JACK SIMPSON: To gamble or not; it's an individual choice



Hey, I’m not preaching here about the evils of gambling. Folks have to make up their own minds about wagering. What I am doing is relating my own experiences. If they offer something of value, so be it.

A fellow came by my desk recently asking if I wanted to buy a raffle ticket on a television set. It was a charity event, and I’m not against charities — but they do begin at home.

So, I declined, explaining it would be useless for me to gamble on winning a television I didn’t need because I’m just not lucky in this regard. The most I have ever won on a lottery scratch is a free ticket or two dollars!

It is easy for me to resist temptation to go for the Big One because from experience I know my ticket will end up in the trash can and not the winner’s circle! Over time, I have lost more than I have won on games of chance.

At lunch time you can see lots of poor people going into neighborhood convenience stores with fantasies about hitting it big. They wager to win and they seldom do. I can feel their pain.

Many of these people consider gambling as a way to unwind and socialize. It is fun and recreational. Carefully managed this may be true, but gambling out of control can become expensive and addictive. It can lead to anxiety and stress. You can spend your paycheck quickly trying to cover your losses.

You and I have read or heard about people scratching, playing cards, spinning the wheel, etc., who have eventually faced financial catastrophe.

We applaud winners, but wonder how losers handle their losses. Are they independently wealthy? Do they borrow from family and friends, do they steal, mortgage the farm? How do they handle gambling obligations? First off, they must recognize they have a problem and be serious about addressing it.

Addiction brings grief. You may need help to address your problems, so seek assistance. Seek other outlets and substitute other activities for gambling. Go to the gym, hiking, bike riding, dancing, meet and socialize with friends maybe at church. Avoid old haunts and isolation. Do not let your addiction become a monster on your back. Have fun, but do not rely on gambling to provide it. How long have you been seeking that pot at the end of the rainbow? Have you ever found it? Perhaps it isn’t even there, huh?

Want a chance on a TV raffle? Naw, can’t really afford it. Just give your dollar donation and dream about something else. There are no free lunches. However, some people just have to keep playing, convinced that today is their lucky day. If not today, maybe next time or the time after that. Or perhaps just an empty wallet and disappointment.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.