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Instant Comments

Wading through the digital noise

Instant Comments

One of the things I love about this modern world is the free exchange of information and opinions among politicians and assorted numbskulls, and, of course, assorted numbskull politicians.

What’s so entertaining about this discourse is its instant nature, in the form of those “comment” invitations at the end of news articles on the web. In the old days, you’d buy a paper or a magazine, and if something bugged you, you’d write or type something onto an actual piece of paper, and you would take it to the post office, and it would be mailed to the editor, or the editor’s employee, who would organize all the letters in a manageable fashion, to be studied for possible publication at the editor’s discretion.

Now, every comment is published—everything from reasoned opinion to wacked-out ramblings, from anyone in the world, available for examination by the rest of the world’s computer-owning citizens two seconds after it pops into some guy’s head.

Some are hilarious. Some are scary. But now and then, you get a good one—someone who sets the record straight for a writer who had not studied his subject before spouting off about something.

And when gaming’s involved, that’s where I come in. I carry a badge. No, I mean, I write a gaming column.

Last month, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote an op-ed piece about casinos that was syndicated to publications around the nation. I saw it on Boston’s “Wicked Local” website. He says the United States is becoming “one giant casino,” and lumps new casinos in Massachusetts and elsewhere in with online poker and with the recent feeding frenzy over the Mega Millions lottery, trying to make a case that all gambling “is a scam,” and that regardless of who plays, “the house always wins.”

Before I get to the comment, I’ll correct him myself. The house usually wins. (Like, most of the times I’m in a casino.) But not always. People do win. Just ask the people who won that half-billion in Mega Millions. (Well, the ones who didn’t lose their tickets.) However, in the comment space following the article, Reich was taken to task for saying online poker would be a “regressive tax.”

“Knight Owl” wrote, “I don’t care what anyone thinks; I know far more about poker than this idiot… How does he propose to calculate the chances of winning when that is based solely on the player’s ability? Poker is a mathematical competition with monetary rewards. I like my odds way better at the poker table than investing on Wall Street.”

I cleaned up the punctuation and grammar—don’t get me started again on grammar and the internet—but you get the gist.

Does this mean I’m altering my well-known (at least by the countless millions who read this column) aversion to online gambling? No, but that’s just my personal feeling. I’m of the firm opinion that the privilege of casino gambling should be afforded only to those who actually have clothes on. They don’t have to be fancy clothes; just something other than boxer shorts and an undershirt, or pajamas with cowboys on them. (No, my pajamas don’t have cowboys. I went with the Family Guy motif.) I have no desire to combine poker with my morning oatmeal.

And, I like the idea that with the bricks-and-mortar casinos (or stucco and mortar, as the case may be), you have to go somewhere to gamble—it adds a social element to it that I feel is important to our industry. I like to gamble where I can annoy other people, especially when I win.

But on the larger issue of online gambling, I don’t presume to impose my personal preferences on anyone else. I believe that the government should not tell adult people what they can and cannot do in the comfort of their homes, and when it comes to online poker, I’m in complete agreement with my semi-literate pal Knight Owl. It’s a competition between players, clothed or not, who must employ certain mathematical skills in an attempt to win money.

But still, can someone tell me how you effectively bluff on a computer? Do you wear sunglasses so the computer can’t read your eyes? How do you pick up on the tells of an opponent in another city, who is sitting there in his jammies at his own kitchen table, possibly wearing sunglasses?

Well, it’s not for me, anyway. But you should be able to gamble if you want to, on the internet, on your phone, at the lottery retailer, or wherever you want. Maybe I’ll comment on that Reich article.

In my pajamas, yet.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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