What were the odds of ...
... a casino boat running aground between Hilton Head Island and Tybee Island, Ga., on Tuesday night?
... the Catawba Indian Nation, the only federally recognized tribe in South Carolina, opening a Rock Hill bingo parlor today with jackpots up to $100,000 in a former Bi-Lo with room for 1,300 seats?
... that same S.C.-based tribe seeking to build a $339 million casino complex, including hotels, restaurants and shops, in North Carolina?
... the S.C. General Assembly passing, and the governor signing, legislation from House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford of Columbia to permit, in his words, "well-regulated, upscale casinos in the Myrtle Beach area [that] would create a new annual multi-billion-dollar revenue stream that will allow the state to fix roads, create thousands of jobs, and keep taxes low"?
If you bet on the top three possibilities, you won.
But turning Myrtle Beach into a casino mecca - and an "upscale" one at that - sounds like a long shot.
Or does it?
Once upon a less jaded time, few folks thought South Carolina would ever roll the lottery dice.
Then Jim Hodges beat the odds by winning the governorship in 1998 (the last Democrat to do so) on a pro-lottery platform. And the S.C. Education Lottery, since its January 2002 launch, has generated more than $3.4 billion in revenue from the suckers who play it.
It's also created a gambling addiction of sorts for the lawmakers - and the rest of us - who count on that "supplemental" education money, 77 percent of which goes to higher learning, mostly in scholarships for in-state students.
How many of our S.C. lottery regulars paying that "stupidity tax" are reaping those higher-learning benefits?
Which gambling hand should we conservatives play?
Isn't letting people choose how to spend their money the American Way?
Shouldn't that include choosing to legally gamble?
Shouldn't it also include choosing to buy legalized marijuana?
How about legalized cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine?
Are you, too, hedging your ideological bets on this topic?
Aren't states that forbid private gambling while cashing in on public lotteries dealing from a double-standard deck?
And aren't our decaying S.C. roads a perilous gamble, too?
At least our lawmakers ended the state's jihad against small-stakes poker this year.
After all, Charleston has a quaint tradition of high-stakes card games in some low-rent back rooms.
Back to that hard-luck casino boat: After the 174-foot, Florida-based Escapade got stuck on a sandbar Tuesday night, 96 passengers were stuck on it for 16 hours.
That's not what they had in mind when they left Savannah on the ship's maiden voyage from that market - and on what they thought would be a five-hour tour.
A five-hour tour.
A cutter from the Tybee Island Coast Guard station took them to shore Wednesday afternoon. Veronica Snowden Heyward, age 66, told the Savannah Morning News: "We had to jump from the boat to a raft and then climb up a ladder onto the Coast Guard ship. It was terrifying. But thank the Lord for the Coast Guard - I love them. There was not one step that they weren't there, with a hand, an arm, a soothing voice."
Good for the Coast Guard - bad for that casino boat.
Then again, casino-boat gamblers should know better than most that we're all constantly riding with fickle fate on the roulette wheel of life.
Back to the S.C. Catawbas' play for that N.C. casino:
Some folks in Kings Mountain, where the gambling emporium would be built, don't like the idea.
Neither does Les Bernal, head of Washington-based Stop Predatory Gambling.
Bernal, who gave insights at a forum Thursday in King's Mountain, recently told the Charlotte Observer: "There's a difference between the local Super Bowl office pool versus a business model that's based on exploiting people."
That's reassuring for those who jump into office pools on not just the Super Bowl, but the NCAA basketball tournament, Wrestlemania, and in some workplaces, even golf.
So what are the odds of Justin Rose rallying from 10 back to win the British Open?
You have to play to win
See, whether holy rollers like it or not, the lure of becoming a high roller via gambling winnings has a very strong appeal.
Sure, there are social costs from, not just moral objections to, gambling.
Yet win or lose, putting your money on the line is a habit-forming rush that injects daring drama into the mundane lives of excitement-craving Americans. And legalized gambling injects revenue into cash-craving government.
So don't bet on laws stopping Americans from gambling.
Don't bet on rasslin' without consulting my crafty tag-team partner Mike Mooneyham.
Don't bet on politicians stopping gambling's spread.
And never bet on an NFL road favorite to cover the spread.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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