Crap. No Snake Eyes!
March 9, 2008 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Arelia Margarita Taveras “made a name for herself representing the families of victims of American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed in New York City's borough of Queens in November 2001, killing 265 people.#+ Her practice had 400 clients and earned her $500,000 a year.” She claims that she sought to relieve the pressures of her work by gambling in Atlantic City and Las Vegas over the past few years. She lost $1 million and was disbarred as a result of stealing money from clients [PDF] in order to support her gambling addiction. Taveras also lost her own home and that of her parents (who mortgaged it to support her debt). Taveras owes the IRS $58,000. In response she has filed a $20 million racketeering lawsuit in federal court against six Atlantic City casinos and one in Las Vegas, “claiming they had a duty to notice her compulsive gambling problem and cut her off.”
posted by ericb (94 comments total)

 
I thought it notable that her method of contemplated suicide was not to jump off a bridge or slit her wrists or bring the bbq inside, but to veer into oncoming traffic, a method that, besides being uncertain, would fuck up many more lives than just her own.
posted by BeerFilter at 12:18 PM on March 9, 2008


Pathetic
posted by Max Power at 12:20 PM on March 9, 2008


Besides, if you want to kill yourself in your car, there is always the Pulaski Skyway down in 'jersey.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:21 PM on March 9, 2008


A gambler in the UK is making headway with a similar ruse.
posted by cillit bang at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2008


You know, over here in the Netherlands, where government has a monopoly on casinos (apparently they like the money it brings too much to allow competition), there are elaborate rules to prevent cases like this, with measures ranging from visit restrictions to admission bans. Here is a list of them, check the facts and figures link.

I have no idea how effective this really is - I suspect some problem gamblers will move to the illegal gambling facilities...

Anyway, over here, this lady would have had a case (except, over here she wouldn't have lost that much).

In Atlantic City or Vegas, not so much.

Gambling addiction is, I think, a serious mental disorder. She needs help. Or rather, it would have been a lot better if she had been given help a long time ago.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:32 PM on March 9, 2008


I'm not saying that this lawsuit has merit, or excusing Ms. Taveras' behavior, but I don't disagree that gambling addiction is something that needs to be dealt with, not only by the addict, but also by the society. As long as we use "sin" industries-- liquor, cigarettes, drugs (prescription and illicit), sexual exploitation, and gambling-- to fund the military, business, and consumer excesses of our society, people with far fewer resources than this lawyer are going to go bust in painful ways, for them and their families.

So in a way, she's right. Someone has to deal with this other than the addict alone.
posted by nax at 1:34 PM on March 9, 2008


David Howard (Al Brooks): As the boldest experiment in advertising history, you give us our money back.
Desert Inn Casino Manager (Garry Marshall): I beg your pardon?
posted by chips ahoy at 1:34 PM on March 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think there should be a moratorium on assholes earning sympathy by telling us they "considered" killing themselves, by any means. Who the fuck hasn't at some point, anyway? Hell, I consider it every morning when I wake up and contemplate the workday ahead.

Either you gave it a real shot or you didn't. If you did and you failed, you probably didn't really want to die and the whole thing was a play for attention. But just saying you considered it and calling that a sign of your "trauma" is really bullshit.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:35 PM on March 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I assume the airlines have insurance which covered a lot of the damage claims. In which case, the insurance is reflected in the price of plane tickets, and this is ultimately just a massive transfer of wealth from the flying general public to shareholders of casino stocks. It would be an even better story if some of the victims of the plane crash were also casino shareholders, they win twice.
posted by stbalbach at 1:35 PM on March 9, 2008


I bet she wouldn't have sued anyone about her gambling addiction if she was on the up
posted by davemee at 1:35 PM on March 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


She said she would go days at a time at the tables, not eating or sleeping, brushing her teeth with disposable wipes so she didn't have to leave.

I am fascinated by this little tidbit on the dental hygiene of problem gamblers. Also, why was she brushing her teeth if she hadn't eaten anything? Strangeness.
posted by tkolar at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2008


Gambling is a tax on people who don't understand probability and statistics.
posted by mullingitover at 1:49 PM on March 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


I bet she wouldn't have sued anyone about her gambling addiction if she was on the up

If she was consistently on the up the casinos would have barred her as a card counter, no doubt.

I don't know about the USA but I think in Canada bartenders are responsible for serving people that are "too inebriated". That is, they can be charged for it. This is because when a person's in that state they lose their sense of judgment. I'm sure the same can be said for chronic gamblers.
posted by dobbs at 1:54 PM on March 9, 2008


Someone has to deal with this other than the addict alone.

From your post, it seems like this to you is a self-evident point. I don't see it. I don't really understand the argument that the "sin" businesses fund military, business, etc., and therefore must be regulated. We do regulate them. Advertising restrictions, age limits, and so on. Are you saying we need to go beyond that and keep regulating until every class of persons, no matter how small, is protected?
posted by Pontius Pilate at 1:59 PM on March 9, 2008


I don't quite know what the intention behind this post is, whether it's to shame this person publicly for screwing over her clients or to praise her for taking on the gambling industry but this post is reprehensible either way.
posted by krautland at 2:02 PM on March 9, 2008


She said she would go days at a time at the tables, not eating or sleeping, brushing her teeth with disposable wipes so she didn't have to leave.
Um ... did she go without bathroom breaks too? Or has she got a bladder of steel?
posted by kaemaril at 2:07 PM on March 9, 2008


I bet she wouldn't have sued anyone about her gambling addiction if she was on the up

Very true, but the casino reserves the right to expel her for this same reason, and the casinos then collude to keep pattern winners out the entire industry. Her case has slight merit on the point that if casinos monitor significant pattern winners and try to cut them off, then they should do the same if they know they have an addicted loser. But this would be a better argument for making such a state law, not as an individual lawsuit.
posted by Brian B. at 2:09 PM on March 9, 2008


Her case has slight merit on the point that if casinos monitor significant pattern winners and try to cut them off, then they should do the same if they know they have an addicted loser.

You are confusing "addicted losers" with good customers.
posted by three blind mice at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2008


I thought the U.S. is the land of the free (or at least it used to be).

Does this not include the freedom to lose all your money gambling?
posted by sour cream at 2:16 PM on March 9, 2008


While I loved fourcheesmac and davemees comments, the fact is that casinos are major beneficiaries of the Pareto Principal. Most of their profits come from the fraction of their customers who have extreme difficulty controlling their behavior. And you had better believe they know it, and create all sorts of programs to encourage the high rollers and keep them at the tables.

So I've mixed feelings on this: Ms. Taveras may be a self-centered fool, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a case.
posted by mojohand at 2:17 PM on March 9, 2008


mojohand writes "and create all sorts of programs to encourage the high rollers and keep them at the tables."

