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Would you bet on your growing responsibility?

 Would you bet on your  growing responsibility?  ODS-020
07 aprile 2024

There is a cultural custom within modern societies: if something is considered immoral and affects people’s conscience, don’t worry, there is a remedy. Make it legal and the guilt goes away. The shame of doing something wrong dissipates from the collective mentality of modern society when the immoral practice has been legalized. Since it is legal now, it should be good for all ages. However, when it comes to the heart and mind of the person who still needs to sleep at night, reality creeps in and the consequences are not pretty.

When it comes to gambling in Canada, the federal government makes the betting laws, while the provincial government decides how to apply them.

Just around two years ago the Ontario government decided to open an online gaming market in the province that generated, only in 2023, a revenue of $1.48 billion. However, this is only a small part of the gambling market in Ontario, which reaches up to $35.6 billion annually and it’s growing every year. Yes, you read correctly, it is $35.6 billion not million.

All these statistics are presented with the number of jobs created and the money they bring in, from which a tiny fraction is always used to treat people with this addiction. Yes, because the government runs the “recovery” programs for those who are addicted to this legal and now growing industry too. They do both: advertise gambling and run programs to help people stay away from them. And in the end they came up with the great slogan: “Play responsibly”. The modern man found the solution to his own addictions: responsibility.

There is a growing frenzy of this reality because of the great estimates of more and more money coming in. One could see how the adrenaline is flowing through the communal body. Ads run rampant on TV. So much so that just a few weeks ago the government decided that sport players or music artists cannot be involved in gambling advertisements anymore. The kids started to lose too much money and probably the parents had less to bet now.

This reminds me of a story shared by one of the people who used to come to our community. He recounted taking a trip to Las Vegas with a friend, by motorcycle. That was when he was young and foolish and had plenty of money. He described this frenzy during the trip and the 48 hours he bet continuously until he lost everything. The adrenaline never stopped, it took him to high places until he remembered ending up outside, completely broke, in the middle of the day, looking at the empty hot sky with this infinite emptiness completely taking over his soul. A bottomless emptiness he had never experienced before.

Bob, who is a regular of our community, agreed to answer a few questions about this addiction. He has gambled “responsibly” all his life, like few did. That was his only vice and he invested everything in it. “I never liked to drink or smoke, not even to do drugs. Only gambling. I did everything. I like the jackpot the most. But I bet on everything. It just takes over your life”.

“Did you go to Las Vegas too?”.

“Of course, many times. It was really dreamlike there. The luxury and all those young people there… Did you know that those who do not make it in Hollywood end up working in Las Vegas?”.

I did not know, but we remembered a common friend who used to work in Las Vegas. A woman educated in law who spent many years there. Today she lives on the streets in Toronto and visits us from time to time.

“I lost everything, my marriage, my business. It was an addiction”. (He had a printing company and money invested in different actions).

“How did you realize it was an addiction?”.

“Because you are thinking about it all the time. And also, it makes you lie. I lied to my kid many times and disappointed him growing up. Always making excuses. At least he never got into it because he saw what it did to me. Even my mother stopped talking to me… when she found out the reason I lost the marriage”.

Bob comes from a wealthy and educated family. When he had money to bet he was reading the New Yorker and other important magazines. He knows famous people who were addicted to gambling and he talked about Dostoevsky’s book “The Gambler”,’ which he promised he was going to read. “He seemed to have the same problem too”.

All his relatives are well off, some are bankers or professors or businessmen.

“You know, my brother gambled at the stock market and he became a millionaire. I gambled on small things and I lost everything”. He smiles, he never lost his sense of humor and his sharp thinking.

“How did you stop?”.

“In time, I lost interest. The only thing I do now is buy a ticket at 6/49 hoping to win”. He smiles again.

We might not see it yet, but with all these legalized addictions, the modern man might end up being emptied of all his existential meaning. It cannot make money without leaving people broken and responsible. However, some people are skeptical. The government is the “house” . And they say that the house always wins.

So, we should not worry a bit, we are in good responsible hands.

by Nicolaie Atitienei *

* St. John The Compassionate Mission - Toronto