Time to lift Colorado
bet limits?

Apr 16, 2007 3:38 AM

Is gambling still a vice? Marci Braniff, professional geographer and amateur S&M enthusiast proclaimed, "Vices are good, until they get too damn tight."

With only two states in the Union void of any form of wagering, it may be argued that contemporary gambling in the United States has become as ubiquitous as Coca Cola or Marlboros.

Both items aren’t popular in Utah, where, big surprise, there is also no gambling.

The other state where a wager cannot be placed is Hawaii — no state lotteries, no casinos, no horse races, no sports betting, but lots and lots of succulent macadamia nuts.

Why doesn’t the Aloha State have gambling? Some of the residents seem to enjoy the activity — Hawaii is second only to California in number of visitors dispatched to Las Vegas.

In other jurisdictions, gambling has traditionally been an attempted panacea to combat financial challenges (e.g., closing of steel mills, coal mines or other revenue sources), but Hawaii, with its strong and profitable tourism business, may not need to resort to gambling as an incremental revenue source.

Gamblers are a strange lot. Nobody can say for sure why a person gambles. When working for the marketing department of a major casino, I had one phrase typed in bold letters on a stark piece of paper taped to the office wall, "the only unifying factor about casino gamblers is that there is no unifying factor."

Some punters play for the money, others as a challenge to their skill set, a few spin the reels, toss the dice, and flip the cards for entertainment, and a select group patronize gambling dens to satisfy some Carl Jungian dark shadow self need.

When does a one-time vice transform into socially acceptable behavior? At one time, women smoking cigarettes was verboten. Is smoking a vice? In states like Colorado with strict anti-smoking in public places regulations, are the women dressed in poly-blend "smart looking" pastel power suits from Ross and TJ Maxx, standing outside the canyons of office buildings in downtown Denver indulging an oblique desire with their Newport menthols or Virginia Slims?

And does regulation nullify or at least mitigate the sin/vice nature of an endeavor? Smoking in Colorado (outside at least) is still legal, but cigarettes are burdened with a "sin tax."

In "wide open" Nevada, the people’s government allows for full-blown prostitution in less populated counties, and until recently, smoking in grocery stores by slot banks.

As many individuals in their early 20s come to realize, drinking as a major is not half the fun it was as a minor. The rush of thumbing one’s proverbial nose at Johnny Law on a Friday night by downing Bartles and Jaymes peach coolers is significantly greater than any buzz that could come from a libation one rung above MD20 and Boone’s along the oenophile’s distinction ladder.

However, gambling is unlike underage drinking in that it is a conscience rejection of sound and/or rational behavior. Abandoning the logic of probability and statistics and betting games of chance is a means of prolonging an adolescent mentality, that is, of briefly buying in to the Peter Pan syndrome.

How silly it intuitively seems to moderate what is inherently financially questionable behavior. By definition, when an individual partakes in a negative expectation game, he or she will lose money in the long run. Will the previously-noted drives and needs (e.g., skill challenge, entertainment, etc.) be met in the process? Will there be thrills, luxurious anticipation, and maybe even mental self flagellation? Probably yes.

Do most individuals participating in casino games recognize the limitations that what they are doing is "just a game?" Certainly, yes.

If indeed the answers are yes, why should players in Colorado be put at even a greater mathematic disadvantage by being forced to flat bet in a negative expectation game like blackjack or be limited to only $5 per decision on slots when $25, $100, and higher denomination slots maintain higher payback schedules?

Colorado government, acting in Loco Parentis, realizes that if a person is burned by the figurative stove of losing, he or she will learn not to touch.

A player gets beat down enough at blackjack without (by regulation) being able to steam (i.e., raise the bet to try to catch up or get even) then the vice element is limited and politicians and legislators can sleep better at night knowing that while gambling in Colorado is still a vice, it is slightly less sinful than in a "wide open" but still regulated gaming environment.

The paternalistic government’s regulations that enforce limited wager keep players from fulfilling the full utility of the gambling vice.

Founded in 1996, Yarborough Planning, LLC partners with select clientele to better understand and address business process issues. Core competencies include training, providing reliable and valid research, strategic / analytic marketing, and accountable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) development and implementation. David Paster is accepting new clients and may be reached at (702) 813-5062 or [email protected].