A Modest Proposal: The Gambling Game Plan

By Chris Wright 01/06/13

Gambling addicts are fortunate enough to be able to feed their cravings in casinos, shops, cruise ships, bars, and the comfort of their own homes. Why isn't anyone thinking about our hospitals, too?

It's a trap!

As state in the US line up to grab their share of the growing and increasingly deregulated online gambling market, Facebook has swollen its revenue stream recently by adding real-money games onto the site. There has been a corresponding drive, meanwhile, to ramp up social gambling on mobile devices. Some savvy entrepreneurs are seeing very large dollar signs ahead. Mobile social gaming, believes Chris Griffin, CEO of the San Francisco-based outfit Betable, is "an industry ripe to get its lunch eaten."

Well put, Mr. Griffin, and a very good idea, too. For too long, people have been squandering little more than their waking hours playing FarmVille and Battle Tank Killing Spree—it's time the stakes were upped. Also, for whose of us who gamble compulsively, there's a great relief in knowing that those wasted minutes schlepping between the actual betting parlors and the virtual online casinos at home will soon be occupied by more gambling, with a little much-needed socializing thrown in. And things are about to get even better.

A related news story making the rounds recently told of plans to introduce in-flight digital casinos on airplanes. Another fabulous idea, you'll agree. After all, as a November 30 article in the online edition of the English newspaper the Independent reminded us, "passengers on long-haul flights provide a captive audience" who will "want entertainment to stave off potential boredom." 

We can now make wagers at supermarkets, in bars, at work and on the way to work. It's invigorating, but we shouldn't rest on our laurels.

The guy who wrote the Independent piece did have a couple of nagging concerns. "Gambling is an activity that has the potential to change people's mood states," he observed, while also allowing that heavy losses can sometimes "lead to irritability." After all, just look at what a little alcohol recently did to one passenger (and everyone who had to sit near him) on this Icelandair flight. But the author had clearly given this problem some thought: Flying casinos, he advised, "should have staff members that are trained in social responsibility." Whether these would be dedicated staff members or air marshals who've taken crisis-counselling courses, he failed to say.

So, yes, the proliferation of gambling opportunities continues apace. We can now make wagers at supermarkets, in bars, at work and on the way to work. It's invigorating, but we shouldn't rest on our laurels. There are countless exciting opportunities that the gaming industry has yet to exploit. All we need is a little imagination, a little chutzpah, and gambling revenues could reach unimaginable heights.

Also in the news recently was a New York nun who allegedly stole $128,000 from two churches to support her gambling habit. Hot on the heels of that was the primary school worker in England, who is said to have skimmed almost $50,000 from school lunch fees to feed her bingo bug. How much easier would life have been for these women if they'd had access to, say, a back-of-pew gaming console, or an in-class, learn-as-you-earn ball-popping machine? 

Another story last month told of a partially blind 83-year-old woman, also in England, who had $8,000 fleeced from her by a gambling addict who'd gained her trust by offering to do odd jobs around the house.  The big question here is: How much more money might this old lady have yielded if, instead of being merely robbed, she'd been introduced to the wonders of large-print, high-stakes digital canasta, right there in the comfort of her home? 

We shouldn't forget the perpetrators of these crimes, either. If it's a captive audience you're after, then prisons could be the way forward. A convict-friendly site like ThreeBars.com, with provisions for those who would prefer to play with cigarettes or sexual favors rather than cash, would go a long way to staving off potential boredom, and would likely raise billions in revenue, some of which could be plowed back into crime prevention schemes. It's a win-win.

Another sorely overlooked demographic is the terminally ill, many of whom are bedridden and therefore unable to visit a casino, and who tend to feel that they have nothing to lose. A few strategically placed gaming consoles, operated by socially responsible croupiers/care workers, could fill that need. People with severe psychiatric disorders, too, represent a fantastic opportunity, given their propensity to act on impulse. And, again, let's not forget the kids, who do love their games.

These are just a few suggestions, but there are many more. So let's start working today to get gambling devices into our schools, synagogues, war zones, vehicle dashboards, ATM machines, research laboratories, gymnasiums, emergency wards and funeral homes. Heck, let’s start by putting them in facilities that host Gamblers Anonymous meetings. That area of the industry, surely, is a great big lunch just waiting for someone to come along and gobble it up.


London-based writer Chris Wright is a frequent contributor to The Fix. His most recent piece wondered if the disease model is an easy way out.


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London-based writer Chris Wright is a frequent contributor to The Fix. One of his recent pieces wondered if the disease model is an easy way out.