Saturday, July 28, 2007
Richard Hoffer's book is subtitled, "Rambling and Gambling Across Our Landscape of Luck." Hoffer, a writer for Sports Illustrated, examines what just might be the national sport, gambling. He says this country was founded on chance, and we're still gambling. In fact, the English authorized America's first lottery in 1612 to help fund the Jamestown settlement. Settlers took a chance when they came here, and continued to gamble with their futures. From gold strikes to gushers, our history is based on chance.
There's a thriving economy based on gambling. Last year, Americans bet each other about $80 billion. Since government and religion are no longer as prohibitive of gambling, it's taken off throughout the country. Hoffer decided to take a road trip to examine gambling in the U.S. Since he himself had once lost $100,000 at blackjack, he could identify with those who gambled. He went to Las Vegas, and bet on sports for the first time. He went to Utah, where there's no gambling allowed, except for the back alley games he found. Those were the two extremes, Vegas and Utah.
Hoffer explored dogfights, betting on golf, slot machines, the history of Indian casinos, charity raffles, and online betting. The book was a fascinating look into the various aspects of gambling, but, at times, a little dry and too technical.
Even so, Hoffer's Jackpot Nation makes a reader pause and consider the amount of money spent on gambling annually, and the lives that are affected, for good or ill, by chance.
Jackpot Nation: Rambling and Gambling Across Our Landscape of Luck by Richard Hoffer, HarperCollins Publishers, ©2007, ISBN 978-0-06-076144-8 (hardcover), 241p.