Like free food, free room, free escort ? I can't believe they wanted money for that ! I am shocked !
posted by elpapacito at 2:19 PM on March 9, 2008


fuck. this. lady.
posted by es_de_bah at 2:25 PM on March 9, 2008


A duty is still a duty, even if it is owed to a fool. The casino industry, especially poker machines, are the same sort of obnoxious pestilence on society as is profiteering from addictive drugs, and the same people, organized crime, are often involved in both. Recreational drug use is fine, up to a point, at which it becomes a health problem. Same with recreational gambling. Providing a service to informed users is fine. Taking advantage of the addicted is not. Serving alcohol in restaurants and regulated bars with limited hours and a duty to cut off those who are staggering drunk is fine; hawking 80-proof moonshine to schoolchildren is not.

If you do something for a profit, and/or because it is your job, this should impose a higher standard of moral requirement on you than if you do the thing for fun, or for love, or for duty, or whatever. Saying "it's my job" should not excuse you from mistreating people, especially if your job is directly related to human needs and gives you power over people's lives. The casinos' whole reason to exist is catering to a human need, under circumstances where their clients have reduced volition, as with drunks at a bar, and they have immense power to damage people. Legal liability is a good way to enforce that.

Obviously legal liability can go too far, as with school playgrounds and so on. This is a problem of degree, not nature. Making sure the slippery-slide doesn't have sharp edges is good; making it four feet high and not slippery isn't. Also, schools provide playgrounds for the fun and development of children, not to make a profit out of them.

Generally speaking scaling responsibility for the "fallout" of an activity with the profit made from the activity would help mitigate some of the excesses of privatization and corporation behavior. This is already done in a lot of areas of the economy of a lot of nations, but I don't think it's applied as a general policy principle even in the Netherlands.

Anyway, over here, this lady would have had a case (except, over here she wouldn't have lost that much).

Exactly the point.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:25 PM on March 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Anyone in the general public who is not a card counter or some other type of real card shark who thinks they are doing anything than losing money in the long term is an idiot or delusional.

I have friends that go to the casinos and have their "own" machine and know the "hot" times, etc... and are basically spending their retirement funds but tell everyone in earshot how much they have been making. craziness.

While I think gambling should be legal, I think we are in the middle of a new generation of problem gamblers since the easier access to full casinos outside of what previously was limited to Las Vegas & Atlantic City.

If I owned a 24 hour diner and someone sat in a booth for 3 days straight ordering food and paying for it but not leaving and not bathing and then falling asleep in their cornflakes, I think I'd be expected to call the police or do something.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:28 PM on March 9, 2008


I think it is a very serious problem that can ruin lives, but blaming the casino is ridiculous. Every addict has to hit bottom and figure out how to help themselves.
posted by 45moore45 at 2:29 PM on March 9, 2008


nax: As long as we use "sin" industries-- liquor, cigarettes, drugs (prescription and illicit), sexual exploitation, and gambling-- to fund the military, business, and consumer excesses of our society, people with far fewer resources than this lawyer are going to go bust in painful ways, for them and their families.

First, I don't believe any real choice is involved in supporting "sin" industries. These basic demands and industries exist in every society, whether we allow or no. The reason we must allow them - which is made clear by our failed drug policy - is that prohibition costs society more than permission. Prohibition destroys more lives, costs more money, makes more criminals, builds more prisons.

Apart from this, it's very difficult to make a distinction between "sin" industries and useful ones. Do I eat ice cream for nourishment, or pleasure? Conversely, do our actions on the stock market amount to gambling, or to useful arbitrage and improved market efficiency? Can most activities be categorized cleanly as a mere matter of indulgent vice on one hand, or social utility on the other? (Also, sexual exploitation? What's with the charged terms - why not "sex work," plain and simple?)

There are, after all, a million ways to lose a million, most of them very easy. This woman could have just as capriciously blown a million on fast cars, exotic travel, food, plastic surgery, self-publishing, real estate investments, or any one of thousands of legitimate (and risky) business ventures. Can we protect people against them all? Should we?

But let me conclude by agreeing on some level - it really is worth our while, if we're to expect people to act as rational agents in a market full of risky and bewildering choices, to help educate them a priori, and to assist them within reason when they make poor choices. Education is really the proverbial stitch in time - it's far cheaper than bailing someone out post facto. And we do have bankruptcy laws, with a few exceptions. And we've nearly abolished debtor's prison. Now we just need to transition our approach to drugs to a model of education and assistance for addicts...
posted by kid ichorous at 2:30 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


es_de_bah fuck. this. lady.
if. you. wanted. to. do. that. then. pick. your. time. and. make. your. offer.
(Gah, writing like that feels like putting my hand in something sticky.)

The problem with problem gambling is what it does to human dignity and self-restraint. Now, some people see the loss of human dignity and self-restraint as an opportunity for themselves to take advantage. Personally, I think that kind of person could do with being gut-shot, just as a cautionary example to others of that kind.

Yes, I know you're not using the word "fuck" in its literal sense. Some people would use the word that way, though. Some people would "fuck over" this lady, too. Some people have, apparently.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:38 PM on March 9, 2008


Anyone in the general public who is not a card counter or some other type of real card shark who thinks they are doing anything than losing money in the long term is an idiot or delusional.

Brings to mind - the upcoming film release (March 28) of "21" [trailer] based on the book "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions."
posted by ericb at 2:45 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's plenty of evidence that gambling is an addiction just like many others. (My favorite commercial for some drug mentions "increased urges to gamble") I'm not taking this woman's side--it's pretty difficult--but the gaming industry thrives on people like this and ought to be held to a better standard.
posted by etaoin at 2:45 PM on March 9, 2008


I would be more willing to blame the victim here if the casino didn't have a state license from the populace to define cheating as beating the odds of the game. Their method of insuring profits? Monitoring the gambler's every move and keeping track of their total losses to make sure the losses exist. Why this monitoring can't also be used for the public good is the real question.
posted by Brian B. at 2:49 PM on March 9, 2008


No, I don't think the onus is on the industry to protect gamblers from themselves. This chick was a lawyer and my bet is that she would have sued the first casino trying to save her from herself by kicking her out. Wah-wah, discrimination, whatever. It is a horrible addiction but nobody can predict who is susceptible any more than you can predict the one kid smoking pot in high school who will become an addict of something more powerful that will eventually kill them. Most people can engage in certain behaviors and not get addicted but some can't and that is just the way it is.
posted by 45moore45 at 2:54 PM on March 9, 2008


Ms. Taveras may be a self-centered fool, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a case.
I don't even care if she has a valid case. Ms. Taveras may be a self-centered fool, but that doesn't mean that the casinos have a right to sympathy, even if they are being sued. People get sued unfairly all the time. The casinos should suck it up, instead of trying to appeal to the public for fairness.
posted by deanc at 2:56 PM on March 9, 2008


PP I think I'm saying that we have shifted the cost of our society from production (manufacturing, farming) to consumption (simplistic of me to emphasize the "sins" but I'll gladly add our retail addiction to that), while ignoring the societal consequences of unhealthy outcomes like addiction, crime, etc. So as a society we need to be prepared to deal with the addicts that we are creating, and in fact encouraging.

