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I'm a gambler, and so are you. Gambling is so ingrained in our society that we ignore its driving force, which makes us who we are. The winners are the gamblers who make the right bets, or as you might think, the ones who pick the correct lottery numbers.

The real winners are the ones who gamble with the odds in their favor. But before you start thinking about racetracks or other betting platforms, let's look a little closer to home.

How about the gamble you make when you ask someone to marry you? "Oh, that's not a gamble, that's love." Really? Don't you think picking someone who you are pledging to spend the rest of your life with is a gamble?

In all forms of gambling there are winners and losers, and the couples who divorce are the losers. The idea that you would ignore something like incompatibility, which will ultimately break up a marriage, is betting with the odds heavily against you.

But life isn't just one big bet; it's a series of daily and sometimes hourly bets. That simple concept is extremely difficult to follow. We have a tendency to live life by betting against the odds. That's how the big gambling casinos build those mega-hotels and gambling palaces. And that's how the Arkansas Lottery gets the money for college scholarships. It preys on the hope of the average person to win. Sure, somebody is going to win, but the odds of it being you are so great that you might as well just make a donation to your local college.

It's hard to fathom how you can live by doing everything you can to have the odds in your favor. Let's break it down into a series of actions and reactions.

When you look at some of the basics of life, it's easy to see how gambling with our health by involving things such as drugs or unhealthy foods will make us live a lesser lifestyle. We are all guilty, and when it comes to investing, things seem to go from bad to worse.

If you expect that winning the lottery is going to fund your retirement, that's a sure way to guarantee economic failure. In every stage of life the bad choices always have consequences, and whether it is health or finances, betting against the odds almost always turns out to be a disaster.

But I would be the last one to say you should live such a controlled life that you never take any risks. I worked for Exxon as a geologist for six years. At Exxon I had a retirement plan that the company funded 50 percent, great medical coverage, and paid vacation.

But I wanted to be my own boss so I would have an interest in any oil or gas I found. So I gave up all the benefits that a major company offered for a job with a small independent company. I lasted a year in that job because the small company owner was an alcoholic, a habitual gambler, and a woman-chaser.

I opened my own office with $15,000 in savings that I had accumulated from working overseas. I didn't have any benefits, and the first month as an independent geologist, I spent $4,500 on oil and gas leases that would be worth nothing unless I could convince a large independent oil company to buy them. My savings dripped under $8,000, and I started working 10-hour days trying to sell those leases.

Within a few days I'd presented my ideas to almost all of the independent oil companies in Corpus Christi, then waited. But I didn't just twiddle my thumbs. I started working on other areas I thought might be prospective for oil and gas.

Then my phone rang.

"Richard, this is Larry Conner. We like the deal you showed us last week. Is it still available?"

"Yes, it is."

"Good. We will buy your leases for what you have in them, give you one 30-second override and $4,500."

That sounds as if I had taken a chance and won, but actually I was betting on education and experience. My six years with Exxon had been packed with training, and my one year with a small oil company had prepared me for my step to becoming an independent geologist.

After two more years where I managed to sell around a dozen more ideas to other companies, I found a partner and formed a small exploration company. We were successful. Thank your lucky stars, huh? No; being prepared to be successful put the odds in my favor, and I took the initiative to use my talents. I never thought I would have to depend on beating the odds, because the odds were with me.

If you live life constantly preparing to act when the odds are in your favor, then when the opportunity arises, you will accomplish the task set before you because you will have reduced the odds of failure by preparing to meet the task, and your life will be successful.

Today, the premise that a town can beat the odds of unemployment or stagnation by having a casino constructed to give the town jobs is betting with the odds against the town or area.

Sure, a casino will create jobs. But in my opinion, the odds are against the city. Studies have shown the players of the various games are heavily stacked from within a 150-mile radius of the casino. The idea that a high roller from Tokyo is going to frequent a smoke-filled casino in Pine Bluff is a fantasy.

In reality, a big chunk of those casino players are going to be from Jefferson County, and the odds are overwhelming that a percentage of every dollar spent in that casino will stay with the casino.

In Natchez, Miss., 70 percent of businesses reported declining sales within a few months of the opening of that city's first riverboat. In South Dakota, which has 17 casinos, businesses suffered a net loss of approximately $60 million in anticipated sales in the year following the introduction of gambling. In Gilpin, Colo., the number of retail businesses dropped from 31 to 11 a couple of years after casinos arrived.

The bottom line is this: Whether you are a city or an individual, betting against the odds will make you a loser.

Email Richard Mason at

Editorial on 11/03/2019


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