Because it was buried in the back section of most newspapers, you may have missed the recent piece about the arrest of former NBA star, Antoine Walker, for passing bad checks, checks which totalled nearly a million dollars. The article casually mentions that Walker, who used to refer to himself rather self-consciously as “the Twoine,” was arrested at a casino in Las Vegas.
We hear a lot about the addictive nature of alcohol and drugs, but we hear almost nothing about the dangers of gambling. I don’t want to jump to conclusions because it’s entirely possible that the former Celtic star was just stopping by the casino to play a quick game of bridge before church, but if it’s anything more than that, his situation is worth a closer look because during the course of his career, Mr. Walker made over 100 million dollars.
I confess this story struck a personal chord with me because my university roommate’s father had a problem with gambling. After a particularly bad run down at the casinos in Atlantic City, he lost their home right before Christmas. Years later I happened to bump into him at an airport. He didn’t recognize me, but he did offer a ride – as long as I didn’t need to see his taxi license. Driving an illegal cab is how he makes a living these days because gambling cost him a lot more than just his house. He lost his marriage, his family, and his career.
There are lots of vices out there, but what’s particularly disturbing is the government’s role in all of this. Something that was illegal a generation ago is now seen as the panacea for tax revenue shortfalls. Governments have gone from prevention to promotion. Every province or state it seems wants to open and operate a gambling emporium of some sort. And casinos are just the tip of the iceberg. New Jersey, for example, now offers two “Daily Numbers” – for those who can’t wait 24 hours for their next chance to see their dreams come true.
I hope Mr. Walker was just careless and that he is financially solvent. But I also hope that governments will promote Gamblers’ Anonymous with as much vigour as they do the local dog track. Whether it’s “peace, order, and good government,” or “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” it’s the least they can do.