I also didn't say that they needed to be regulated. They are regulated, because they're responsible for so much of the local funding base, so naturally local government regulate the hell out of them. What they need to be is examined-- is this really the best way for us to raise our money? Is the cost worth the benefit? Google "social cost of gambling" and you'll come up with page after page of study and article questioning this cost-benefit relationship. Businesses managed to convince legislators that taxing them was anti-growth, but the money to pay for schools, hospitals, and infrastructure has to come from somewhere, so some brilliant person came up with the idea of taxing, and therefore supporting, all the naughty things we're going to do anyway.

Common sense tells me, however, that encouraging people to drink, smoke, gamble, and overconsume nonessentails (SUVs anyone?) is not the clearest path to a healthy society. And then whiners like Ms. Taveras just bring out everyone's bullshit meter and obscure the main problem, namely why the hell is government in the gambling business in the first place?

It's more of a gut response than a well-considered position, and I'd love to keep exploring/honing it here if we can keep it civil (as your response was.)
posted by nax at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


She said she would go days at a time at the tables, not eating or sleeping, brushing her teeth with disposable wipes so she didn't have to leave

Man, I think it's almost time for the class action lawsuit against Blizzard for World of Warcraft.

I'm only partly joking. If casinos have a duty to cut off addicted gamblers, why don't MMORPGs have a duty to cut off addicted players? I assure you that the detrimental effects of being addicted to an MMORPG are just as clear as for an addicted gambler, it just takes longer since the money loss is slower and more insidious.
posted by Justinian at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2008


Whatever became of the idea that adults should take responsibility for their own lives and their own mistakes?
posted by Class Goat at 3:03 PM on March 9, 2008


On preview: Thank you aeschenkarnos and kid icarus for stating my case better than I did.
posted by nax at 3:07 PM on March 9, 2008


I used to work for the Addiction Services, which was part of the Nova Scotia Department of Health, and problem gambling and casino oversight was part of what we did. It's been several years, but as I recall, we required the casinos in the province to display a little notice about problem gambling and its symptoms with a 1-800 number for people who thought they, or somebody they knew, needed help - this notice had to be on every machine. The casinos were supposed to keep certain people who had been identified as serious problem gamblers out of the casinos. The casinos had to put a certain amount of money (I want to say a million, but am not sure of this number) into a fund every year, which was administered by somebody else (a not-for-profit or by the government, I don't remember), which paid for counseling programs for problem gamblers, and some of that money may have gone into promoting the existence of the 1-800 number as well, I'm not sure.

The idea was, while it's all well and good to talk about individual responsibility, we know a certain small proportion of people will become addicted, and we know we're going to end up paying for their addiction one way or another (through the healthcare system, which is publicly funded in Canada, or through the criminal justice system if they turned to crime to pay their bills as so often happens) so we might as well be sensible and plan for it.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:08 PM on March 9, 2008


Also, why was she brushing her teeth if she hadn't eaten anything? Strangeness.
posted by tkolar


Maybe she was doing coke?

I read a headline about this idiot, without reading about it further. America's already plenty litigious, I didn't feel the need to reaffirm this impression. I'll admit I was slightly curious as to how she got the money to file this lawsuit and pursue it, but not enough to click through. My thought was how is this suing maneuver not just gambling further?

to find out that she embezzled from my dead friend's account only makes me wish her, well, dead. good riddance. I'd say I prefer indentured servitude, but for whatever reason, I'm too cynical to believe than any once-millionaire would be subjected to such hardship.
posted by Busithoth at 3:10 PM on March 9, 2008


Whatever became of the idea that adults should take responsibility for their own lives and their own mistakes?

There are adults on both sides of the problem and there is no cosmic law that dictates that the loser is therefore "responsible" by definition. In terms of justice, the responsible party here is the one who caused or exploited the problem to society.
posted by Brian B. at 3:20 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


So the casinos had a duty to cut her off and tell her she's an addict and needs help?

She didn't lose all this money and commit these crimes over a long weekend. It happened over a long period of time in many casinos. Does she not have a duty to recognize her behavior is abnormal. After losing big one weekend, did she ever thing she was doing something hazardous? I know an addict has problems recognizing their problems but shit, does personal responsibility not play a role? She had no friends or family that said, "hey we're worried about all the time you're spending in AC" or something?

People have been gambling since we lived in caves. Tens of millions of visitors go to Vegas, AC and other places around the world every year. Almost all of them go home with less money than they came with. A few people get into trouble because that cannot control themselves. If Vegas and AC didn't exist, she would have probably found another method to feel the rush she had at the tables.

When I worked for a major casino in Vegas, I found that a lot of the money was made by taking a little cash from a lot of people. It is true that casino marketing departments will track a player's wins and losses and if you play a lot you get lots of comps. The casinos do not share information between them (do you really want a scoring agency like a credit report or government database tracking your financial data? perhaps it could be expanded to people who spend too much at nudie bars or mcdonalds?)

The really big fish could get flown in from across the planet in a private jet and may drop millions over a weekend. Or sometimes they'd win and there'd be a dip in profits. But a lot of the money was made on the nickel slots, fucking keno and low stakes tables. People would come to town, blow a few hundred bucks and leave. They don't build billion dollar resorts for the few addicts with access to lots of money to get a return on their investment.

I did sometimes get to work early in the mornings just before dawn and see people walking down the strip. You could tell by their eyes they were fucked. They'd blown their next month's mortgage payment, or spent their kid's college fund. You could tell they were trying to figure out where they could get a few bucks because they know they could get it back before their wife found out. These were smart people that in other parts of their life were probably pretty rational. But something about the allure of gambling shut the rationale part of their brain off. But I can't imagine when they got back to their hometown, they couldn't realize just how toxic their "hobby" is and how dangerous it is on a much lower scale.

So I hope she loses this case, gets some help, takes responsibility for her fuckups and moves on with her life.
posted by birdherder at 3:21 PM on March 9, 2008


What is she going to do with the money if she wins? Seriously, isn't she just going to reinvest it at the casinos? Is winning this lawsuit going to cure the addiction?
posted by 45moore45 at 3:23 PM on March 9, 2008


Um ... did she go without bathroom breaks too? Or has she got a bladder of steel?

This story from last year might be relevant to that question.
posted by dilettante at 3:29 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


If casinos have a duty to cut off addicted gamblers, why don't MMORPGs have a duty to cut off addicted players?

Less capability to physically monitor & cut-off the addicts? I guess they could do some sort of time tracking thing, limiting people to no more than X hours a day.
posted by papakwanz at 3:40 PM on March 9, 2008


I'm only partly joking. If casinos have a duty to cut off addicted gamblers, why don't MMORPGs have a duty to cut off addicted players?

$15/month won't send anyone broke. Giving up your job to play ninety hours a week might, though. It's a time issue, not a money issue; so, there's a case to be made for limiting session durations, or hours per week.

Class Goat Whatever became of the idea that adults should take responsibility for their own lives and their own mistakes?

