Out of all the classic sins of humanity, there’s one I really don’t understand.
I readily admit that at one time or another I have indulged in most of them, greed, gluttony, envy, spite, bullying, lying, cheating, stealing and fornicating.
The only biggie I’ve never done is murder, thought about it though.
However the one vice, or sin, or, as I heard it referred to this morning, ‘fun leisure activity’ I’ve never dabbled in is gambling.
By gambling I mean the specifically understood activity of making a bet, playing a slot machine or card game with the aim of leaving the experience with more money that you started.
The reason I’ve not indulged is not some moral repugnance for the activity, not some higher calling from which I take strength to resist the temptation. I just can’t be bothered. It holds no allure for me.
I spent some time in Las Vegas last year, although it’s a fairly insane place I had a great time, swam in the luxury pool, went out for fabulous meals, met extraordinary people, stayed up late and got a bit tipsy (for me that’s the same as most blokes getting totally bladdered, I’m a massive lightweight)
But never once did I feel the slightest temptation to gamble and the opportunities, as anyone who’s been to Vegas will verify, are ubiquitous.
So today I hear that due to the changes in the way we shop, the proliferation of absurd out of town shopping opportunities created by large corporations bribing easily swayed local councils, and the advent of online shopping, traditional British town centers are rapidly dying. Now the only businesses that are opening new outlets particularly in poorer areas, are betting shops, bookies, gambling dens or ‘fun leisure activity centers’ as I’m sure the soulless, crass management would refer to them.
I actually heard some dodgy sounding geezer say, out loud, with his mouth ‘fun leisure activity’ when describing the hundreds of new gambling pits being introduced. Imagine this man’s soul, no don’t, you’re will be tainted by the act.
But I believe in the human spirit, I believe it can be enhanced or soiled. I believe therefore that the very act of naming the activity of gambling as a ‘fun leisure activity’ will eat away at that spirit, turning it dark, ugly and full of self-loathing.
The more brutal side of this tragedy, much like the national lottery, is that generally speaking only the very poorest among us indulge on a regular basis. Sure, I have seen very wealthy gentlemen in high waisted red corduroy trousers have a flutter on the nags at the Cheltenham races, I’ve met an extraordinary maths genius who played poker for 3 months a year and that’s how he earned a very good living, but these are the exception. The vast majority of people who bet, with a fervent desire and need to win are among the poorest. And of course they don’t win, 99.99% of the time they don’t win. They don’t have a chance.
It makes me very sad every time I walk past a bookies shop, which let’s face it from an aesthetic point of view is a fucking ugly place, because it’s a dump which promises the very poor the tragically small chance of getting very rich.
I’ve thought about it a bit as you may be able to surmise, and I’ve realised I do in fact gamble all the bloody time.
I’ve gambled with my entire life and career, not twenty quid in my back pocket. I have spent my creative life punting ideas, plays, books, sketches, stand up comedy routines in the hope that they will catch on, that people will like them and I’ll earn a crust, maybe even a whole loaf.
I’ve lost and won, but thankfully, I’ve won about 45% of the time. Imagine if I’d spent my life doing what I’ve done and won .01% of the time as the poor sods who use the crappy bookies shops now soiling our once interesting high streets.
And just in case you’re wondering, no I don’t want to ban them, but I’d love there to be a general popular movement that spread the knowledge that they are leeches, pointless rip off artists who fleece the very poorest in our society and contribute negatively to our general well being. I’m all for that.