washingtonpost.com
The Gambling Addict

By William Raspberry
Monday, August 29, 2005

"Come on, George. Let's leave this casino and go to bed. It's obviously not your night."

"Not now, honey. I think my strategy is starting to work. I haven't nailed the big one yet, but I've hit a few cherries, and that says to me the machine is starting to understand that I'm not going anywhere. You just wait -- my system is going to pay off."

"George, tell me you're not still listening to those friends of yours who sold you on this silly system. Most of them have never even been near a casino, let alone won any money in one. How can you fall for their crazy ideas?"

"Crazy? What's crazy about ending the tyranny of these evil slot machines? Do you have any idea what these machines have been doing to Americans and their families? Can you imagine what havoc and financial ruin they'll spread if we just let them go on spinning their seductive dreams? We've got to stop them, and I say now is the time and I'm the man to do it."

"But George, you've already lost 1,800 and more in this casino alone, not to mention the 223 you dropped down at the Taliban. We'll never recoup those losses. Why don't we just go to bed?"

"And dishonor the dollars we lost so far? I think we owe them something -- to finish the task that took their lives. Surely you're not asking me to cut and run now and abandon all those who put their faith in me. Don't you see I've got to stay the course? Not just for me but for the world."

"You're starting to sound like those neocon pals of yours. All we had to do, they said, was make a killing here at the Baghdad Bullion -- 'shock and awe,' they put it -- and the casino would cave. And not only that but the other casinos, seeing our power, would cave, too. They even claimed to have figured out a way that we wouldn't have to use our own money to do it. Well, George, it didn't work. The casino seems more dangerous than it ever was, and it is now attracting a bunch of really bad guys from all over the world."

"I'm glad you mentioned the world, sweetheart, because this isn't about one man and one machine. The evildoing slots aren't doing their life-destroying thing only at the Baghdad; they've struck in Bali, in Riyadh, in Istanbul and Madrid and London and Sharm el-Sheikh and elsewhere. They have no regard for human life. They have a strategy, and part of that strategy is they're trying to shake our will. Their goal is to drive the good guys into retreat so they can spread their slot empire across the world.

"Well, I won't retreat, no matter how determined they are to seize the civilized world by the throat. I'm prepared to take the fight right to the seizers' palace. Get me another bucket of coins."

"George, I didn't want to say this, but you're starting to sound like -- well, like an addict. I've been reading this little book about gambling addictions. Let me read you some of the symptoms: 'Spending a lot of time with other gamblers. Continuing to gamble despite negative consequences. Gambling as a means to cope with uncomfortable feelings. Chasing losses with bigger bets. Swearing to quit as soon as you get your money back. Borrowing, or taking out secret loans, to pay for gambling. Bragging about wins, but not mentioning losses. Spending more than originally planned.' Any of that sound familiar? I don't think you planned to drop 1800 and change at the Baghdad, did you?"

"For heaven's sake, honey, I thought you were with me."

"I am, George, but a lot of people are having second thoughts. The polls are just awful, and more and more Americans think you made a mistake even going into the casino. Can't we just leave now?"

"Don't you see, if I leave now, I'll always be remembered as a loser. But suppose I stay and get a little help from my friends and beat this doggone machine. If I hang in there and win, historians will look at me and say, 'There was a man.' "

"And if you hang in there and lose?"

"Why don't you go on up. I'll see you as soon as I break even. Promise."

willrasp@washpost.com

© 2005 The Washington Post Company