I'll tell you, if you like. That idea is the nutshell position of individualism. It has significant merit; it seems both obvious and fair. However, there are two errors that individualists are prone to make, the first of which is drastic overestimation of volition, the capacity to make choices, and the second is failure to recognize division of responsibility, as if X being "responsible" meant that Y and Z cannot possibly be responsible at all, or that only the one with greatest responsibility need to take any blame.

Since we know that that's how it really works, we tend to resist the idea that "adults should take (absolute and indivisible) responsibility for their own lives and their own mistakes". We've made a decent start on working out how things like drug addictions and mental compulsions and social expectations and group identity and peer pressure and so on work; sadly, being what we are, the more we know about it the more damage we can do. "Responsibility", like "rights", is a philosophical shortcut to making something happen that we want to have happen. It doesn't, in and of itself, really exist. It's an aspirational concept, like kindness, or beauty, or orderliness. None of these things have any reality outside of the minds of the perceivers; they are still desirable, and necessary for social cohesion, but not at the expense of recognition of reality.

So, let's work with what we desire to have happen rather than what we think people ought to be responsible for. We'd like people not to gamble away all of their money. It has bad effects on them and others. To do that, we can educate people as individuals not to gamble more money than they can afford, which is really part of budgeting, and isn't properly taught in schools but should be. We can also (since we don't actually have to choose one or the other) restrain gambling establishments to not allow people, as far as the gambling establishment has the capacity, to gamble more than they can afford.

But how do we know what people can afford? That's a solved problem. There's a whole industry sprung up for working out what people can and can't afford. It seems reasonable to me to let a person gamble an amount of money that they would qualify to borrow at commercial rates. It seems unreasonable to have to do that for every casual gambler. So, if they track the people--and they do--and they track the amount of money--and they do--then a threshold can be set, maybe a quarter of average annual salary inside of a week, at which the casino can be required as a condition of operating to investigate the person's financial circumstances, and if the person doesn't pass, ban them for a period of time and give them contact information for gambling addiction help services. That's not difficult to do. Because we're only banning people who can't afford to be there anyway, the casino is only deprived of money that can't afford to be spent at it.

If you want to make an argument that the casino is entitled to money that people can't afford to give it, by reason of their addictions, by all means do. That is the side on which responsibility lies; the side with the capacity.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:46 PM on March 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


birdherder You could tell by their eyes they were fucked. They'd blown their next month's mortgage payment, or spent their kid's college fund. You could tell they were trying to figure out where they could get a few bucks because they know they could get it back before their wife found out. These were smart people that in other parts of their life were probably pretty rational. But something about the allure of gambling shut the rationale part of their brain off. But I can't imagine when they got back to their hometown, they couldn't realize just how toxic their "hobby" is and how dangerous it is on a much lower scale.

and

So I hope she loses this case, gets some help, takes responsibility for her fuckups and moves on with her life.

One of these things is not like the other one. Either gambling fucks people up, in which case, it needs to be regulated; or it doesn't, in which case, it doesn't. Pick one.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:49 PM on March 9, 2008


I'm no lawyer, so I have only a rough idea of the concept of the "duty of care". I mean, I understand medical staff having a duty of care to their patients, lawyers having a responsibility to ensure their clients get best representation, care workers etc.

Just what the heck is the "duty of care" of a casino, other than perhaps seeing they run games that aren't fixed?

Can somebody explain the "duty of care" of a business that is predicated on separating a fool from their money? Short of actual evidence to demonstrate genuine mental problems, shouldn't the casino be allowed to assume a customer is a consenting adult who is capable of making informed decisions, however grotesquely stupid?
posted by kaemaril at 3:54 PM on March 9, 2008


to veer into oncoming traffic, a method that, besides being uncertain, would fuck up many more lives than just her own

A friend of mine worked at the ER when they brought in three victims from a car accident not far from where he lived at the time; the first victim was a lady who thought that a frontal collision with something large enough, say a minivan, would be the best way to fix her depression, the two others his wife and 3-month old baby daughter who were in the van.

(all three survived, with only minor injuries)
posted by effbot at 4:01 PM on March 9, 2008


I hate casinos. Only partly because they attack the ignorant but also because I have trained rats in Skinner boxes and I like to think people are different from rats. In a casino there are no real differences between rats and people.
posted by srboisvert at 4:06 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I bet she wouldn't have sued anyone about her gambling addiction if she was on the up

Compulsive gamblers are rarely, if ever "on the up". The longer you stay at the table or the track, the odds that you will lose every cent you have increase to infinity.
posted by psmealey at 4:20 PM on March 9, 2008


It seems to me that gambling is rooted in one of society's most pernicious myths, the myth of exemption. Sure, when you think that you're going to be the lone exception to the statistical rule that the house always wins, there is a financial cost. But there are costs wherever the myth pops up. Whenever someone thinks, oh, he cheated on his wife with me, but he won't cheat on me with someone else. Whenever someone thinks, oh, I alone am so great a driver I need not obey the traffic laws that apply to everyone else, there is a cost. Whenever someone thinks, I alone can beat this depression without the use of drugs, there is a cost.

I wish people would just start from the default position that whatever is likeliest to happen, that will be the thing that happens, and they aren't exempt. They will lose to the casino. They will be cheated on. The will crash their car. They may kill themselves. Even for people who have enjoyed exemptions from statistical norm, the exemption is so brief as to be useless. Sure, you drove home drunk tonight and didn't crash. You drove home drunk for the last year and didn't crash. Well, pal, this is your year to crash.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:23 PM on March 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Can somebody explain the "duty of care" of a business that is predicated on separating a fool from their money?

I would say that you made an argument for such care. If we assume that people play for entertainment and are not fooled that casino gambling should be a livelihood, and realistically assume that everyone loses in the long run (as the casinos do), then we must insure that gambling profiteers don't make financial wrecks out of the gambling addicts. It's a condition they confront when they ask for permission to run casinos. They likely make assurances to legislators and voters that addiction exploitation will be minimized. At any rate, we can't pretend they don't need our permission to run a scam such as gambling.

On the problem of personal responsibility, we can't define someone as "fair game" for a casino when they are discovered to be a total loser, because after concluding the the gambler is a total loser, the game has then been assumed to be a trap, which then is no longer assumed to be a fair game. (This will be hardest for the absolutists to fathom). Fair game, as far as citizens are concerned, should be those who gamble responsibly and would quit when their entertainment expenses have been exhausted, and not those who would bet their lives on it. This is the social contract casinos must make with the concerned voters, or lose their right to game. It's the cost of doing business in a fair minded state that conditionally tolerates gambling.
posted by Brian B. at 4:24 PM on March 9, 2008


So, let's work with what we desire to have happen rather than what we think people ought to be responsible for. We'd like people not to gamble away all of their money. It has bad effects on them and others. To do that, we can educate people as individuals not to gamble more money than they can afford, which is really part of budgeting, and isn't properly taught in schools but should be. We can also (since we don't actually have to choose one or the other) restrain gambling establishments to not allow people, as far as the gambling establishment has the capacity, to gamble more than they can afford.


