Saturday, February 19, 2022

#50 / Lose Everything


Ross Douthat, the conservative New York Times columnist, says, "We Aren't In Vegas Anymore." Douthat's column was published on this year's Superbowl Sunday, and warns us about the full-scale merger of professional sports and gambling: 

Super Bowl Sunday is capping off a transition in big-time sports that has made the symbiosis between professional athletics and professional gambling all but complete. The cascading, state-after-state legalization of sports betting, the ubiquitous ads for online gambling in the football playoffs, the billion dollars that the National Football League hopes to soon be making annually from its deals with sports betting companies — everywhere you look, the thin wall separating the games from the gambling industry is being torn away.
Douthat suggests that "some" gambling is fine, but turning all major sports into occasions for gambling is pressing what he calls "consistency" too far:

This transformation will separate many millions of non-wealthy Americans from their money, very often harmlessly but in some cases disastrously, with a lot of sustainable-or-are-they gambling addictions falling somewhere in between. And we’ve reached this point, in part, because of our unwillingness to live with inconsistencies and hypocrisies instead of ironing them out, our inability to take a cautious step or two down a slippery slope without tobogganing to the bottom.
In the case of gambling, that tobogganing impulse meant that once we decided that some forms of gambling should be legally available, in some places, with some people profiting, it became inevitable that restrictions would eventually crumble on a much larger scale. The multi-generational path from Las Vegas and Atlantic City, to Native American casinos, to today’s ubiquitous online gambling looks like one continuous process, with no natural stopping place along the way.
There is something in what Douthat says, I feel certain. However, while I think sports gambling is a problem, I am most concerned with the transformation of our entire economy into something that seems, ever more clearly, to be based on the kind of economic speculation that is a "polite" form of gambling. 
Cryptocurrencies, and other modern financial techniques, have put a huge part of our economy onto the same kind of "slippery slope" that Douthat is warming us about with respect to sports betting. 

The picture chosen to head up The Times online presentation of Douthat's column outlines just how that slippery slope operates. 

Watch out below!
Image Credit: 

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