THE GAMBLING SICKNESS (CONT.)
For many years I have been telling anyone who would listen that a series you did in the 1960s on discrimination against black athletes (The Black Athlete—A Shameful Story, July 1-29, 1968) was a classic. But your special report on gambling in sports (The Biggest Game In Town, March 10) must rank right up there with it.
Little Rock, Ark.
The positive opinions on gambling quoted by Pat Putnam in the box entitled "Another View Of Gambling: It's Good For You" are good examples of sloppy thinking at its worst.
Those who equate the risks taken by American pioneers and entrepreneurs with those taken by gamblers overlook one distinguishing factor: The former have a great deal to do with the outcome of their venture—through the efforts they put forth and the decisions they make, they can in large part determine the results of the risks they take—while gamblers place assets of value in a position over which they have no control. They trust not in their own abilities and efforts but merely in blind luck.
No matter how many people tell you that it takes "courage" or "strength of character" to be a gambler, the fact is that gamblers are essentially people hooked on the idea that they can or should get something for nothing, rather than for producing things that will be of value to their fellow man. Gambling—the leaving of things to chance—is a replay of Old World fatalism. It had nothing to do with making America great. America was built by people who thought that what they did made a difference.
I made my first bet at the age of 12 on the first Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight. I won $15. By the age of 15 I was a bookie, winning or losing from $50 to $100 a weekend. When I went to college, Atlantic City was only an hour away. Every Tuesday night, after attending a class from 7 to 10, I went there for a few hours and discovered how to win or lose from $500 to $1,500 at a time.
Gambling taught me how to live bet-to-bet, never making any plans for the future. From weekend-to-weekend I made bets on all types of sporting events. My future was tied up in gambling.
Recently, I quit gambling for 10 weeks during football season. It was the hardest challenge of my life. But when the Super Bowl came around, I came out of retirement. I won a nice amount of money.
NAME AND ADDRESS WITHHELD BY REQUEST
Minutes after finishing your special report, I glanced through my copy of the March 10 issue of your sister publication TIME. There, in the Business Notes section, was confirmation of the spread of the sports-gambling frenzy: Citizens Fidelity Bank & Trust in Louisville was offering certificates of deposit with varying interest rates tied to the performance of the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals in this season's NCAA basketball tournament. It seems you will have to increase your tally of legal bookies to include the banking industry.
RONALD K. RITTER
Thanks for Clive Gammon's story (Tales Of Self-Destruction) about compulsive gambling, a subject that needs exposure. It's hard to believe that a disease that afflicts millions of people in this country and causes untold suffering in the lives of many millions more can spread in relative obscurity, unnoted by the general public. But compulsive gambling, described by psychiatrists and psychologists as an incurable chronic illness and the most pure form of psychological addiction, is just such an unrecognized national epidemic.
As more states legalize gambling, it is time to take notice of the problems that may be connected with this method of obtaining revenue. A study conducted by the New Jersey Department of Health in 1979 (the most recent such study) found that, at a minimum, approximately 800,000 of this state's 7.3 million residents were affected in some way by compulsive gambling.