There are no perfect solutions in life. Every public policy choice we make has beneficiaries and also victims. No matter what we do, someone is going to get screwed.

The question is which policy causes the greatest benefit and the least victimization, for there are no solutions which are perfect.

Your fundamental political philosophy here can best be summed up this way: "We, collectively, have decided that you, an individual, are of your own free will doing something that we think is unwise. Therefore we will force you to act in the way we think you should, irrespective of whether that's what you want."

That is tyranny.

It's also a profound hazard for the entire idea of personal liberty. "We don't think you should drive an SUV because it uses too much gas, so we're not going to let you do it." "We don't think you should stay at home on Sunday morning, so we're going to force you to go to church." "We don't think that you should love someone of the same sex, so we're going to make that illegal."

The ability to make mistakes is the canary-in-the-coal-mine for personal liberty. If I am not permitted to do things that others think are unwise, then I am not free. Maybe, in doing such unwise things I bring catastrophe on myself. But if I am not permitted the opportunity to do so, then it is an even greater catastrophe for everyone.

I'm sorry that this woman completely loused up her life. But I don't want to live in a country where it is impossible for others to do as she did. Not because I want people to louse up their lives, but because the only way to prevent it is for the nanny state to closely supervise everyone's lives, and I don't want to live in that kind of society.

If we are free, some of us will do stupid things. If no one is permitted to do stupid things, then no one is free. Freedom must include the ability to make mistakes, or it is an illusion.
posted by Class Goat at 4:44 PM on March 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


What about the social contract the government makes with concerned voters? In my state the government sells lottery tickets and scratcher tickets, and to see someone spending what precious little money they have on a 40 ounce and a scratcher ticket is heartbreaking. The desperation is palpable. The problem with this case is that if she wins, every old lady who ever blew their grocery money on the dream of winning the lottery is also going to be suing the state government for not cutting them off. It isn't chump change where I live. You see lots of elderly people lining up at the courtesy desk at the supermarket and spending $20-$50 a week on those stupid tickets. At least a casino gives you free booze as you circle the drain.
posted by 45moore45 at 4:46 PM on March 9, 2008


The downside of every freedom is that to somebody, somewhere, it's going to be the rope they use to hang themselves.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:47 PM on March 9, 2008


That is tyranny.

When a majority of voters prevent the profitable exploitation of a minority, it's the opposite of tyranny, unless you think an immune system is a form of tyranny over viruses.
posted by Brian B. at 5:07 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]



Goat, it's true that this kind of "nanny-ism" can easily shade into tyranny-- or just shift people into black markets which are even more dangerous than the legal ones. It's also true that you can make some rules that help prevent companies separating suckers from their money as easily. The trick is where to draw the line. Right now, I think it's fair to say, we let corporations have far too much of an upper hand in far too many areas.

i do, however, think that this kind of lawsuit isn't the way to solve the problem because it places too little responsibility on the addict and too much on the casino. While addicts don't need to "hit bottom" to quit (that tends to be defined retroactively and what is "bottom" for one person is nowhere near it for another), they do need to discover a way of dealing with life other than addiction in order to stay stopped. Otherwise, they will just switch substances or activities-- this may result in greater or lesser harm, depending on say, whether they switch from gambling to heroin or to marijuana.
posted by Maias at 5:07 PM on March 9, 2008


This thread reminds me that Casino is a really good movie, one of Scorcese's (oddly underrated) masterpieces, IMO. And those Saul and Elaine Bass titles are mighty fine, too.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:08 PM on March 9, 2008


I don't quite know what the intention behind this post is, whether it's to shame this person publicly for screwing over her clients or to praise her for taking on the gambling industry but this post is reprehensible either way.

You appear to be confusing "the post" with "the lawyer's behaviours."
posted by five fresh fish at 5:15 PM on March 9, 2008


Goat, it's true that this kind of "nanny-ism" can easily shade into tyranny-- or just shift people into black markets which are even more dangerous than the legal ones. It's also true that you can make some rules that help prevent companies separating suckers from their money as easily. The trick is where to draw the line. Right now, I think it's fair to say, we let corporations have far too much of an upper hand in far too many areas.

I would rather err on the side of liberty than to err on the side of collective control. Too much liberty is better than too little.

I cherish my right to be wrong. I don't want anyone taking it from me.
posted by Class Goat at 5:16 PM on March 9, 2008


I would rather err on the side of liberty than to err on the side of collective control. Too much liberty is better than too little.

I cherish my right to be wrong. I don't want anyone taking it from me.


If the right to be wrong is all you've got left, nobody will ever take it you. I promise.
posted by Brian B. at 5:20 PM on March 9, 2008


maias writes: Right now, I think it's fair to say, we let corporations have far too much of an upper hand in far too many areas.

Class Goat responds: I would rather err on the side of liberty than to err on the side of collective control. Too much liberty is better than too little.

All too often, however, the liberty and rights that corporations enjoy under the law result in the loss of liberties and rights for relatively powerless individuals, particularly those of the underclass. I'm not thinking so much here about this lady with her gambling problem, though. More like, say, agribusiness entities that get free reign over where their filthy, polluting pig farms (with huge government tax breaks) are going to go: often right in the middle of rural low-income communities who suffer the health/environmental consequences. That sort of thing. Their liberties and rights take a back seat to corporate/big business liberties and rights, and I think that's the point maias was making.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:30 PM on March 9, 2008


aeschenkarnos for the win.

We need to recognize that just because gambling is addictive does not mean those affected are wholly innocent and untarnished.

At some point the addiction has gone from being a recreational activity to a lifestyle. There comes a point where the addict is faced with recognizing the compulsive behaviour and condone it by engaging in it again. At that instant, they are not a victim: they are making a conscious decision to continue the behaviour. Later, when the behaviour is automatic, the defeat accepted, the behaviour fully set, they're victimized; their life is no longer in control.

There should be a requirement to provide funding for addiction counseling, and it should be no big deal to make use of it. Legalize everything that consenting adults can do, and tax hell out of those that are most destructive, to fund programs to educate and counsel.

And those people who resolutely fail take advantage of these abundant opportunities to regain control of their lives? Well, the choice was very clearly theirs: they shall have to face the consequences.

If your informed decision was to cause harm to someone else, then you need to be held accountable.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:37 PM on March 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Meh. She gets what she deserves.
posted by Doohickie at 5:57 PM on March 9, 2008


There comes a point where the addict casino is faced with recognizing the compulsive behaviour and condone it by engaging in it again....

Reversible arguments are a hoot.
posted by Brian B. at 6:02 PM on March 9, 2008


Would you care to provide some intelligent commentary to explain your one-liner, Brian? I take it you're in favour of the "casinos are responsible for ensuring people don't gamble too much" mandate?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:33 PM on March 9, 2008


I'm not sure how that's a reversible argument, Brian B.

