Vice Squad
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Teens and Poker

One day Vice Squad tries to put things in perspective, and the next thing you know, a front page article in today's New York Times (I guess it was a slow news day?) does the same thing. The general message of the article is that parents and educators should be alert to signs of problem gambling, but not be worried about poker games per se. Indeed, such games might even be welcome, via standard "harm reduction"-style arguments:
For almost all parents, the calculus of teenage poker begins with the alternatives. What's worse, they say, kids playing for a few dollars with friends at someone's house, with parents around? Or in cars, drinking on a golf course, or tempted by drugs? For most, it's an easy decision.
The enormous liberalisation of gambling in the US in the past 40 years has somehow happened without major destruction, as the article notes:
...the country is in the midst of a revolution in its view of gambling - now a $70 billion annual business, excluding Internet gambling - from casinos to lotteries to sports betting to poker on television, and that the young are part of that shift.

People can make different moral calculations about how good or bad this is. But Ken Winters, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, said that despite real risks of addictive gambling, so far the spread of legalized gambling has not sent the country hurtling toward perdition and probably won't send its youth there either.
The availability of pornography has likewise undergone a major shift, and the Republic soldiers on. This might be useful to keep in mind when we hear warnings of the destruction that would be wreaked by a liberalisation of our marijuana laws.

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