I'm not a gambler, have never set foot inside a casino (or racino, whatever they are), don't play cards or bet on the outcome of an election, and I've never taken part in an office pool come tournament time.
I've never purchased a lottery ticket, and frankly don't even know how to go about the purchase of one.
My mother was taken aback recently when I asked what I believed to be a cogent question about how lotteries worked: “So, do the numbers have to be in that order for you to win?”
After a moment of stunned disbelief she answered (rather slowly, now that I think about, using the same tone she used when teaching me something when I was a child) that, no, they didn't have to be in order, you just had to have those same numbers.
During a misspent youth I became fairly proficient at pool — but never so proficient as to ever consider playing for money.
It was the same story later with golf: the better I got, the more frequently I found myself playing with the better players, who would come up with all these complicated schemes for playing for money.
I resorted to playing by myself; eventually I quit playing altogether.
I have purchased the odd rare book from time to time — but not as an investment, gambling the value would go up so I could sell for a profit.
I've bought the books because I wanted to read them, to profit my mind, not my portfolio.
When I was younger I went with a county councilman to the horse races at Ellis Park, but I never placed a bet, much to his frustration.
“Dammit, I'll cover your losses!” he told me, to no avail.
Anyway, my job was to make sure we got back home, as his betting on the ponies was fueled over the course of the day by quite a few cocktails.
I guess the closest I come to gambling these days is having a 401(k) plan here at work, betting that when the time comes there will be enough in the pot for me to cash in and enjoy some reasonable level of comfort in my retirement.
Not being a gambler, I've not paid much attention to the talk of Terre Haute maybe getting a casino or of the state possibly legalizing sports betting.
I was around the Statehouse a good bit during the debate over the state lottery in the late 1980s, and later over the coming of riverboat gambling in the early '90s.
I didn't take much interest in the lottery issue, because every time I heard someone say the word “lottery” I immediately thought of Shirley Jackson's famous short story of that title.
I did write a column at the time in which I hoped that Hoosiers, collectively, wouldn't end up like the Hutchinson family and have to make an awful choice in the future.
Back in the days when I was a kid and a habitué of my hometown pool hall, I occasionally spent a Saturday afternoon downstairs, in the basement, where there was a regular card game. I'd take a chair in the corner of the room and watch — but mostly listen — as the players bet and bluffed and raised and checked.
It was gambling, sometimes for large sums, and just about everyone in town knew it was going on.
But it all was so good-natured; no one ever lost his farm or even the pink slip to his wife's car, at least as far as I know.
The debate over riverboat gambling wasn't so good natured; it was serious business, because of the money involved.
Although there were some lighter moments.
I recall a committee hearing when I swear every resident of French Lick must have driven up to the Statehouse to take their turn at the microphone.
For some, I think it was their first trip to Indianapolis, but not, I was sure, their first dealings with gambling.
One old guy got up (hitching up his heavily-starched, faded blue jeans as he headed to the podium) to testify in favor of the so-called “boat in the moat” proposal; he wanted gambling brought back to French Lick, not just because it would mean jobs but primarily because “it would mean we could all have a good time again.”
I admired his honesty.
There were also a few shady characters who lurked about in the corridors outside the House and Senate chambers, with their slicked-back hair (they weren't using Brylcreem, that's for sure), too-stylish suits and extra-shiny loafers who spoke to one another in muffled tones with a hand covering their mouth, their eyes darting back and forth.
I admired, in its own way, the honesty of their position.
Everyone, in those days, had some interest in gambling, either to bring it in or keep it out of Indiana.
When the lawmakers finally got around to writing the legislation to allow gambling to take place out on the open water, there ensued the normal horse trading and dealmaking that goes into the drafting of any bill — although, given the projections of just how much money would ultimately be “in play,” every lawmaker seemed to be bellying up to the trough in service to their varied constituencies.
And out of all that were born some good things; even today, you'll still hear a local elected official talk about “riverboat money.”
These days I don't sense anything close to the kind of, well, excitement, that swirled around that initial opening up of Indiana to broad daylight gambling 25 years ago.
I can't say whether the state is better off today because gambling is legal.
Nor can I say things have gotten worse because of gambling.
Henry Adams, in his “Education,” wrote that of some things ignorance is good, art being one of them.
Gambling, I'd add, is another.