David Hogberg, a professional poker player, has some measured thoughts on moralist William Bennett’s gambling:
- …if you know anything about slot machines and video poker – the two games which Bennett says he plays – it is highly, highly improbable that one could come out “close to even” over ten years. The games are “rigged” so that the casinos make money over the long run. The odds that Bennett would come out “close to even” are infinitesimal. (Although, as Josh Marshall wryly notes, Bennett’s statement leaves a lot of “room for wiggle.”)
What is troubling about Bennett’s statement is that it is indicative of Phase II of problem gambling, according to 1-800-BETS-OFF. Part of that phase includes “gamble and then lie about it” and “hide their losses.” It seems that Bennett is trying to cover up his gambling; if so, it’s likely he has a problem.
We should not blame an addict for his addiction. We should hold him morally accountable if he does not treat his addiction. Thus, if Bennett has a gambling problem and has not sought help, then it is a moral failure, and it undermines his credibility as a morality spokesman. But what we should be concerned about is not necessarily how much Bennett has lost, but how he behaves regarding his losses. That’s what will reveal whether Bennett indeed has a “moral problem.”
I am not a gambler, but I don’t have anything against games of skill, like poker. But anyone who blows $8 million over ten years playing against machines is just plain stupid – surely moral Bill Bennett could find something more contructive to do with his time and money.