Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ireland v USA - Round Three - Rolling the dice

The vast majority of my readers are Irish-American and a question that often pops up over email is 'So what's it like living in Ireland?'. Well, I am here to serve you, and having spent time in both Ireland and the States I feel qualified to play the two off each other in a series of pieces on exactly where is it better to live, Ireland or the States.

Round three, gambling - Let's chop it up.

True story this. I was in the bookies..oh, back up a step. I better explain that one, right? The 'bookies' is a abbreviation of 'bookmakers' which is a colloquial term used to describe a betting shop in Ireland. Ireland, the UK and the rest of the world bar the United States basically, has betting shops where an adult can walk in and place a bet on a sporting event of their choosing.

Right so, get this. The other day I was in the bookie and perusing the sports pages on my lunch break. The usual crowd were there, business men, construction workers, students. The front door opened and two very stern looking Gardaí (The Irish police force) strolled in. The assembled punters went quiet. People peeked up over their betting slips, papers and coffees to watch as the two Gardaí approached the counter. While one officer stood, arms folded surveying the customers, the other took off his cap and asked the girl at the counter...

'Have you got a price for 'Rare Ouzel' in the 3:40 at Haydock?'

The ability for an adult to decide to place a bet on a sporting event is something that is taken completely for granted in Ireland, along with the UK and, as I said, most of the civilized world. To me, it is one of the great ironies that in the United States you can purchase a semi automatic weapon but you can't put $10 on Boston to win the World series. That's just asinine.

Of course, if you know the right people, nudge nudge, wink wink, you can physically place a bet in the States, but it is illegal and thus, an underground entity that has become 'shady' as a result of being forced under ground by, largely, Republican groups who fall over themselves to protect the average American's right to buy a automatic machine gun.

Take for example US Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist. He once stole cats from animal shelters in order to conduct experiments on them in medical school (seriously!). Frist is a real piece of work. He condones torture as a method of interrogation. He is strongly opposed to womens and gay rights, and he supports the death penalty too.

The one thing he will not abide is gambling, and he managed to sneak a bill banning Internet gambling through by attaching it to a defense related bill, which meant it was not open to debate or discussion. Must be really super great having that individual deciding you can not put $50 on The Patriots to beat the Jets the first week of the NFL this season, eh?

It's funny, for all the freedom that Bush and his cronies tell you that they are sending underprivileged 18 year old high school drop outs to die in Iraq for, an adult US citizen is not allowed the freedom to place a considered wager on a sporting event. Unless he goes to Vegas.

Personally, I like being able to take a stroll into Boyle Sports, Paddy Power, Joe Byrne's or any other bookie, place $20 on Matsuzaka to beat CC Sabathia, and then enjoy walking back in to collect $50 after the Sox squeak home 1-0. It's one of the little pleasures in life.

Give me Ireland over the USA any day on this one.

Running scoreline; Ireland 2 USA 1

Previous head-to-heads
Round one: The Weather
Round two: who plays harder for their country?



Dave said...

Oh man, did you hit this one on the head. The Puritanical view this country takes on gambling drives me nuts. I loved that in Ireland I could place a bet using my television remote. Here it's having to know a guy who knows a guy to place a sports bet. Ridiculous.

Cormac said...

I would love that Firth guy to explain to me, with a straight face, why torture is okay but gambling is bad!

Dave said...

Frist is an idiot. So you have to start there. Thankfully, he is no longer in the Senate.

Really, you have to look at everything through a warped theological, "fire and brimstone" Christian lens to try and understand how these kinds of viewpoints come around. For those of us who are more mainstream in our faith, it's a disturbing thing to watch.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love gambling online and I think that everyone should have the right to gamble from the comfort of their own homes as long as safeguards are in place to protect against underage and problem gambling.

Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

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