Monday, January 24, 2011

Pen Meets Paper Jan.24'11

Opinion by Helge Nome
One fundamental operating principle in nature is what we call “trade”. Individuals exchange something for something else in return. It happens within species and across species from the highest to the lowest life forms: Birds eat berries from trees and bushes and spread the seeds around in the process. A win-win situation for both. Humans living in mountainous metal-rich regions trade metal tools and ornaments with plains people who have an abundant supply of agricultural products. The list is endless.
But what about trade where the gains are consistently made by one party, at the expense of the other? I‘m referring to the burgeoning gaming “industry” which has grown up around the world and is invading every community in the form of casinos, and variants thereof. What is it of value that is exchanged here? The tokens used are directly convertible to currency in the casino and so represent access to goods and services in the real world outside the casino. As it turns out, the flow of money is mostly from casino patrons to the casino with mostly broken dreams supplied in return by the casino. Here in Alberta, community groups are co-opted to legitimize this process in return for a 15% cut in the profit made that night, while the volunteer group hangs around in the back room. The government then gets its cut and the private casino owners walk away with the rest of the money. In addition to gaming tables, the casino is filled with row upon row of video lottery terminals where seemingly mindless patrons sit and feed them with tokens and hit the “spin” button, listening to mindless “music” while the symbols flick in front of them on the screen.
The net result of all this activity is a continuous stream of money going one way, out of communities with a few crumbs left behind for the peasants. Problem gamblers then find innovative ways to access more money to feed their addiction(s), causing untold problems for people that share their lives, be it family, employers or employees.
In short, large scale gambling has nothing to do with productive activity and everything to do with predation. It is a one way street down the tube to a place where you don’t want to be. In spite of this fact having been known for thousands of years, it is being ignored by most people today.

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