Mike Del Ninno
Is gambling a gamble, or calculated risk?
I’m not a serious gambler, primarily because I hate to lose my hard earned cash. The key word is “serious”. I guess every now and then I like to throw down a friendly wager, for instance, the Superbowl or maybe a round of golf with my buddies. Nevertheless, I do have somewhat of a family history surrounding gambling. No, my folks weren’t gamblers, but they did work in the gaming industry; ponies to be exact.
My Father was recruited by Bill Veeck (owner of various major league baseball teams including the Chicago White Sox) to help promote his stake in Suffolk Downs (a thoroughbred race track located in Boston, MA). Mr. Veeck was known best for his publicity stunts. As a young man, I was always fascinated when Mr. Veeck would stop by the house. I mean, who wouldn’t remember a guy with a peg-leg with an ashtray built-in? Publicity stunts indeed.
My Mother was also recruited by Bill. Her job was “group sales”. She’d sell group packages to organizations looking to have a little fun, watch some racing and enjoy dinner. I remember hanging out at the track watching her give pointers on how to read a race program, a handy talent not many young kids learn these days. In the off season, she’d sell space at the track (boat shows, concerts, etc.).
Mom and Dad did such a good job at Suffolk; they were recruited to work at Northfield Park (a harness track near Cleveland, OH). I was finally old enough to hold a job, and landed one of the most glamorous gigs at the track, shoveling horse manure out of the holding stalls. I also assigned practice numbers, race numbers and pulled the numbers off the horses after each race. My best friend was the parade horse, only because he loved my carrots.
I really enjoyed those days. I got to meet so many great people.
Gambling has come a long way since then, especially with the advent of high tech gaming. Without a doubt, gambling on a large scale can change a community. And if done correctly, can create jobs, stimulate a local economy, and throw some serious cash back into government coffers. However, if done haphazardly, it can also be a costly mistake.
As Florida, and especially Volusia County contemplate gambling as a backdrop to tourism, I would urge our leaders not to rush, but rather allow time for research and reflection so we can do it right. And most importantly, let the people’s voice be heard. If done right, this calculated risk could turn out to be a winner.