Once we've agreed that gambling is a legitimate business, I'm not sure that it's the Casino's business to tell people how they should spend their money. Lots of extremely rich people play for very high stakes. Sometimes they win big, some times they lose big. Often, their action will be spread out across several casinos. Are they all to collaborate and share business secrets, in order to determine how far ahead or in the hole any particular player is at any given time? My guess is that if they were to do that, many of the same people who are complaining about the casino's refusal to intervene here, would be complaining about their Big Brother approach to how people spend their money.

While there are features of compulsive gambling that make it similar to drug dependence, they aren't the same thing. What they both have in common is that they both can involve significant cognitive errors on the part of the gambler or the crackhead or whatever. The nature of those cognitive errors can vary both quantitatively and qualitatively. So, for example, the crackhead continues to smoke crack because he enjoys it, and despite its destructive impact on his life, he can't envisage life without it. The gambler who is gambling away a million dollars a year does so because they believe -- in a triumph of optimism over experience -- that they'll win next time around.

The problem is, we all make cognitive errors all the time. We date people that we know we shouldn't. We don't have faith in our self worth and so stay stuck in jobs, relationships, other behaviour patterns that in hindsight, we can see were bad for us. Should we be able to sue our ex-partners, our ex-bosses, our schools, etc. because they didn't recognize our cognitive errors for us, and so failed in their duty of care towards us?

Of course not. It's a nonsense. But qualitatively, this action against the casinos are seeking to make the same argument. There are social costs associated with gambling, and as a society, we do have a duty to mitigate those social costs. We do that in a range of ways. By controlling who has a license to run casinos. By limiting their opening hours. By placing controls on membership. Or by denying people the ability to do it altogether. Those are the proper ways to regulate this stuff, because the alternative is to allow people to profit from their poor decisions when they turn out well for them, but penalizing the casinos when they lose money -- as they inevitably will for almost every gambler.

And if you're going to allow such actions for against the casinos, why not for people who gamble on the markets? If you allow them for individuals, then why not for corporations? "That company had a duty of care towards us to ensure that the deal we made with them benefitted us more than it benefitted them!"

Ultimately, in the absence of genuine inability to think rationally, the courts *must* proceed on the basis that the various actors involved are rational and able to take responsibility for the decisions that they make. We don't absolve crackheads from responsibility for their decisions, whether they be high on crack, or jonesing for a bag at the time that they make the decision. I see no reason whatsoever why the law should treat the decisions of a compulsive gambler any differently.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:33 PM on March 9, 2008


Which, btw, seems like expecting the fox to look after the chickens. IMO, better to take some of the casino money and give it to people who care about helping people not gamble their lives away.

Or else ban casinos and gambling entirely. That should work about as well as other prohibitions.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:34 PM on March 9, 2008


Ultimately, in the absence of genuine inability to think rationally, the courts *must* proceed on the basis that the various actors involved are rational and able to take responsibility for the decisions that they make. We don't absolve crackheads from responsibility for their decisions, whether they be high on crack, or jonesing for a bag at the time that they make the decision.

We can only assume that a gambling addiction is irrational thinking. And just because a horrid lawyer files a claim doesn't make the problem for penniless others go away, a problem the casino shares in by at least half, as reversible arguments suggest. Furthermore, we don't absolve crackheads from what responsibility? We also try to rehabilitate them and spend loads of money doing it, meanwhile, we jail the crack dealers for a long time, ostensibly blaming them for much of the problem.
posted by Brian B. at 6:58 PM on March 9, 2008


I take it you're in favour of the "casinos are responsible for ensuring people don't gamble too much" mandate?

If you want to address a problem, start by removing the ease of ability to profit from it. Any responsible industry would be happy to address a problem with their image, IMO. If they aren't willing to, then pull their license. I am amused at debates that places gambling at some imaginary bedrock to capitalism. Thought so!
posted by Brian B. at 7:07 PM on March 9, 2008


Furthermore, we don't absolve crackheads from what responsibility? We also try to rehabilitate them and spend loads of money doing it

I take it the "we" you refer to is not in the USA.

I am amused at debates that places gambling at some imaginary bedrock to capitalism. Thought so!

WTF? By saying that gamblers need to accept responsibility for their actions, consequent to an informational campaign funded by casino taxation, and in light of solid support for addiction counselling, I'm making gambling as the bedrock of capitalism?

That's nuttier than squirrel shit.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:52 PM on March 9, 2008


So, some people have addictions. The consensus seems to be that we should help out these people, apparently by not accommodating their addictions beyond a certain destructive threshold. The majority pin the onus on the business profiting from the addiction.

So, McDonalds should chase fat-asses from their restaurants.
Hostess should similarly prevent the Twinkie-obsessed from overindulging.
Pepsico is liable to Mountain-Dewaholics.
Porn addicts should rise up against pornographers.
Shopaholics can sue nearly all retailers.

Once we are an "addict," -- and I'd be willing to bet that you can buy mental health professionals who will happily proclaim that you are addicted to virtually anything -- then you are absolved of responsibility.

I don't think I like this development.
posted by Chasuk at 8:08 PM on March 9, 2008


If you want to address a problem, start by removing the ease of ability to profit from it.

Not if doing so interferes with my rights to gamble if I want to. Handwavey requirements like "don't let gambling addicts play" are a recipe for all kinds of disaster.

"No one under 18 is allowed to buy booze" is a hard, fast, and easy to understand and apply rule whatever you think of the rule itself. So is "people under 16 can't consent to (whatever)". But "determine if a customer has a gambling addiction and don't let them play if they have such an addiction" is a nebulous moving goalpost. Is the player addicted or do they just really like to gamble? Are they losing their shirts or is the $10,000 they just lost pocket change to them?

The casinos will never be able to comply well enough to avoid legal exposure. No way.

Next up: bars sued because they served alcoholics. Grocery stores sued before they sold cigarettes to nicotine addicts.

Actually, that's an interesting contrast. We let stores sell cigarettes to addicts. Why shouldn't we let casinos provide gambling to addicts?
posted by Justinian at 8:11 PM on March 9, 2008


five fresh fish, you seem to be supporting a provable and mathematically certain financial scam based on the willingness of its victims after being exposed to a billboard against an addiction? That misplaced faith in the ad system and its implications of rational choice to fight an obvious lack of rational thinking dovetails nicely with your absurd mind reading claim quoted here:

At some point the addiction has gone from being a recreational activity to a lifestyle. There comes a point where the addict is faced with recognizing the compulsive behaviour and condone it by engaging in it again. At that instant, they are not a victim: they are making a conscious decision to continue the behaviour. Later, when the behaviour is automatic, the defeat accepted, the behaviour fully set, they're victimized; their life is no longer in control.

So we can call that the habit theory of lazy addiction, beginning with compulsion and ending with automatic loss of control. Accordingly to you, at some point they were aware, but you want to make them aware of their unknown addiction before that point, and then we can blame them properly like "see, we told you so..." right? Tell us again how using sin taxes to support this isn't the capitalistic approach.
posted by Brian B. at 8:19 PM on March 9, 2008


We let stores sell cigarettes to addicts. Why shouldn't we let casinos provide gambling to addicts?

