Remember in “Back to the Future Part II” where villainous Biff Tannen has changed history and Hill Valley now has a giant legal casino? This sci-fi nightmare has kind-of come true.
Towns across America now have casinos; surprisingly large casinos.
Every fifth commercial during a sporting event is for a Sportsbook app, urging you to bet on the game.
I have mixed feelings about this.
My libertarian side rejoices at any decriminalization.
My humanitarian side is not so pleased. Legalized gambling is clearly enticing more people to gamble. And gambling is not good for your wallet or your family relationships.
“The Cincinnati Kid” is a devastating anti-gambling movie cleverly packaged as a slick Hollywood poker flick.
Steve McQueen stars as Eric The Kid Stoner: the best stud poker player in Depression-era New Orleans.
By stud, I mean the style of poker. Although, to be sure, The Kid isn’t wanting for female attention. He has a great-looking young girlfriend (Tuesday Weld). And his best friend’s wife (Ann-Margaret) has a raging crush on him.
The story is as simple as it comes: The greatest player in the country – Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson) – has come to town. The Kid is challenging him to heads-up match. The winner will be the undisputed king of poker.
The poker scenes are interesting and dramatic enough to carry the movie. But director Norman Jewison exposes how gambling is making each character’s life worse.
The Kid seems cool enough on the outside. But there is no easy way to play poker for a living. It’s a dangerous life. And huge financial swings and mood swings are part of the deal. The Kid sleeps with two hot women during the movie, but it’s clear that he’s going to end up alone.
Just like Lancey Howard. You’d think that being the champion of poker would make for a happy life. But world-weary Edward G. Robinson shows us the emptiness of being the greatest gambler.
Lancey has plenty of acquaintances, but no friends. He has plenty of people who admire him, but just as many people who are bitter that he beat them. At the end of the day, he’s just a middle-aged man trying in vain to get some rest on an expensive hotel pillow.
Still, Lancey has it better than The Kid’s best friend Shooter (Karl Malden). Shooter married a hot vixen during one of his winning streaks. And now she expects him to make money like that for her all the time.
Malden shows us the true face of gambling: unhappy, indebted, and desperate.
Look, to be fair, I am not saying that gambling is heroin. You can – indeed, I do – bet on some NFL games and sit down at a poker table occasionally without getting addicted.
But gambling addiction is real and it is ugly. Casinos willingly exploit human weakness and destroy families for profit.
I am not saying that the government should step in. But I do believe that the country would be a better place if all the casinos closed.