Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Answer to Underage Gambling

Full disclosure:  I am not a parent; I have never had children. On the other hand, I have taught (in the past) and employ (currently) minors in the demographic (ages 14-20) that this post deals with for almost 30 years.  So yeah, I think I'm qualified to speak on this.

The issue of minors having access to online poker/gambling is back in the news again, partly because of Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.  It’s one leg of his three-legged stool argument, the others being “terrorism” and “jobs” (I should point out that when I think of Adelson and the word “stool,” a 3-legged device for sitting is NOT the first thing that comes to mind).  The latter two arguments are horse-crap in my opinion, and I assume this opinion is shared by many in the “I play poker” world.

But minors and gambling might not be seen in such a slam-dunk manner.  After all, we have many vices that we try to shield our young people from in their formative years – alcohol, tobacco, and voting – just to name three others.  The basic argument is that because they haven’t experienced enough or haven’t developed a keen awareness or some other similar rationale, they should not be able to enjoy/participate in these adult-only experiences.

This is like saying kids do dumb shit, but adults don’t.  Of course kids do dumb shit.  And so do adults, sometimes even more dumber and shittier.

So is the issue that we don’t want kids to waste their money?  Uh…ring-tones, tattoos, junk food, Justin Bieber tickets…from my perspective, a waste of money.  I’m sure you can think of others if you don’t like those.  I know of adults who are up to their eyeballs in debt because they also wasted money on “stuff” – my most memorable example here is a couple who used to work with my wife who both took second jobs to pay off credit card debt.  When they got their first paychecks (they both found work at the same place for the summer), they spent them on…window-tinting for his truck and a mani-pedi for her.  Zero on the cards.  Dumb, if you ask me.

So I really don’t know exactly what the issue is about minors and gambling, but I know it’s not a new issue, and I know that minors have gambled, and done so online.  One of the kids that worked for me a few years back was on PokerStars (when it was “legal” here in the US) and I know he played for money because we played in a couple of tournaments together.  He said he did pretty good for a while, but I know he tried to move up to higher levels and…well, I have no idea how many deposits he made.  Good kid, too; graduated from local high school, served his country overseas for three years, and is now off to college.

Oh, my point – there is an answer to minors and gambling, and I learned of it almost twenty years ago in an article I wrote for LottoWorld magazine.  It was about the expansion of ITVMs (Instant Ticket Vending Machines).  First introduced in 1991, by the time the article was written they were 24 states either with machines or with plans to add them.  Of course now these dispensing units are ubiquitous across the land, but back then there was still worry and concern that the little darlings would treat the machines like a candy dispenser and shove in money as fast as they could.

While some lottery officials spoke of diligence in watching who approached the machine and the use of cameras and the like, it was Joe Fogarty, then Management Technician and "Ticket Vendor Guy" for the Pennsylvania State Lottery who put it best:

"If a kid bought a ticket and won, he'd have to cash it in.  Then the clerk would check for ID.  We strongly encourage this.  It doesn't take long to realize that if you can't cash it, it makes no sense to play it."

My former employee, who won tournaments on PokerStars…well, I don’t believe he ever cashed out.  I don’t know if it was because he ran out of money or some other issue, but that’s the answer.  Play all you want, kids, but kiss your dough goodbye as soon as you make that deposit.  Just like ring-tones, tattoos, junk food, and Justin Bieber tickets.


But that’s what I think – what about you?  Leave a comment or a complaint:

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