Winners & Losers: Gold Rush Gambling in America

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Casino chips with stock market background

Here’s a piece of advice: If your hairdresser’s daughter asks to borrow money to fund a pair of civil lawsuits, promises to pay you back plus a percentage of what she collects and you have a lot of dough on your hands, sure, loan her the seed money to get things going.

If, somewhere over the course of 10 years, though, one loan turns into another and another, rising into the millions of dollars, and the lawsuits seem to have jumped out the window, maybe you should cut off the hairdresser’s daughter.

This should have been heeded by a sympathetic real estate entrepreneur in New Orleans.

It turns out that there were no lawsuits. There was just her serious love of gambling and no fear of losing.

Casinos along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, in the southern United States, were beneficiaries of the former rich person’s largesse.

The hairdresser’s daughter must have gotten a lot of comped steak dinners.

By the time the smoke cleared, the wealthy benefactor had loaned out $3 million that will never come back to her.

It’s just one example from a country that is applying a gold-rush mentality to gambling – in the casinos, at online gambling sites and the stock market, as is evidenced by this past week’s meme stock boom and bust.

us gambling

With America having suddenly made gambling legal all over the place, many people can’t get enough of it.

And some just can’t handle it. Or else they are delusional.

They somehow think it’s easy to get rich at the tables or in the market, and they do whatever it takes to get their hands on the necessary cash.

A Texas school teacher cooked up a home-renovation scam to fatten his bankroll, a fast-food worker with nine-cents in the bank frauded his way to $78,000 worth of GameStop holdings, a guy robbed ATMs so he could fire it up in Southern California casinos.

Haven’t they ever heard of maxing out credit cards?

At least the last of these boneheaded criminals led local cops to make a public statement worthy of laughable B-movie dialogue: “He was trying to press his luck, but the moment we showed up his winning streak ended.”

Of course, most people who pony up at the sportsbooks, real money online casinos and online brokerages have nothing to worry about.

The majority blow off steam, love action, lose pretty much what they expect to drop (or get a little lucky and win – the fast-food guy actually made $7,600 on his GameStop lark).

A minority manage to outfox the house in the manner of Kelly “Baccarat Machine” Sun, Reddit rabble rouser Roaring Kitty, and the crafty James Grosjean with his winning strategies for just about every game out there.

As should be the case, gambling’s not going away and people need to get a grip.

You can’t shut down a fun or profitable thing just because a few bums can’t handle their bankrolls.

As I write this, a headline pops up on my computer.

A Stateside political leader (Republican, of course) from Michigan gambled $73,000 in a single month. Whether he can afford it or not and whether he won or lost are both unclear.

Regardless, though, it’s not a good look for the guy.

Clearly, he should have been anteing up at a crypto casino, like, where discretion is easier to come by.

The wildest thing of all: A gambling-help hotline in Massachusetts, devised for people who want to be talked down from their losing ways, recently received a spike in calls.

But most of them came from would-be sports bettors trying to figure out how to work their betting apps.

They thought that the help hotline was there to assist them with placing wagers, not to stop them from doing it.

People who can’t figure out how to navigate gambling apps? If any of them are reading this, I’m available for sessions of heads-up poker.

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Michael Kaplan
Gambling Author and Journalist
Michael Kaplan
Gambling Author and Journalist

Michael Kaplan is a journalist based in New York City joined Techopedia in November 2023. He is the author of five books ("The Advantage Players" comes out in 2024) and has worked for publications that include Wired, GQ and the New York Post. He has written extensively on technology, gambling and business — with a particular interest in spots where all three intersect. His article on Kelly "Baccarat Machine" Sun and Phil Ivey is in development as a feature film.