Saturday, October 4, 2008

Confessions of a Child Gambler

Being born and raised not far from one of the oldest and largest thoroughbred tracks in the country,..I grew up with horse racing playing a significant role in my life. Every summer since I was old enough to walk, my grandfather would take me with him as we joined the thousands of people crowding through the gates of Saratoga Racetrack each year. We eagerly anticipated the sound of the blare of the big brass horn as the voice of the MC came crackling through the loudspeakers announcing, ...."And the horses are at the starting gate," and then, the resounding, "They're Off!" as the bells rang and the gates crashed open and the horses took off in a flurry of pounding, thundering hooves. I remember many youthful days there spent full of excitment and "good fun & food." Before I was big enough even to see over the rail of the fence in front of the grandstands, my grandfather would hold me up in his arms as the horses paraded by on their way to the starting gate and he would ask me, "Which one do you like, pipsqueak,"...(he called all of us little ones that) "Which one is gonna win?" he always asked me. I would look over the line up very carefully as they walked, pranced, danced or cantered past me. I would study them with a "discerning eye," just "like the pros," until I saw something or felt something about a particular horse,...if a horse looked to me like he wanted to win, if it appeared a bit more spirited than the others, or if it was grey, or "one-socked," or if it pooped in front of me, whatever. One of them would eventually "speak to me" as the winner, and I would point and let my grandfather know, "That one grandpa," I would say, "I think that one is going to win." Invariably, after each of my piks, he would lay down a $2 bet for me, but always "hedging his losses," and reminding me, the bet "was a loan not a gift," ...and will be split between us if my horse wins. Of course, I didnt realize it back then, but learned later, my granddad was a serious gambler and had problems with it all his life. Looking back on all that now, as harmless as it seemed then, there is no doubt in my mind today that promoting gambling as a "family affair" or "civic event," or to children is wrong in any way, shape or form, and winning is the worst thing that could happen to a kid. One time, I think I was about 10 year old, I got lucky and actually managed to pick a daily double. I only won $45.00 but to me at that age it seemed like a million bucks! I will never forget that "magic" day. How suprized and pleased I was with myself and so was my grandpa, his friends, and everybody else that knew about it too. The whole family talked about that lucky play for years to come and it turned out to be the highspot of my adolecent days. The thrill and excitement of it all stayed with me throughout all of my life, and although, what started out as childhood fun-days at the races with family turned out to be the root cause and beginnings of what later would become the worst and most difficult years of my life. Over the years I kept chasing after the excitment of that first win. Eventually, and by degrees, I became hopelessly addicted to gambling and all manner of games of chance. Of course, like most gamblers who stay with it long enough, ...I lost everything, several times over and over again. For most people, gambling is like a drug, and is a vice no matter how you slice it.

The notion of promoting gambling to the famlies and youths of America is ludicrous, to say the least. Allowing gambling in civilized societies is one thing, but the idea of promoting it as a civic or community affair and promoting it to our famlies and our children is absurd and assinine. The very idea is morally wrong and counterproductive to a healthy society. The idea needs to be tossed immediately upon the biggest, brightest and hottest burning bonfire of our vilest and worst vanities, lest the notion should gain momentum by the powers that be in the industry, and "catch on" in our communities.

*Confessions of a childhood (and later on as an adult,) degenerate gambler, to be continued.

Labels: children, degenerate gamblers, evils of gambling, famlies ruined by gambling, gambling as a drug, gambling is a sin, youthful gamblers

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