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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

Recovering poker addict misses the rush but not the craziness

By Matt Lenio

October 16, 2006 | On any given weekend, the phrase "I will raise you 10, no wait... 25," followed by the quick reply, "I'm all in," can be heard at college apartments across the country. Often, those playing will claim that they are more than capable to stop gambling at any time. Many of those same students, however, find themselves spending rent, food, and even tuition money to stay in the game.

The college gambling craze has been sweeping the nation, fueled by the advent of Internet gambling sites and popular television shows like ESPN's World Series Poker. A recent study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center showed that 57 percent of the young men surveyed reported that they gamble at least once a month. The study also showed that monthly card-game gambling among youth is up 20 percent from the year before.

"About one college student in 20 has a gambling problem, but it's an issue that's very much under the radar," Jeff Marotta, problem-gambling services manager for the Oregon state human resources agency, said according to an ABC news report. "Most colleges seem to view student gambling as a harmless extracurricular activity, yet we know that for a certain percentage of student gamblers it can lead to serious problems."

The Internet has given minors easy access to the world of gambling, causing a potential addiction at a younger age. Because there are few reliable methods of verifying age, young people are able to participate in the gambling craze. This error allows minors to start gambling at an age when they are vulnerable to ways of the world that adults are more capable to comprehend.

Henry Lesieur, Ph.D, and Durand Jacobs, Ph.D, have conducted studies revealing evidence that adolescents are roughly three times more likely than adults to become problem gamblers. A recent study showed that of 37 online gambling sites, 30 allowed minors to register, pay, and play. Shortly after the study was conducted, Senator Charles Schumer of New York said, "These online gambling sites think they have really hit the jackpot by targeting kids."

I believe that most Internet gambling sites depend largely on the youth who have found a way to participate in the gambling scene. The money made off of an actual 35-year-old or a 15-year-old who claims to be 35 years of age, still spends the same.

Although it is relatively difficult to measure the total amount of money spent in online gambling, collected statistics have further proven the increase in popularity. A recent study showed that online gambling earnings in 2002 accumulated to $4.1 billion, and increased to $5.5 billion in 2003. The numbers have continued to soar year to year as the craze grows.

A year and a half ago, I found myself sacrificing a countless number of hours that should have been used for homework and sleep to play Texas Hold 'Em with a group of fellow students. At first, it was a just a chance to eat chips and salsa, drink Rockstar energy drinks, and hang out with the guys. Soon, however, the intentions changed from having a relaxing "guys night out," to the thrill of pulling in an arm full of poker chips that had me believing that if I just kept playing, one night I would take home the entire pot of winnings.

I told myself that poker was based 100 percent off of skill, and that if I could outsmart the other poker addicts that sat around the green felt poker table, I could have a little extra spending money -- often as much as $100 -- for the week. This thought consumed my mind, and that's where my poker addiction began.

In all honesty, skill does have a lot to do with winning in a poker game, although luck is most definitely also a factor. There is only so long that a player can continue to win without being dealt the right cards at the right time, no matter how wise his strategies on how to win may be.

The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery has stated that roughly 5 percent of those who gamble become compulsive gamblers. That small percentage represents a mass of people who have an addiction as severe as alcoholism or drug addiction. Although the addiction may not be physically harming to the individual, the sensation of winning a bet has consumed their lives to the extent of causing an addiction.

For five months, I played poker as often as three times a week, regardless of how much homework I had to do, how much spending money I had at my disposal, or what other activities were available. We kept a paper form detailing how much money the regular players owed each other, but as some of their debts started to reach $200, it became obvious that they would be unable to continue playing poker. As college students, we have a minimal income that already only allows many of us a diet of ramen noodle soup, hotdogs, and Kraft macaroni and cheese. When you factor in debts of nearly $200, one begins to recognize that somewhere along the path, an error was committed.

As it became apparent that poker was hurting our grades, and our friendships, we banned the game from the apartment. Grades in our classes immediately improved, we as a group were better rested, and our money was soon spent on things of real personal importance. I do, however, still miss the loud roar that erupts from a group of guys watching their money being taken by another in a good hand of poker. I miss the stories and jokes re-told from around the table. As funny as it may sound, I even miss cleaning up the broken chips and pretzels off of the tile floor the morning after our weekly casino night. Although what I don't miss at all, is having complete control of how my time and money is spent.

NW
RB

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