You may have seen in the news that President Clinton (motto: ``Building a Better America By Hugging'') has appointed a blue-ribbon commission to study gambling in America and find out whether it is a bad thing or what. The commission, consisting of nine experts, was given a budget of $5 million, which it immediately lost playing roulette.
No, seriously, the commission is going to study gambling for two years, then produce a detailed report, which, in accordance with federal laws concerning blue-ribbon commission reports on important issues, will be fed to pigs. But that does not mean that this is not an important issue. Gambling is a huge industry that has caused many people to become addicted, possibly including you. To find out, take this:
SCIENTIFIC QUIZ TO DETERMINE IF YOU ARE A COMPULSIVE GAMBLER
1. Do large men sometimes come around and break your thumbs?
2. Have you ever lunged across a table and tried to strangle a 73-year-old grandmother simply because she said, quote, ``Bingo''?
3. Have you ever, after gambling away all your money and pawning all your possessions, asked yourself: ``Hey, why do I need TWO kidneys?''
4. Have you ever attempted to place a bet on the chariot race in Ben Hur ?
5. If so, did you bet against Charlton Heston, your reasoning being that, hey, one of these times he has to lose?
6. Have you ever wagered money that you should have used to feed your children?
7. Have you ever wagered your actual children?
If you answered ``yes'' to any one of these questions, the odds (Ha ha!) are that you are a compulsive gambler. The best treatment, in my opinion, is for you to fly to Las Vegas and attempt to learn the game called ``craps''; this will cure your compulsion by causing your head to explode. I recently spent a night at a Las Vegas hotel-casino, and when I turned on the TV in my room, it was showing a program wherein a cheerful man demonstrated how easy and fun it is to play the various gambling games. He was explaining ``craps,'' and it sounded like this:
`` . . . if the shooter throws a 2, 3, 6, 9, or 11, then that becomes the `point,' unless the shooter has previously thrown a 4, 5, 10, 14 or `boxcars,' except on Wednesday, when the shooter must throw `snake eyes' unless there are two or more hotels on Park Place, in which case the shooter . . .''
This is why most people prefer slot machines, which are very simple: You put money in, you pull the handle, and then you put more money in. You keep doing this until finally -- in a sudden, exciting explosion of ringing bells and flashing lights -- your money, plus a lot more, comes pouring out of a machine about 10 feet away, which is being used by the same 73-year-old grandmother whom you tried to strangle in the Bingo game.
But the slots are addictive. In Las Vegas, they have them right at the airport gates. Sometimes people get off their planes, start playing the slots right there, and never do get to their hotels. Sometimes departing flights can't take off because the pilots are busy playing the slots, or trying to get more money by pawning things (``Hey, why does the plane need TWO engines?'').
Nevertheless I like going to Las Vegas. A lot of people do, which is why every week or so somebody out there builds a new casino the size of Czechoslovakia, but with more rooms. Most of the big casinos have some kind of classic theme -- ancient Rome, pirates, volcanoes, naked breasts, etc. The one casino theme you will not see is organized crime. Las Vegas is very sensitive about this, because at one time there was a large criminal element in the gambling industry, although I am stating right here in print that it has been completely eliminated, so please do not put a bomb in my car.
(Actually, I think a hotel-casino with an organized-crime theme could be a big hit; it could be called ``The Godfather,'' and there could be fun little touches, such as a card that you'd hang on your doorknob to indicate whether or not you wished to wake up in bed with a deceased horse.)
The way organized crime originally got involved with gambling was by running numbers rackets, which are evil because they encourage people to throw their money away on lottery games with terrible odds. Numbers rackets should not be confused with state lotteries, which encourage people to throw their money away on lottery games with even worse odds than organized crime is offering. But this is good, because state-lottery proceeds are used for worthwhile causes, such as producing TV commercials urging people to buy state-lottery tickets.
All of these issues (Editor's Note: WHAT issues?) will be considered by the blue-ribbon commission; let's hope that it comes up with practical ways to help those pathetic souls who cannot control their gambling addiction. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch TV; they're showing Gone With the Wind , and I've bet my last $500, plus both corneas, on the South.