Anyone travelling on the London Underground recently could not fail to notice a certain advert. Above the person in front of you, just above their heads (so you can look at them without ever catching their eye), is an advert for the internet gambling service Casino-on-Net or 888.com.
The appeal of gambling is surely in the purity of the excitement, the heart-skipping moments when to win or to lose are the only things that matter in the world. Gambling, unlike other addictions has an inherent narrative, one you can tell yourself as you rise or fall. Sometimes it’s the most rational, logical thing you can do; other times, it’s all luck. Either way, it is intensely personal.
Casino-on-Net, unsurprisingly, do not mention the word addiction in their ‘mission, purpose and principles’ page. Instead, they write crap like: “For us a winner is not a sinner. Winners are our ambassadors to the world.” As a libertarian, who thinks that if a person wants to be cannibalized then they should be allowed to be cannibalized, I have few qualms with people gambling as much as they like. But the consequences and the reality of gambling must be shown: show the losers, not just the winners. “We believe that Gambling is entertainment, and it should be fun,” say Casino-on-Net. But they are ignoring the despair and sadness in the eyes of the unemployed in my local post office as they play the new European lottery (jackpot odds are 37 million to 1, coincidentally the same odds as DNA evidence being wrong).
The inspiration for this post came from visiting Wandsworth yesterday. I had thought that the Wandsworth/Earlsfield area was becoming gentrified, but I was wrong: dead and moribund shops are everywhere. What used to be called the Arndale Centre has a new parade of shops, and yet the old one lingers on, stinking of piss and disinfectant, fish heads and fried sticky donuts. On a whim, I went into one of those garish arcades so popular in poor areas. One-armed bandits and fruit machines lit the faces of the pensioners playing them; 25p a go, for a measly jackpot of £15.
Behind the concentration was a quiet desperation. This was a level of nihilism that I can only dream of reaching.