. . . Monday May 10, 2004

Our Favorite Vice

The other day when I was in a Walgreen’s pharmacy, I noticed that a new item had been added to the counter display of impulse buys. Along with razor blades, tissues, mini-headphones, lighters and candy bars, I saw deck of cards and poker chips. In the last year or so, poker has swept from private card games to national television and back again. Poker is the new golf. Chris Moneymaker is the new Tiger Woods.

The speed with which poker has gone both extreme and mainstream has been remarkable. But it makes total sense. Americans love to gamble. Not like, love. We like to eat fast food. We like to drink coffee. From lotto, to Indian casinos, to Vegas, to the NFL, to watching weirdos in dark glasses play poker on TV, we love gambling.

Just one segment (the one that is the most foolish from a player’s perspective) of the gaming industry, slot machines, takes in more dough than McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Starbucks combined. Slots are bigger business than movies. Bigger than live sex shows and porn. Bigger than Atkins.

Americans drop about a a billion a day into slot machines. And only 40 million people even play slots. Just wait until they are available in the checkout line at Walgreen’s.

Concentration is important!