not be rehabilitated easily. I know a case where a fellow who worked in an aircaft factory in India and was in a good position and with a good salary had this addiction so kept on losing and borrowing more money from very bad people to gamble more. He managed to buy a lot and build two rooms making his wife happy for a while but it too did not last and was sold to pay for his gambling debts.

His wife and three children suffered the consequence because one day he ran away and abandoned his family because the bad people were pressuring him to pay up his huge debt. The poor wife did not know what to do so she went back to her parents asking their help to track this fellow.

Eventually he was found hiding in another town from where he was brought home and his gambling debts were paid off by her sister and brother to save their marriage and their family. He promised never to gamble again and somehow kept his promise. It is so rare to find a gambler who reforms. While the story of Poppy is fiction ,this story is not which goes to show how some people get so addicted to gambling that they literally lose their head and end up in a bad way. This fellow was lucky that his in laws came to help at a crucial moment although it is not known if he ever paid back his debt to them .

If you go to Las Vegas in the United States and spend just a few hours in a casino there, you can watch how people gamble enormous amount of money there in a short time and destroy their lives. The casinos are rigged in their favor where they always make money while they pay out small amounts once in while to show that their establishment is all above board but is it?

At first it was the mafia that set up the casinos in Las Vegas which is in the middle of the desert and was just a place to stop for gas on the way East or West but that changed when a gambling town was established there by the mob bosses who raked in millions and killed anyone who stood in their way. The Godfather movie shows it all. Then they hired singers like Sinatra to sing in their nightly shows that made him famous.

Later they moved into what they called legitimate businesses using the money they made in the casino business but gambling is a dangerous business because of the amount of money involved so you will see hundreds of security cameras everywhere watching everyone including the professional cheaters and armed security people with walky talkies everywhere.

In Texas. a sherif who wanted to keep gambling and prostitution out of his town made life difficult for the casino operators so one day they tampered with the brake of his sport car that killed the sherif clearing the way for the crooks to make a come back.

In America, gambling starts early in their life. If you go to any bar where people are watching a ball game on TV while drinking, someone will shout saying “20 dollars say the batter will make the home run”. Someone says” you are on” and the money is then collected by someone for the bet for or against . This is the simplest form of gambling that goes on everywhere. Later some of them graduate to more serious gambling and head for Las Vegas , Reno or Atlantic city.

Men and women take part in gambling and quarell later on when they lose every thing they had. How many marriages fall apart due to gambling is not known but the consequences of losing money by gambling can be very serious indeed. That fellow in India was lucky that his in laws came to help but not everyone has such in laws.

In Italy, you will see the con men with three little cups and their pea which they expertly move around between the cups right before your eyes and always win. Then there are card players who with poker face will take all your money if you fall into their trap. There is a Kenny Rogers song that says “you never count your money while sitting at the table, there will be time enough for counting when the deal is done”. Most people never get to count their money at all. It is the cashier who gets to count it.

People have invented many forms of gambling but the most notorious of them is the roulette where a wheel turns and stops at a number or not where people put all their chips and lose big amounts in a few seconds. The dice throwers are also seen cheering or losing surrounded by onlookers who egg them on to bet again and again. This sort of drama plays out in all casinos worldwide making gambling a multi billion dollar business.

If you go to Japan, you will see the pachinko slot machines where people are playing whole day feeding the machines with endless tokens hoping they win something. One fellow said that he makes enough money everyday to pay for his cigarettes. He did not say how much he loses.

Once I was on a boat to Macau from HongKong which was filled with the Chinese who were all going to Macau to gamble but could not wait to get there so everywhere on that boat there were mahjong tables where the gamblers were hitting the board hard with their mahjong pieces and shouting. It is good that I was not allowed into Macau for political reasons but I was not going there to gamble. Macau now rivals Las Vegas where casinos are very big business. One casino tycoon even brought a floating casino to Manila bay to start his business here but towed it back to Macau when the local officials started asking for huge bribes.

This scourge of gambling is spreading worldwide with severe consequences socially and destroying people’s lives. If you remember the movie Deer Hunter with Robert de Niro, in it, you will remember the scene of the Russian roulette when a loaded gun with just one bullet is given to someone to see if he will kill himself . People stood around betting on whether or not he will die. If the fellow died, they shoved the body into the river.

This sort of death game was actually played in the shady quarters of Cholon which is a part of Saigon during the war but now the government cracks down on such illegal games hard in Vietnam. In China the gambling is banned for good reasons so they go to Macau where gambling is allowed. Many gamble secretly playing their favorite Mahjong games or cards anyway.

My Ma was against any form of gambling and forbade us to play with cards so I never learned to play cards or any card game. She also taught us that we should be frugal and always save a part of what we earn. This was very good advice from which I benefitted in my life and now I tell my children to do the same .

But people pick up bad habits like gambling from people they associate with at school or later at work where a gambling culture prevails in their society. Parents have no influence over such people. I have seen some people of my age in our community who have destroyed themselves with this vice and another deadly vice called alcoholism.

I appreciate the Moslems who are forbidden to drink and gamble so by and large they obey and follow the dictates of Koran. But in other religions they do not have such strong dictates.

One must understand that gambling is not a matter of pure luck because the gambling houses make sure that they always make money no matter what. How do they do this? You may have heard of loaded dice or secret buttons that stop the roulette wheel at a certain spot so that the house wins and bettors lose. The slot machines are their biggest money makers that are rigged in their favor. If someone wins big then they say that the machine is defective so they will not honor the win. This is an addiction that people can’t beat no matter how hard they try.

The question to ask here is why the governments allow gambling in the first place knowing how it destroys lives. You can also ask why they run lotto in every country? It is because it earns them a lot of revenue in taxes. It is like alcohol that is easily available everywhere that the governments make money out of but no one is asking you to drink. It is your choice just like gambling.

If you go to Monte Carlo , you will be surprised how people gamble there with abandon making the King of Monte Carlo very rich. Gambling and prostitution are closely linked so where you find one, you will find the other.

I am lucky that I had such good parents who taught me good values but not everyone is so lucky. Hope you will teach your children that any form of gambling is evil that they must stay away from.

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I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.

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