Because two wrongs don't make a right? Wait, lemme try that again in plain English. Uh, we don't sell crack to crack addicts?
posted by Brian B. at 8:23 PM on March 9, 2008


Crack isn't legal (although it should be). Gambling is legal.
posted by Justinian at 8:30 PM on March 9, 2008


Gambling is legal.

So, we should let casinos provide gambling to addicts because "Gamling is legal." Profoundly simple I'm sure.
posted by Brian B. at 8:39 PM on March 9, 2008


Say it, then. Your goal is actually that gambling should be made, like drugs, illegal.
posted by Justinian at 8:46 PM on March 9, 2008


Not if doing so interferes with my rights to gamble if I want to.

It's not your gambling that's really the problem. It's that you are addicted to it to the point of harming your clients, by stealing their money; or harming your family, by losing the house; and possibly self-harm, by signing your kneecaps over to Guido.

When your gambling causes real damage to others, it's our problem, not yours. And if the solution to that problem is to prevent you from harming others, then that's tough shit on your "right" to gamble.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 PM on March 9, 2008


Say it, then. Your goal is actually that gambling should be made, like drugs, illegal.

Justinian, I just exposed your last two arguments as pure fallacies, not even bothering to name them they were so obvious. Now you might think you have me cornered into the black and white position. Personally I think gambling is fine if the casinos offer exactly "even" odds of winning, not one percent less, and then only charge a posted fee for cashing in chips. Combined with a strategy of admission costs, dealer tips, selling drinks and food, I don't see how this would be unprofitable, immoral or underhanded. Those such as the lawyer in the FPP would be paying a flat rate on the money cashed out, and although she would still likely have a gambling problem, the long haul cost of winning would be not be the casino's ethical or legal liability because they gave and took her money fairly wagered as what could only be statistically described as entertainment and she chose to cash it out. Go ahead and call it the same thing, it's not, and gaming lobbies would fight against such a restriction. It should already be legal because, mathematically, it isn't gambling as we know it except in the short term. The long term is safe. What many here don't realize is how much money the casino makes by keeping their odds elusive or secret, especially on the machines. This is done with state regulation, which makes it a party to a problem addiction.
posted by Brian B. at 9:17 PM on March 9, 2008


No, Brian B., you didn't even bother to address my argument. See up above where I made the argument that casinos simply could not comply with a requirement that they not let addicts play in such a way that doesn't expose them to litigation? Yeah, that was my argument. The bit you seem to take such delight in attacking was a fanciful aside, as I noted. But feel free to believe you actually exposed the logical fallacies in something I was just sorta casually wondering.
posted by Justinian at 9:33 PM on March 9, 2008


five fresh fish, you seem to be supporting a provable and mathematically certain financial scam based on the willingness of its victims after being exposed to a billboard against an addiction?

I've no problem with someone choosing to spend his money on the entertainment value of gambling.

I've no problem holding accountable those people who having been educated in the matter go on to cause harm others through the need to finance their idiocy.

Basic statistics should be taught in high school math. Casino taxation can pay for this, fine with me. The odds of winning should be clearly indicated on all games. Life Skills class should have a work unit on addictions, financial management, basic investing versus gambling, etcetera. Direct mail and mass media (newspaper advertising, public service messages, etc) can further inform people as to basic math literacy, personal responsibility, and available social services supporting those who wish to get ahead in life/change their life direction.

Sin taxation can, in large part, provide these things. An educated populace is a healthy and happy populace. Gambling as a form of entertainment is peachy-keen. Whatever floats your boat.

For the gambling addicted, there should be addictions counselling and rehab support. For the unemployed, there should be employment counselling and education/rehabilitation support. For the alcoholics, there should be addictions counselling and rehab support. For the injection users, a safe place to shoot up and addictions counselling and drug substitutes and rehab support. And so on and so forth.

The solution is never to ban, but to educate and re-educate. People do all sorts of horrible things to themselves and unless we are willing to accept an authoritarian regime, we can do little about it. Indeed, for almost all things we do absolutely nothing about it; the evidence is writ large in the people all around you — in very real terms, unhealthy eating costs orders of magnitude more to society than gambling: if prohibition is the solution to problems, let's start there.

Alternatively, we can educate the population and let them make their own choices. I have faith that most people, most of the time, will make the better of two choices when fully informed as to the nature and consequences of both.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:34 PM on March 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Brian B: I am amused at debates that places gambling at some imaginary bedrock to capitalism. Thought so!

Well, consensual risk, aka investment, is the bedrock of capitalism, isn't it? Gambling doesn't just happen in casinos and lotteries. A risk is introduced every single time money is exchanged on anything at all. Prices fluctuate, circumstances change unpredictably, and the future plays itself out, even with your ten dollar investment in a movie. You may hate it, after all.

Speaking of which: how many get-rich-quickers, egged by greed, lack of imagination, and a steady diet of late night infomercials, have picked up rental estate lately? What happens to them as the bubble breaks? Are the rest of us required to bail them out? Isn't real estate going to be the more significant source of debt and bankruptcy in coming years, at least compared to casino gambling?

aeschenkarnos: So, if they track the people--and they do--and they track the amount of money--and they do--then a threshold can be set, maybe a quarter of average annual salary inside of a week, at which the casino can be required as a condition of operating to investigate the person's financial circumstances, and if the person doesn't pass, ban them for a period of time and give them contact information for gambling addiction help services.

Honestly, I wonder why they don't already do that. On the other hand, what's to stop a real compulsive, once banned, from going to the underground, and betting in unlicensed (and more dangerous) games? After all, if our gambler isn't making rational decisions anymore, they're by definition not going to care about the legbreakers. And if they do, are they really addicts?
posted by kid ichorous at 9:44 PM on March 9, 2008


See up above where I made the argument that casinos simply could not comply with a requirement that they not let addicts play in such a way that doesn't expose them to litigation?

I would wager than every seven seconds, on average, a casino ejects a willing gambler somewhere in the world. A fake mustache will get you spotted. Seeing casinos as publicly funded institutions is a stretch. Of course, they could always make a addicted gambler sign a legal waiver in order to stay.
posted by Brian B. at 9:45 PM on March 9, 2008


A risk is introduced every single time money is exchanged on anything at all. Prices fluctuate, circumstances change unpredictably, and the future plays itself out, even with your ten dollar investment in a movie. You may hate it, after all.

A risk of unforeseen loss is very different from a rate of loss where the risk is absolute over time. The reason we don't pity most gamblers, or allow gambling in most places is because everyone rational should know better a priori, as one might say. I know, killing a fly is the same as murder, gambling the same as breathing, but scale is everything. Losing your house on the roll of a dice is placing it at high risk when it is already at low risk enough, so the argument cuts itself off.
posted by Brian B. at 9:57 PM on March 9, 2008


Alternatively, we can educate the population and let them make their own choices. I have faith that most people, most of the time, will make the better of two choices when fully informed as to the nature and consequences of both.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:34 PM on March 9 [1 favorite +] [!]


