My Youthful Experiences With “Easy Money”

When I was probably around 12 years old, the Catholic church just outside the housing development I grew up in had a bazaar. Along with games like throwing a baseball to break rows of real plates, they had games of chance.

One such game involved a man rolling a big square dice-like block with different colors on each surface. Around all four sides of the game booth was a surface of plywood with painted segments in colors that matched the colors on the block. People put their money on a color. The man rolled the block (or had someone in the audience roll it). If the color your money was on turned up on the block, the man doubled your money. If your color didn’t win, the man took your money.

I watched for awhile and it looked like people were having fun, especially the people who got their money doubled. It looked easy enough to play so I plunked down a quarter. I lost, but I could just as easily have won (or so I thought) so I tried again. My color won. It was exciting, and a real thrill to win. The game was, indeed, fun to play. But, before long, all my money was lost to the game. So I went home quick and got some more.

I actually sold some of the coveted Morgan silver dollars that my grandmother had given me. The kid next door gave me a little more than a dollar for them. With more money to gamble with, I jumped on my bike and pedaled furiously back to the bazaar. Time was short. I had to recoup my losses. But, before long, all my money was gone again. And I felt pretty bad about it.

Around the same time in my life, I went to Boy Scout camp for a week. My parents made sure I had some spending money for camp. One night, a bunch of older boys I knew were crowded into a tent playing poker for money by flashlight. They encouraged me to play. I never played poker before but they let me watch and it looked like they were having a lot of fun. I soon joined in. Shortly thereafter, all my money was gone. And I felt pretty bad about it.

Nowadays, gambling has been given the more respectable name of “gaming.” Oh boy! That sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Let’s play the game. It’s exciting because maybe, just maybe, we’ll get lucky and make a lot of money. Easy money. Maybe we’ll hit the jackpot. This hope motivates so many people to hand over money to casinos or the dispensers of colorful lottery tickets. The possibility of easy money is a powerful lure.

I have that Catholic church and the Boy Scouts to thank (no offenses intended) for teaching me about the reality of gambling. I learned my lessons as a boy and I have not repeated them as a man. I have never been to a casino. I was invited to speak at a convention in Las Vegas several years ago, all expenses paid. I politely declined. Las Vegas is the last place on earth I would want to go to. I have never bought a lottery ticket. I refuse to buy into any of the many sports pools and other gaming schemes that float around my factory workplace.

I know of people who are, in my mind, addicted to gambling in its many forms. They go to casinos on a regular basis. Some are regulars at off-track betting parlors. Many buy lottery tickets. Some buy lottery tickets every single day—lots of them. They explain it away as entertainment. They tell of the time they won money. They are in bondage to a false hope.

I have explained to my sons that gambling with the money God entrusts to us is wrong. I have told them that there are two Biblical ways to acquire wealth. One is to earn it; to use the physical strength, the knowledge, the talents, the opportunities and the time God blesses us with to increase our wealth. And all the while, never forgetting that it all belongs to Him. Our responsibility, as children of the King, is to be good stewards of the gifts He gives to us. Money, and the ability to earn it, is one of many gifts He entrusts to us.

The other Biblical way for individuals to increase wealth it through inheritance. But that never negates the Biblical admonition and responsibility to work.

And I’ve explained to my sons that the lure of easy money through gambling of any kind is a snare that the ungodly culture around us employs on the lazy and unwise among us. Christians are not immune to the snare.

It is a good analogy for a country boy to hear. My sons, like so many other country boys, are well acquainted with trapping of wild game. They know how a trap works. They know it appears harmless. They know a good trap is inviting. And they know that it is a pitiful sight to see an animal caught in a trap. So many men and women these days are caught like animals in the snare of gambling.

=========

I have written this story here for a reason that will become more clear in an upcoming blog. I felt compelled to write about gambling several months ago after reading what Lynn Bartlett wrote over at hher blog. She told the story of driving by land in Minnesota where her grandfather once farmed. An indian casino is now there.

That brought to mind a lyric from that old Joni Mitchell song: “They take paradise and they put up a parking lot.” It’s worse when they take good farm land and put up a casino. Much worse. How incredibly sad.

7 comments:

JFC said...

I learned my lesson about gambling as a second grader at the government school when some other second graders (marbles "sharks") invited me to play marbles "for keeps."

It didn't take losing very many marbles before I began to see how stupid I was being. I've never played a "game of chance" since.

Thanks for writing about this, and bringing it to our attention again.

Dave said...

Herrick,
My grandfather once lost his job at the factory and a nieghbor trying to get his mind off things took him to race track.At first he won some then he started to lose and eventually got hooked.The last time he even bet the house and lost and shortly after the mob came to take the house.He had to go in hiding for several years and it destroyed his health, his family, and his life.
One other thing, here in GA we have the HOPE scholarship which pays for any student to go to any state school ''free'' with the exception of room and board. If ones avearage goes below a B ave. their out. Everyone thinks this is a great plan because the lottery pays for it.The sad fact is most of the churches were for it. As you said in your writings, it is so VERY addicting. I enjoyed your thoughts about this.
Sincerely,
Dave in GA

Anonymous said...

Hi Herrick - I hope you didn't gamble away the Eisenhaurer silver dollar I gave you way back when...I paid $5.00 for it! :o) Guess Who!!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Jon--

So....Now we know how you lost all your marbles. ;-)

Seriously, though, It's a blessing we learned about gambling at such an early age. Thanks for posting.

Hi Dave--

Wow. That is quite a story about your grandfather. The lottery in NY pays for education too but only a small portion of proceeds get to education and much is consumed by a lottery buraurcacy (Carmon, how do I spell burauracy?). Even still, as you say, it is wrong. Government should be in the business of protecting people, not preying on the weak and foolish and, in most instances, those who can least afford it.

Hi CKM--

I didn't squander my whole coin collection. I still have the Eisenhower dollar you gave me. I think I sold five Morgan dollars. In retrospect, I guess it was money well lost for the life lesson learned.

Old Hound said...

Gambling has become a national passion. And so many people waste their lives and money waiting for a big "score". I too, have never had the slightest desire to go to Vegas. A church Elder and his wife, {who married my wife and I} went to Vegas a couple of years ago, and was stunned that everytime he started to go into one of the tourist places, several people would walk up to him and hand him cards with the names and pictures of women on them. Even while his wife was with him! I don't think i need to elaborate on who the women were, and what they did. They can call Vegas a fun place for families, but everybody knows better than that. It's an outpost of Morder.

Lynn said...

Hi Herrick,
Within the last year or so a state legislator in ND was trying hard to convince the legislature to somehow take on the regulation of off shore betting/gambling. It was totally ridiculous, as the federal govt. at the same time was trying to outlaw the practice. The feds won out, and it's now illegal. This legislator was using every type of argument, such as implying that ND would receive a lot of money in revenue for education, etc. How sad. There are so many "conservative" people living in this state, and yet things such as lottery tickets can now be purchased in every convenience store.

Thanks for linking to my blog. That Indian casino where my Grandpa used to farm has ruined the lives of a lot of families. It's also sad that the locals use the facility for things like wedding receptions, birthday parties, and proms. What better way to get people in there, than to host a celebration at that place.

Anonymous said...

If you travel the USA its amazing how many indian casinos there are!also river boat gambling.I saw a commercial on tv and the local indian tribe was thanking everyone for supporting their casino,i thought of how its like local drug dealers thanking you for doing drugs!i know some indians and they tell me of poverty on the reservations,i would have been more impressed if the commercial mentioned new industries or progress.