COVER STORY sports gambling (copy)

A view of Bennett Avenue in Cripple Creek in August. Sports gambling will arrive here soon and other Colorado gambling destinations.

By David Ramsey

david.ramsey@gazette.com

When watching TV ads for Colorado casinos, expect to see happy adults. They have, of course, just won a bundle of cash. They celebrate the wondrous and bountiful joys of gambling. It all looks so fun, so clean, so easy.

First time I walked into a casino was 1987. Back then, it was difficult to find a House of Gambling. I was in Atlantic City, and had not even made it to the gambling floor before stepping into an exceedingly ugly scene.

A couple from Philadelphia were, at times, sobbing and, at more times, shouting at each other at high volume. They had lost several thousand dollars, and it was money they obviously could not afford to throw away. Each blamed the other for the foolishness.

“Why didn’t you stop me!” the man bellowed. “Why did you even start!” the woman responded.

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It was intense. It was ugly. It was the reality you never see in those TV ads.

Sports gambling is on its way to Colorado. Interest in gambling will multiply. Soon, you can — legally — bet on the Broncos, Nuggets, Avs and Rockies! This means the state will be blessed with fresh revenue for good works. The greater good will be served by the vice of sports wagering, expected to hit Colorado by May 1.

But what about those who pay for that greater good? Meals will be missed. Cars repossessed. Couples will shout and cry. The disciplined among us will gamble now and then and never stray beyond our means in placing wagers. Meanwhile, the undisciplined and gambling addicted among us will see hard-earned money placed in peril, and they will do this placing by their own hands.

When Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito announced the overturn of a federal ban on gambling in 2018, he wrote: “Opponents contend that legalizing sports gambling will hook the young on gambling, encourage people of modest means to squander their savings and earnings.”

Um, those aren’t contentions. Those are facts.

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I understand the upside of legalized sports gambling. It will create more jobs. It will generate taxes. It will divert money from sleazy criminal types to our state’s coffers. The congressional National Gambling Impact Study Commission estimates legalized sports gambling will become $400 billion annual national business.

But, please, remember most of that $400 billion will arrive via losses by Americans, many needy. I understand the fun and temptation of sports gambling. Vegas contends, say, that Army is a 15.5-point football underdog to Air Force, and this spread comes after Army has defeated Air Force twice in a row, including a 21-0 shutout in 2017 at Falcon Stadium.

It’s easy money, right? Well, in this specific case, yes, it was easy money. Army easily covered the spread Nov. 2 and nearly marched out of Colorado Springs with a victory. If you bet big money on Army in Vegas, you took home big money. Yes, uplifting, profitable things occasionally happen in Sin City.

But those oddsmakers usually select their point spreads with eerie accuracy. You might win big on certain days, but in the long run you will lose to the brainiacs who devise point spreads.

Here’s the secret to the gambling industry. When a friend travels to Cripple Creek to gamble and wins a few hundred dollars, you’re going to hear about it. A lot about it.

But when a friend gets sizzled at Cripple Creek, you won’t hear about it. At all.

This mixture of loud and silent explains those huge, glittering buildings in Vegas.

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Legal sports gambling soon will dwell among us. We the People transformed sports gambling to legality with our votes. (Yes, it was an oh-so-close vote.) The march of gambling from sleazy thing we kept in a corner in Vegas and Atlantic City to a mass-accepted part of our lives is nearly complete. Gambling traveled from our secret closet to our living room. Gambling won. And some of us will lose big.

We must find a way to shout above those smiley ads that portray gambling only as fun and games. We must let the young, vulnerable and gullible realize the house usually wins.

That means you usually lose.

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