Money has left my hand and come to rest in another golfer's avaricious palm, just as the winged greenbacks have flown from my wallet and down the rathole of a Vegas blackjack table. Yet I have the world-class gall to stand before you today and say gambling is too much with us in college and pro football. Newspapers, for one, should butt out of the gambling business, which we promote and make legitimate by publishing tout columns.
Just cruising through the recent Playboy, reading the Michener interview, when what do we see sullying the sacred pages?
An advertisement for a gambling-tip service.
Everywhere, gambling ads.
Lurking in the shadows of that stadium, leaning against a wall, who is that skulking figure? What's he doing, making a phone call to his bookie? No skulking figure that. It is, we see as he smiles into the camera, Bruce Jenner! And our decathlon king, who carried the U.S. flag on his celebratory laps, is shilling for gamblers in those cute little TV commercials giving a telephone number for sports scores.
The only way CBS can offend us more than by putting a microphone in front of Phyllis is to turn a camera on Jimmy the Gambler, whose gold chains, badger-furry brow and used-car-dealer attitude bring up the question, "This is the network where Mike Wallace defends truth, justice and the American way?"
The Enterprise radio network runs full-page ads on its 24-hour sports service. It makes a big deal about its half-hourly reports. What it doesn't say, but what you know unless you have given the last five years to the monastery, is that such immediate reports are provided not for the sports fan who cares emotionally but for the gambler whose bank account cares about the point spread.
The tide is running high in gambling, with 44 states now in the business of casinos and lotteries and horse/dog tracks, and you can't turn on the TV with assurance of safety from touts wanting to sell you information. You can't even escape in the once pristeen pages of Playboy. And you certainly can't avoid the gamblers in the magazines or newspapers.
To bone up on the college football season, I bought one of those drugstore magazines, "Goal Post College Football."
This is the kind of pulp magazine that used to carry advertisements for Charles Atlas body-building courses. Learn to be a lawyer, the ads used to say. Or draw this woman and win free tuition to art school.
"Goal Post" carried 26 pages of advertising.
Charles Atlas wasn't there.
There were 22 pages selling gambling services.
Now the sports pulps are devoted to building your wallet from a 97-pound weakling into a corporate account bulging with muscular dollars earned every weekend.
Maybe 22 of 26 pages is more than the average trashbook carries from the gamblers, but not by much. Five years ago the College Sports Information Directors of America refused to furnish news releases and pictures to magazines running gambling ads, which COSIDA believed to be destructive of the game's ideals. I called a magazine's advertising director, who said there was a good reason for all the gambling ads.
"We have this low-quality, pulp paper and we can't get the high-class ads," he said. "So we have to take what we can get, or we'd go out of business."
Bob Martin, manager of advertising services for The Washington Post, says this newspaper "flat out does not accept gambling ads." There are legal problems involving multiple-jurisdiction distribution of the paper into Maryland, Virginia and the District. Beyond that, Martin said, "Gambling just isn't the kind of advertising we're interested in pursuing."
Gamblers don't have to read the ads in newspapers for their gambling information.
"The Latest Line," a gambling-tip service, is sold to nearly 150 newspapers, some of which also buy "Playing Football," a gambling-tip column created by Gerry Strine for The Washington Post and now sold nationwide.
Q. Should newspapers carry these tout columns?
Robert Politzer, Ph.D., an expert on compulsive betting, director of the Johns Hopkins Compulsive Gambling Counseling Center in Baltimore:
"Newspapers are in a double bind here. There is no question sports betting, whether in the office or with a bookie, is illegal. And as studies have shown, it is a statement of fact that illegal gambling subsidizes organized crime.
"But illegal gambling in this country is pervasive. The money involved in illegal gambling is estimated to be three times that in legal gambling.
"So if you don't publish gambling information, you're almost turning your face away from the reality of illegal gambling."
Q. Then newspapers ought to print the point spreads?
Politzer: "No, I would not encourage it. The law legalizing sports betting has to precede. And I believe sports betting should be legalized. Since it exists, why prohibit something that is so accepted?"
Q. If gambling is "so accepted," why don't our elected officials translate this acceptance into law?
Politzer: "The laws against gambling are antiques, the way we once had laws against alcohol. We should work hard to get gambling legalized, so that we then could license and regulate it. That would also provide dollars for the prevention and treatment of pathological gambling, which right now ranks among the costliest, in terms of dollars, illnesses in the country along with heart disease, accidents-poisoning-violence, and alcoholism.
"Make it legal for those who want it. The moralists can choose to ignore it, the way some people choose not to drink now. Nobody is going to be putting an Off-Track Betting parlor in your house."
The legalization of sports gambling might exacerbate the compulsive gambling problem, Politzer said, "but only in the short run." Over a long time, he said, diagnosis and treatment made possible by revenue from licensed gambling would outweigh the short-term problems.
Gambling is, the doctor said, only a symptom of a person's emotional problems. "Sports betting is one of the most exciting forms of gambling," he said, "and one of the most abused by the compulsive gambler. It provides so many opportunities for the instant gratification demanded by the immature personality."
What a newspaper might do, Politzer suggested with a chuckle, is run a "conscience pacifier" at the top of the gambling advice columns.
"Something like, 'Caution: Gambling Could Be Hazardous to Your Health,' " he said. "And if that doesn't stop them, tell them to call me at the compulsive gambling center in Baltimore, 301-653-9702. We're there to help."