One of my first exposures to gambling involved a lot of risk and small stakes (little wooden stakes were inserted into the ground). A coin toss would ensue and the art of coin throwing was a simple yet elegant precision casting and being sure-footed helped a lot. The object was to get the coin in question as close to the little stick in the ground as possible, so coin tossing took a lot of practice. An uncle and distant cousin coaxed me into my first game, where my first bet was a paper dollar. Everyone snickered but my buck got caught on the stake and I was declared the winner-take-all game of chance and superb skill.

Later, the common jack was thrown in to spice up the game and eventually cards took over. Nearly every household has some game of cards going on throughout the night. The winner usually had some bills mixed with a lot of change, which would be recycled back in the next game, the night after Sunday. Fridays were always the all-nighters, with the losers patiently waiting it out until the winner was confirmed, usually just before sunrise. Such was the social life.

Usually, the game of chance was combined with the game of skill, such as pool. For many years, I often wondered what was happening underneath the Roman Catholic Church, until, one night, I entered into a smoke-filled room with snooker tables. The balls clicking sharply and the betting going on the bank of the table, the winner would double his reputation as a pool and gambling shark. So this is where all the older guys disappeared to, underneath the church. Who would have thought?

Then, in a social phenomenon, bingo showed up in large rooms everywhere. bingo nights were the place to be for nearly everyone, except babysitters and kids. Then, for some odd reason, bingo halls were in parish halls, or underneath the church building. Go figure.

Then, the electronic age took over and bingo was broadcast from tiny radio stations into the Arctic nights and gambling slowly crept into the home kitchen tables and soon it was everywhere. Now, bingo is firmly in our mindset as a social function. It is the only time where we happily agree to throw away money! Of course, justification kept the naysayers at bay with the profits going to fund other areas that need desperately money to get by, like helping with sports and recreation, emergency funds, slush funds, social-aid funds, social-service funds, and social band-aid funds – you name it, gambling funded it.

Then state-run lotteries eventually crept into the social evening scene at local bars everywhere. Now, all addiction could be fed just around the corner.

I may sound like a naysayer, but there is one thing I learnt in mathematics about gambling. What is won, commissioned, and lost at any game of chance is the same amount of money that was put in the first place. So where are the profits? Perhaps mainly for the house, which usually wins anyways. If there were more winners than losers, gambling would be a money-losing business (for the house).