Okay, I'm trying to figure something out.
The basic problem is that I'm not a gambler. When I see something reduced to chance instead of certainty, I get skittish. I have studiously avoided any attempt to get me interested in gambling. Some friends offered to teach me poker, a game I had no desire to learn. I got out of it by doing a few card tricks before the game began. Suddenly, no one wanted to play cards with me. Yup, I'm sweet. Never been on one of the riverboat gambling casinos, never played the ponies, never played the lottery, not even scratch off tickets. When I switched departments, one of my co-workers asked me if I wanted to join their Lotto pool. I think my problems with my co-workers started that day when I described the lottery, in no uncertain terms, as "a tax on stupid people."
That said, I have no problem with people who want to gamble. I've made the rare dollar bet (that gets people's attention because I almost never wager money), and as long as people can afford it, hey, it's their money. So if I hear about people gambling away the equivalent of a down payment on a house every night, then it must be nice to have that kind of disposable income.
So here's my confusion -- when is a gambling game just between people, and when is it illegal?
On July 12, police in Oak Lawn raided a poker game. The True Remodeling store wasn't very subtle about it. According to a person who actually attended the games there, the usual deal was "between 1 - 3 tables of cash game poker at 1-2 (and 2-5) where they rake 10% up to $5 plus $1 as a "promotional drop". They'll usually do a $100 freeroll before the game starts as an incentive." Police nabbed twenty-five people and $1,200 in cash.
Yeah. $1,200. That's $48 per person, and they are looking at a criminal record. I've seen private games have far more than that on the table, hitting three figures when things get tight. And of course, all the riverboats have poker games.
Oh, wait. That's not the same thing. The government gets a cut of those poker games. So apparently, the problem is the government doesn't like competition for money being throw away. This is the same government that has no problem hyping the lottery in poor neighborhoods and sanctioning riverboats to clean out citizens.
So what is it? Is gambling bad, even when it's less than what you would pay for a night out with your family at the movies, or is it good, in which case, who cares about a house game like that?