By Martin Owens
Surely this is the season to pause and reflect, and to be grateful for blessings conferred.
I would like to extend sincere thanks all my clients, here and abroad, for choosing me to counsel and represent their interests; to Professor Nelson Rose, the renowned gambling law authority; to Gaming Law Review, The Sports Network, Casino City Press, Lyceum Publishing and the other periodicals who print my little ruminations; and many others near and far, for their help, counsel and companionship. Some of these it would be indelicate to name just now, but gratitude is none the less.
And especially I would like to extend thanks and good wishes to the online gaming community - operators, oddsmakers, payment processors, software companies, vendors of associated services and even the other wise-guy mouthpiece lawyers who service this racket. But most of all I send my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the online players, without whom none of us would be here.
And to all of you, this Holiday, let me offer the thought that even such a supposedly scorned and disreputable activity as gambling may not be the hopeless province of sin after all.
I say supposedly because my researches for Internet Gaming Law (Liebert publishers, 2nd edition 2009, not that I'm plugging it or anything) led me to the surprising revelation that the Bible contains no direct ban on gambling per se.. To the contrary, the Old Testament contains no fewer than 70 examples of casting lots and the New Testament, seven. In that connection, Bible scholars may recall (and you'd be surprised how many gamblers can cite Scripture in detail) the passage in Matthew 18:22 that sinners would be forgiven seventy times seven. Surely this, too, is handwriting on the wall.
Not only are gamblers not beyond redemption: I go a bit further and humbly submit that they follow, all unknowing, a path laid out by the Lord Himself. Let me assure you that no sarcasm or blasphemy is intended here- far from it. I merely suggest, with all due reverence, that since the aspects of God are without limit, the history of Divine interaction with men might well be described in terms familiar to sporting gentlemen and the apostles of chance.
For unless there is no truth at all in the Scriptures, it is entirely clear that Christmas is the time we celebrate the most colossal bet ever made. It was the time when the Creator sent his most precious possession, his Son, to hold the cards for a human race which had consistently proven itself a loser. This new stake of divine grace was meant to convert a huge debt of sin and guilt into a clear profit of redemption and glory. Now what else can this move be called, except doubling down the bet-shooting the works, in fact - after a series of losses? The event we celebrate as the Nativity can in fact be looked on as a wager, for the highest possible prize.
And the revered Stakeholder, from an early age, showed no distaste for the kind of folks who've been known to make a bet now and then. To the contrary, the record shows His frequenting of locales associated with a sporting philosophy, thereby inspiring many of their denizens to righteous (but compassionate) paths. In fact the only time He was moved to anger, it is written, was when He beheld a crooked bank in action. And finally, it is a matter of Scriptural record that when He died, a dice game was in progress nearby.
Furthermore, when we look back through the past performances on this bloodline, to wit, the Old Testament, we find the Heavenly Father had a consistent history of backing apparently hopeless long shots - David vs Goliath, Gideon outnumbered a hundred to one, Moses cornered at the seashore by Pharaoh's chariots- and each time, bringing in winners against impossible odds. Hanukkah, too, is in the Scriptures, and we mustn't forget that it was not only a military victory. Here was a success that just wasn't supposed to happen, one that could not be explained by the oddsmakers of those days - or for that matter, of these. And the play was backed by that same ever-patient, longshot winning Player.
Come to think of it, what else is a bet but a Leap of Faith, reduced to practical terms by backing it with a few bucks? Indeed, if the promise of Paradise were not protected by the First Amendment, the authorities would surely prohibit it, calling the offer a promotion of gambling. What else is the Christmas message, if not one of an uncountable reward, to be given in return for a relatively trifling investment now, but at a payoff date yet to be announced?
Let us remember, then, at this bright season, that virtue can be found in unlooked-for places. The instinct to risk a little in the hope of a worthwhile gain is bred in the bones of humankind, and is the root of our aspiration for a better future and a kinder world. It will do us no harm, this Yuletide, to reflect that the pure and sincere flame of Hope burns as true over a handicapping session as inside any cathedral.
May that light shine for us all in the days to come, and the rewards be just as sure as the players' ambition makes it...
Happy Holidays to All
Mr. Owens is a California attorney specializing in the law of Internet and interactive gaming since 1998. Co-author of INTERNET GAMING LAW with Professor Nelson Rose, (Mary Ann Liebert Publishers, 2nd ed 2009) ; Associate Editor , Gaming Law Review & Economics; Contributing Editor, TSN. Com
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