Don't Bet On It

Aug. 17
As a society, we are awash in it.
It is everywhere you turn.
Some of it is legal, some of it is illegal. All of it draws us like moths to the flame.
It, of course, is gambling.
It is why people will be lined up all day today and tomorrow for a shot at unbelievable riches in the Powerball drawing. Saturday night’s jackpot is over $200 million. That’s a powerful lure. And a perfectly legal one.
The guy running the numbers game on the corner is not.

The state learned long ago of the power of gambling. That’s why we have the little success story called the Pennsylvania Lottery. It has been funding services for senior citizens for years.
Recently, we’ve seen state officials once again turn to gaming to fix a nagging, persistent problem. Gov. Ed Rendell introduced the Keystone State to the wonderful world of slot machines. And watched as the money rolled in.

Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack routinely takes in $50 million or more most every week. And pays out almost as much. And all of it is perfectly legal, under the guise of helping state residents with their skyrocketing property tax bills. How much help it has delivered in that area is debatable. That there is a huge market out there for gambling is not.

Yet we are taken aback when gambling problems spin out of control, as we saw again this week with the case of Delco native and disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy. He admitted gambling on games he was officiating and providing information on games to bookies in exchange for a payoff.

David Stern, the czar of the NBA, frowned and said it was the work of a lone “rogue criminal.” As if no other money changes hands on pro basketball games. Why do you think there is a line on the games? Of course, the league, as well as the rest of us, look the other way. We in the media do our part by providing the line on most major pro sports right there in the agate listings in the sports sections each day.

Former Flyer Rick Tocchet is due in court this morning in New Jersey to be sentenced for his part in running an illegal sports betting ring. Some of those believed to have placed bets are said to be pro hockey players. Is anyone shocked? Should they be different than any of the rest of us?

Gambling is a part of our society. People always ask why I think pro football has eclipsed most other sports in popularity. I’m as big a fan as anyone. I love the Eagles. They are my passion, yes, probably even more than even my beloved Phillies.

But my answer usually confounds people. It has nothing to do with fandom. It has everything to do with money.

It’s simple. You see, on the seventh day, God didn’t really rest. He decided to create the perfect vehicle for sports gambling. Football was the result.

Gambling is everywhere we turn. No one should be surprised when it careerns off the tracks, in the process taking down a celebrity, sports figure or someone else of note.
In that matter, they’re really not much different from the rest of us.

Moving Beyond 10,000 Losses: An occasional look at why it’s so difficult to be a Phillies – hell for that matter a Philadelphia – sports fan. The Phils just can’t get a break. After another gem from Cole Hamels that pushed them back within 3 games of the Mets, what is everyone talking about this morning? Donovan McNabb, of course.

The Daily Numbers: 1.7 million dollars in bets authorities say the sports betting ring run by Rick Tocchet handled in 40 days, mostly on college football and the Super Bowl.

14 people injured in a four-vehicle pileup on I-95 in Newark, Del., last night One person was injured.

2 more killed on the streets of Philadelphia overnight. Police say one man was stabbed to death by his girlfriend’s mother. In another instance a man was shot in the back.

260 people slain on the city’s streets so far this year, heading for a new record high at this pace.

17 people busted for so-called straw gun purchases. That’s when people legally buy guns, then illegally turn them over to those who cannot buy them on their own. The state and city has a task force probing such sales.

16, age of cheerleader in Monroeville, Pa., killed by an 18-year-old who had an “on and off” relationship with her. The 18-year-old then slashed his own throat. The girl was killed the day after her 16th birthday.

15 months for a construction project that will turn Kelly Drive, a favorite alternate for many commuters heading into the city, into a not-so-great alternative.

2 consecutive weekends that PennDOT plans to close I-95 South in Chester. It will be closed from midnight tonight through 5 a.m. Monday. Same thing next weekend. There will be detours in place.

62, age of woman sexually assaulted while jogging in a park along the Brandywine River in Wilmington, Del.

5, the ranking of the University of Pennsylvania in the new list of top colleges from U.S. News & World Report.

30 years since the death of ‘The King.’ But Elvis Presley remains alive, in the hearts of his fans, if not in the endless parade of impersonators.

3 rescue workers killed in a cave-in at the site of that Utah mine collapse. They still haven’t found the original six miners. These people just can’t get a break.

14 wins for Cole Hamels, who went 6 and two-thirds last night without giving up a run. Call him ace.

3 games behind the Mets, where the Phils sit after last night’s win over the Nationals. Now it’s on for three in Pittsburgh.

1 series I think Donovan McNabb will play tonight in his return to the Birds. Keep your fingers crossed.

I Don’t Get It (with apologies to Jack McCaffery): Tim Donaghy wants everyone to know that he’s “very sorry about what happened.” Little late for that.

Today’s Upper: The room was packed at last night’s town hall meeting on Iraq at Swarthmore College hosted by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak. Good. We need to talk about this.

Quote Box: “I don’t think I would be more comfortable with Dick Cheney as president.”
-- Rep. Joe Sestak, in explaining why he is not in favor of impeachment.


David Diano said…
You make a good point about how the newspapers publish the lines on the games. The NBA and other sports organizations not only know that betting occurs but rely upon it to increase viewers.

However, the State Lottery is a gambling monopoly, with unfair odds, that promotes itself in a way that results in a tax on the poor, the uneducated and the desperate.

The Daily Number claims 500-1 payout (it's actually 499-1, since $1 of a $500 payout is your original dollar). Even the worst casino slots have a payback of over 90%, but the lottery is below 50%. If a casino tried that, a torch-wielding mob would burn it to the ground.

The marketing for the lottery is geared toward low-income people with the false hope of bettering their lives, when studies show that it diverts money they could invest to improve their situation (education, medicine, healthy foods, a gym membership, etc.) The promotions for big jackpots should indicate that players are more likely to be killed traveling to buy a ticket than actually winning.

Government sponsored theft from the poor is wrong. Also wrong is a sports industry rife with steroid abuse, bad role models, and rampant greed acts shocked when a ref gets caught cashing in on one aspect of that industry.