I woke up last Wednesday morning and my six-year-old Graham was playing Poker on the computer. Texas Hold ‘Em. Six years old. It was sort of surreal. And even though no real money was changing hands, and I don’t think he actually knew how to play, I can’t help but be concerned.
It was a reminder to be watchful, ready to rein in habits that require a certain level of maturity.
I try not to sound alarmist, but I just don’t trust all the baldface capitalists out there. Someone, somewhere MUST be thinking of this kind of freeware game, plus increased television coverage of the poker tournaments, as a subtle training ground for the next generation of suckers. Without a more active parental role, what’s to stop a gradual move from pretend gambling, to real gambling, to possible (some would say inevitable) gambling addiction?
Though majority opinion has shifted in the past fifty years, making gambling socially acceptable, I don’t actually think gambling is the value-neutral interchange politicians and casinos would have us believe. Too many families are ruined by problem gamblers. (My late father was one, so I saw the problems firsthand.) Too many douchebags like Donald Trump are allowed to pad their wallets still more. And too many Indian reservations and veritable ghost towns like Gary, Indiana have become unhealthily dependent on casinos as the only employer in town. It’s an exploitive industry on many levels, no matter how family-friendly they try to convince us they are.
I have to offer a disclaimer, though:
I confess that I have gambled, in casinos, at horses, and in pick-up poker games with friends, and I find all of these to be quite fun. It’s a rush, precisely because there are real, measurable stakes involved. That’s also why it’s addictive. The drama of winning and losing at the tables has psychological and even physical consequences.
I’d launch into my usual rant against the lotteries now (they’re a “poor tax”, etc.), but I already sound too much like a crochety old lady today as it is.