I have faith that truly educated people will see unfair gambling as a sophisticated scam disguised as brief entertainment, and outlaw it accordingly. Wait, they already did. So we're debating a few places where it is legal, and most people don't attend school there.
posted by Brian B. at 10:36 PM on March 9, 2008


If she was consistently on the up the casinos would have barred her as a card counter, no doubt.


Maybe not. Casinos can easily determine if a lone player is counting cards.

If the casino thought that she was winning because of dumb luck, they would probably let her play until her luck changed.
posted by bravada at 10:51 PM on March 9, 2008


I have faith that truly educated people will see unfair gambling as a sophisticated scam disguised as brief entertainment, and outlaw it accordingly.

You don't know much about gambling or gamblers if you believe this. People gamble for thrills and for hopes - even if the hopes are illusionary, just as the euphoria of booze is a lie. People can know the odds are stacked against them and still gamble.

And I quote Deadwood's Wild Bill on his gambling and alcoholism:

I don't want to fight no more, understand me Charlie? -- and I don't want you pissing in my ear about it. Can you let me go to hell the way I want to?
posted by Bookhouse at 11:20 PM on March 9, 2008


even if the [gambling] hopes are illusionary, just as the euphoria of booze is a lie.

Neither the hopes or the euphoria are illusionary. They are simply ephemeral and come at a very high cost.
posted by tkolar at 11:36 PM on March 9, 2008


Hey y'all, I worked for a casino, so this all a bit less than academic for me. Although I ultimately decided that the entire business was immoral, I do believe that casinos aren't entirely at fault and there are other segments of society equally as responsible.

I can tell you stories about people coming up to me and raging about not being able to make their mortgage because of gambling. Those people had a problem, and those people (hopefully) got reported.

Where I worked (a large corporation that many of you have heard of and many have gambled in), there were VERY strict requirements for reporting problem gamblers. No, they weren't always followed, but people *were* banned for problem gambling and the system did work. I have had the pleasure of calling security on people who had either voluntarily or involuntarily gotten themselves banned from the casino.

Casinos attract people with problems, simply by the nature of their content. They also attract perfectly normal people, but hey, guess what? We were all VERY well informed about the fact that something like 10% of gamblers provided 90% of the casino's income. It was not AT ALL a game of nickel slot players. Nickel slot players kept the lights on, sure. The real gamblers (not all of whom had a problem) paid staff salaries, the spa, the gift shop, the restaurants, and everything else.

It's also interesting to note that some of the top gamblers, who contributed millions of dollars in revenue a year to the casino, came to their senses. They got to the top, enjoyed their "comps" and then got rational and reduced their play.

This woman dropped what, a million over several years? This is going to sound cold, but if she acted, dressed, and looked a certain way (that is, like she could afford it), casinos wouldn't do anything more than count her among their revenue sources. A million can be chump change to casinos, especially since she was spreading it around six different locations...especially in Atlantic City.
posted by librarylis at 11:41 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Justinian writes "Next up: bars sued because they served alcoholics."

Actually, in many (most?) states, the server as well as the owner can be held responsible for their customers' actions, and in NM (and many other states), you can't legally serve someone you know to be an alcoholic. This is not often enforced, however, but it comes up in lawsuits, particularly involving DUI and an accident with injury or death.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:53 PM on March 9, 2008


Brian B. writes "I have faith that truly educated people will see unfair gambling as a sophisticated scam disguised as brief entertainment, and outlaw it accordingly. Wait, they already did. So we're debating a few places where it is legal, and most people don't attend school there."

Well, I know who not to invite on the next poker night ...
posted by krinklyfig at 11:54 PM on March 9, 2008


We can only assume that a gambling addiction is irrational thinking.

So who makes that assumption? You have more sexual partners than I do. Is it reasonable for me to assume that you're promiscuous? You like to drink more units of alcohol than I do? Is it reasonable for me to assume that you're an alcoholic? You like to gamble higher or more frequently than I do? Again, shall I assume that you're addicted to gambling?

Furthermore, we don't absolve crackheads from what responsibility? We also try to rehabilitate them and spend loads of money doing it, meanwhile, we jail the crack dealers for a long time, ostensibly blaming them for much of the problem.

We don't absolve them for responsibility for their actions, either committed in pursuit of their compulsive behaviour, or while intoxicated. Rob somebody to buy a rock, you're going to jail. The fact that you were addicted doesn't excuse your behaviour. The courts still assume that you're guilty of mens rea, despite your addiction. Similarly, the fact that you were addicted is no excuse either.

I'm not arguing that the state shouldn't provide help for problem gamblers, or that gambling should or shouldn't be legal -- I take no position on that. However, it seems to me that because gambling has an in-built edge against the player, meaning that for most games, most people will inevitably lose, you believe that it should be illegal, and consequently feel that this woman's case has merit, despite the fact that it goes against most of our core legal and democratic principles.

If you don't like gambling, then campaign to have it banned. But seeking to hold the casinos responsible here is no different to seeking to hold Walmart responsible because you spent more money than you could afford to spend. Here's a clue: claiming to be a shopaholic will not entitle you to your money back, despite the storekeeper's inbuilt 'edge'.

So, we should let casinos provide gambling to addicts because "Gamling is legal."

That's precisely what we do do. If you want things to be different, you need to campaign for a change in the law. If enough people agree with you, it might even happen.

I would wager than every seven seconds, on average, a casino ejects a willing gambler somewhere in the world.

I might have taken that wager, but I'm scared that you'd sue me if you lost.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:53 AM on March 10, 2008


"The courts still assume that you're guilty of mens rea, despite your addiction."

The defence here wouldn't be that mens rea did not exist, as the action is clearly intentional, and addiction does not form an abnormality of mind in the clinical sense. The defence, were it to be accepted, would presumably be that of duress.

A duress defence does not remove the guilt as to mens rea, merely excuses it.

This is not legal advice, and may not apply in your jurisdiction. No attorney/client relationship is created or implied.
posted by jaduncan at 3:19 AM on March 10, 2008


A duress defence does not remove the guilt as to mens rea, merely excuses it.

Doesn't the duress need to come from an external agent? It's hard for me to see how somebody who voluntary takes a drug, or chooses to place a bet, could rely on such a defence. In fact, I've never heard of such a defence even being offered, let alone accepted by the courts -- though it's possible that it could form part of a plea for mitigation rather than as to guilt or innocence.

No attorney/client relationship is created or implied.

That won't wash. You know there are loads of people who are addicted to taking bad advice from internet forums. The very act of posting imbues you with a duty of care to these people, in order to protect them from themselves. I insist that you come around to my house this instant, and pin me to the floor, otherwise I'm going to go out and rob somebody to buy crack and it will ALL BE YOUR FAULT!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:02 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


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