There aren’t many situations where you spend money you don’t need to with the distinct possibility of getting nothing in return, but gambling is one.
Most times you spend money because you want or have to, in return for goods or services you will receive in what is essentially a contract.
With gambling you are hoping for a return of something you want, namely someone else’s money, but you don’t have any right to it, and more often than not you won’t get it, so it better be something you just want, not need. (Of course, you better not really need the money you’re offering in the first place.)
This month New York made it possible to engage in this non-essential spending in new, alluring fashion with the opening of legal sports betting facilities.
Four of them are sanctioned by the state, with a fifth, owned and operated by the Oneida Nation, made possible by the new law.
They’re all in upstate counties, a situation that reminds me of a scene in The Godfather where an up-and-coming gangster offers Don Corleone a partnership in a new line of business, drugs.
“Why do you come to me?” the Don asks. “What have I done to deserve such generosity?”
The answer, which of course the fellow gangster will not utter, is “I come to you to ask that with this venture you risk your money and well-being.” Neither will New York make any such admission in explaining why all these casinos are upstate.
The Don had the resources and capacity to refuse a risky offer. Upstate counties lack the money and muscle.
In New Jersey and other states with legalized sports gambling, you can make bets on your phone from anywhere in the state. In New York, you have to be physically present at a casino.
Assuming that most “gamers” (the industry does not call them “gamblers”) will come from within two hours away, and that the house generally wins, this makes a big shift of money from upstate citizens to legal bookies and the state.
Ithaca has three of these emporia within ninety miles. The closest, Tioga Downs, is within forty.
This is earth-shaking news for a few local guys I know who, as part of their lifestyles, enjoy forecasting results of athletic competitions and expressing confidence in their predictions by offering something of value, generally money, if they are wrong, and accepting it if they are right.
It might also be grave-making for the finances of these and other people who are so avid in this pursuit as to be practically heedless, and are known among sports fans as “having the sickness,” among other less sympathetic characterizations.
Such people are certainly at risk with the proximity and ease of legal gambling. I know someone in Ithaca who currently is sort of vaguely wondering if there are any luxury condos available for purchase near Tioga Downs which he can finance with his prodigious future winnings, so he can spend less time commuting to and from the casino, or perhaps even take early retirement there with this golden economic opportunity for his prognosticating skills.
I will admit to being a sports fan who will occasionally contemplate in advance the possible outcomes of contests and the odds of various results.
With the arrival of the sports books this month, I took a considered look at some betting propositions with the intent of making faux conjectures, just to see how I would do.
In the course of three days, I wrote down twelve hypothetical projections in an area of theory called the moneyline. I was correct each time, which is similar to calling a coin toss correctly a dozen times in a row, or actually considerably better, due to mitigating factors in sports (neither heads nor tails can go out of competition due to injury, but star players can; umpires can make wrong calls; etc.).
But I am not looking into condos or timeshares at the Tioga Downs Hotel. Instead I am looking into locking up my 401-K. I know that another three days of such projections might well bring reverse results of no wins, twelve losses. Albany will have to make its budget with no help from me other than mandatory, not elective, payments.