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Holten: A sure way of getting nothing for something

Do you like to gamble? I don't. Nor do I particularly like to play cards, which is probably one of the big reasons why I don't like to gamble.In fact, I go to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in early December almost every year. Yet, I neve...

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Do you like to gamble? I don’t. Nor do I particularly like to play cards, which is probably one of the big reasons why I don’t like to gamble.In fact, I go to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in early December almost every year. Yet, I never pull a lever on a slot machine. Nor do I touch a deck of cards, roll a pair of dice or spin any wheels. I must be, for casino owners, the “posterboy” for exactly who they’d least like to see walk through their doors.
You might call me boring. I think gambling is boring. But one thing is certain; I’m probably not a candidate for developing a gambling addiction.Now, according to psychiatrists, an addictive gambler is someone who is typically preoccupied with thoughts of gambling. They also have a strong desire to increase the amount that is being gambled each time. And, even if they wanted to, they cannot stop their behavior.Their credit cards are typically overextended, they lie about their problem to cover it up, they might engage in illegal behavior to finance their addiction, and they often come to rely on others for money and emotional needs.But the most surprising thing is that their gambling addiction is seldom about money.Instead, gambling is all about giving them an “escape” from the stresses of life, a painful past or to seek arousal. In other words, it’s a “turn-on.”Later, it also becomes a situation where they must attempt to recover the losses they have incurred. Or they might even fool themselves into thinking that gambling can provide a steady income. Or, at a more complicated psychological level, that the money won from gambling will help them to solve other problems.Worst of all, they might use gambling as a tool for their own self-destruction, because they feel guilty about something they’ve done. Or simply because they think they have to penalize themselves for being too successful.Whatever the case, it’s a problem. And as you can see, it can be quite complicated, as are all addictions, I suppose.I too have addictions. They are, in this order, fresh bread (or buns), pie and cornbread, with the first and last being bathed in butter.You can blame my mother for all of that. She is known for her homemade bread, buns and pie, and every Saturday morning in my youth, she made at least two of the three. Then there is her fried chicken after church on Sundays, but that another scintillating story for another time.Nevertheless, this talk of gambling addiction brings up some interesting tidbits about Las Vegas that you might not know.Did you know that, in the 1970s, FedEx CEO Fred Smith saved his company by gambling their last $5,000 in Las Vegas, where he, at a blackjack table, turned $5,000 into $32,000? The additional money apparently allowed him enough time to raise $11 million to keep FedEx going.Did you also know that in 1992, Archie Karas went to Las Vegas and turned $50 into $40 million and then promptly lost it all later that year?You might also not know that there is a service in Las Vegas that will come to your room and cure a hangover with IV fluids and vitamins. But that is information for someone with an entirely different addiction.The late American comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, “I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi-circle.” Hunter S. Thompson, the American journalist and author, said, “Victory is a fleeting thing in the gambling business. Today’s winners are tomorrow’s blinking toads; dumb beasts with no hope.” But Wilson Mizner, the American playwright, raconteur and entrepreneur might have summed it up best when he said, “Gambling is the sure way of getting nothing for something.”Holten is the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Association and  writes a weekly column for The Press.Do you like to gamble? I don’t. Nor do I particularly like to play cards, which is probably one of the big reasons why I don’t like to gamble.In fact, I go to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in early December almost every year. Yet, I never pull a lever on a slot machine. Nor do I touch a deck of cards, roll a pair of dice or spin any wheels. I must be, for casino owners, the “posterboy” for exactly who they’d least like to see walk through their doors.
You might call me boring. I think gambling is boring. But one thing is certain; I’m probably not a candidate for developing a gambling addiction.Now, according to psychiatrists, an addictive gambler is someone who is typically preoccupied with thoughts of gambling. They also have a strong desire to increase the amount that is being gambled each time. And, even if they wanted to, they cannot stop their behavior.Their credit cards are typically overextended, they lie about their problem to cover it up, they might engage in illegal behavior to finance their addiction, and they often come to rely on others for money and emotional needs.But the most surprising thing is that their gambling addiction is seldom about money.Instead, gambling is all about giving them an “escape” from the stresses of life, a painful past or to seek arousal. In other words, it’s a “turn-on.”Later, it also becomes a situation where they must attempt to recover the losses they have incurred. Or they might even fool themselves into thinking that gambling can provide a steady income. Or, at a more complicated psychological level, that the money won from gambling will help them to solve other problems.Worst of all, they might use gambling as a tool for their own self-destruction, because they feel guilty about something they’ve done. Or simply because they think they have to penalize themselves for being too successful.Whatever the case, it’s a problem. And as you can see, it can be quite complicated, as are all addictions, I suppose.I too have addictions. They are, in this order, fresh bread (or buns), pie and cornbread, with the first and last being bathed in butter.You can blame my mother for all of that. She is known for her homemade bread, buns and pie, and every Saturday morning in my youth, she made at least two of the three. Then there is her fried chicken after church on Sundays, but that another scintillating story for another time.Nevertheless, this talk of gambling addiction brings up some interesting tidbits about Las Vegas that you might not know.Did you know that, in the 1970s, FedEx CEO Fred Smith saved his company by gambling their last $5,000 in Las Vegas, where he, at a blackjack table, turned $5,000 into $32,000? The additional money apparently allowed him enough time to raise $11 million to keep FedEx going.Did you also know that in 1992, Archie Karas went to Las Vegas and turned $50 into $40 million and then promptly lost it all later that year?You might also not know that there is a service in Las Vegas that will come to your room and cure a hangover with IV fluids and vitamins. But that is information for someone with an entirely different addiction.The late American comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, “I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi-circle.” Hunter S. Thompson, the American journalist and author, said, “Victory is a fleeting thing in the gambling business. Today’s winners are tomorrow’s blinking toads; dumb beasts with no hope.” But Wilson Mizner, the American playwright, raconteur and entrepreneur might have summed it up best when he said, “Gambling is the sure way of getting nothing for something.”Holten is the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Association and  writes a weekly column for The Press.

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