May 05, 2003

Having spent some time in casinos I've passed by the private, high-limit slot machine areas, and watched the occasional player pumping a few hundred dollars a spin, about three or four spins a minute. It always seemed like the oddest and most random game for big-time gambling, without even the possibility of skill as in poker or blackjack, or even the element of choice like in roulette. I've always wondered about what kind of person gets bitten by that kind of purely mechanical bug.

Well, I have to admit that I wasn't guessing Bill Bennett was behind those ropes. The former Secretary of Education, drug czar, and "family values" activist is reportedly an extremely big-time video poker and slots player, with six-figure lines of credit at four different casinos. There's no way of knowing Bennett's total losses, but there are reports of losses as high as $500,000 at the Bellagio over the course of a weekend last month. (Bennett himself claims to have broken even over the long run, prompting this charming quote in the Newsweek article: "A casino source, hearing of Bennett’s claim to breaking even on slots over 10 years, just laughed.")

Meanwhile, back at Binion's Horseshoe, Mickey Appleman, the latest World Series of Poker winner (the $2000 Pot Limit Hold'em event) is a New Jersey resident, a fellow Rutgers graduate, and really, really depressing.
I've been around gambling long enough to know that the euphoria wears off after awhile -- the honeymoon ends. Initially, when you are around gambling, there is a honeymoon effect. As time goes on, and you struggle to stay in money, you see the painful side of gambling. It ends. The honeymoon ends.
And keep in mind that this is after the guy just won $150,000. Sheesh.
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