I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but, where I am, in the United States, local news from one end of the country to the other, is clogged up with whether or not it’s a good idea for casino gambling to be legalized.

When it comes to gambling, everyone seems to be in a tizzy about how much money the local governments will be able to pull from casino profits – one story frets about the fact that Bally’s Casino made nearly $10 million less for the city of Chicago than expected – and the dangers of online gambling for those who are compulsive.

I argue that some money is better than none. Plus how bad can you feel about your citizens losing less at the tables than you expected? And, yes, online gambling is challenging for the addicted, but I think it’s clear that they rarely have trouble finding money-spewing opportunities.

As for those who simply don’t like the idea of legal gambling, I wonder if they’ve ever anted up in joints where the games are illegal, gray-area or taking place without a gambling commission looking over the dealer’s shoulder.

need for legal casinos

Unregulated Gambling Ventures

The first time I experienced an illegal operation, it was at a loft in the West 30s of Manhattan. I was in my early 20s and fancied myself to be a bit of a wiseguy.

The person who brought me there, a cool dude who worked in the movies and drove a Stutz Bearcat, warned me that the place was run by the mob, advised me that I tuck it in a little bit and promised that I’d get cheated if I tried playing blackjack. I laid back, sipped my screwdriver and thrilled to the sight of a stoned-looking Elliott Gould swooping through with a bong in hand.

Poker games in Texas, during the 1950s, resided beyond the law. They were the kinds of places where you might have to shoot your way out if you wanted to exit with your winnings. And maybe that hasn’t changed so much. Last year, Texas Card House in Houston was the site of pistol-play that turned into a “gun battle” with “dozens of shots fired,” as per the local news, when a desperado tried to rob the semi-legal spot.

Card-Dealing Tricksters

But you don’t need weapon-wielding hoods to get killed at the tables. Sleight of hand genius Derek DelGaudio told me about his years as a card mechanic. Before making it as a particularly compelling magician who fills theaters, he dealt private games in Los Angeles and made them crooked to the benefit of whoever paid him.

That said, even ham-handed practitioners can fleece you. Some 15 years ago, while card-counting on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, everything was going as it should have (i.e., my partners and I were winning) until the vessel’s casino manager got sick of losing to us. He had a simple way of fixing the problem: Strip most of the 10 value cards and Aces from the deck. The count went through the roof, but there was no reward of desirable cards and the blackjacks that they deliver. The high-seas clip joint won back a portion of its money.

Need for Regulation

In a legit casino, I’d have called the gambling commission and filed a complaint. On a cruise ship, who was there for me to summon? The captain? He probably told the dealers to do what they did.

So, for those who worry that legal casino gambling and its online variant will be the fall of many a good man, I’m here to report that keeping it illegal and shady is even worse for those good men and their bankrolls.