Playing Loose and Fast with the Truth By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports January 10, 2019 at 8:20 pm Imagine if you can, a 30-something couple sitting at a table in their local bar. They are telling their friends about a trip they took recently. In the story, the couple on vacation in a faraway place called The Strip, decided to go down to the hotel swimming pool. It was a nice sunny day and they had nothing to do before dinner. On the way to the pool they stopped and played a slot machine for a few minutes. They won a bit and then continued on to the pool. In telling the story to their friends they said “We had a bit of spare change so we put it in the slot machines … and won a couple of dollars. So we put it back in and the next thing we knew we’d won $493. Luckiest dip ever.” they said. It is not an unusual story, I have heard others like it – a woman buying a winning lottery ticket while purchasing gasoline, a man at the track placing an impulse bet on his way to buy a beer, putting a single dollar in a Megabucks machine and hitting the big one and dozens of other variations on the theme. A person pauses, makes an unplanned wager and wins. Sometimes it is a life-changing experience, but more often it is like the couple and the slot machine, a little extra spending money. The size of the win is not what makes this story notable. It is notable because it attracted the attention of The Guardian in England; the headline was: “BA flies into gambling storm with casino winners’ ad.” You see, it was not an actual story; rather, it was a television commercial for British Airways Holidays. The advert, as the English call it, is raising some cane. Some of the people who saw it were anti-gambling campaigners and members of parliament who shared their view. They lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority, claiming the commercial “promotes gambling and portrays it in a glamorous and frivolous way, and that it’s therefore irresponsible.” It is the Authority’s job to police the airways. The English are fond of wagering and because of that fact the government has numerous regulations to control and limit gambling in the United Kingdom. Last year, the government determined that FOBTs, a type of slot machine, needed to be further controlled and wagers be limited to no more than 2 pounds. The crackdown on FOBTs was driven by the same social concerns as the complaint against British Airways, the need to protect children and those vulnerable to gambling addictions. All gambling advertisements in the United Kingdom are subject to close scrutiny with an eye to protecting the vulnerable; the time of day and the contents are taken into consideration. The gambling industry has taken some extraordinary measures to see that it is conforming to the proper standards, but British Airways is not a gambling company, or at least its passengers hope it isn’t. British Airways was doing what it says it has been doing for three years, telling the vacation stories of its customers. The commercials use the memories of holiday travelers to encourage others to travel, not to gamble. It is a very strange dilemma for the airline and BA says the ad was reviewed and cleared. You can see why BA is perturbed. The case does not fall into the normal category of advertisements that offend the authorities; those that do offend are gambling ads. In them, bookmakers try to convince would be gamblers to take a chance on a particular sporting event, horse race or political issue such as the odds that Brexit would pass. When those advertisements use young sexy women, broadcast during “family time” or play too often in the midst of an athletic competition they can expect to get their fingers slapped. The critics say the airline was glorifying gambling. To me the advertisement glorifies taking a vacation and having a good time; sometimes having a good time means getting lucky; lucky to catch a spectacular sunset, lucky to get a ticket to Hamilton or lucky to meet the love of your life. The critics are overreaching as people are want to do these days when nearly every subject is polarized. The polarization is not just an American phenomenon and not limited to our current political situation. It is an international phenomenon; we live in a world of black and white, right and wrong. My right is the only true right, yours is only right if it agrees with mine, otherwise it is a wrong and probably should be punished. The world is filled with drummers beating the drum of righteousness. British Airways got caught up in the chant of some of those drummers, chanting “bad, bad, bad, bad, BAD!” It seems to me they are mistaken in this case. The BA ad can hardly attract children or the vulnerable to a dangerous activity. Those at risk cannot, upon seeing the commercial, run out and begin gambling and ruining their lives. To reach those gambling dens depicted in the ads, a person has to spend hundreds of pounds on a ticket and fly 16 hours to get to Las Vegas. Las Vegas is not an impulse buy, nor are any other casino jurisdictions served by British Airways. We live in dangerous times. One of the things that makes the times dangerous is those drummers. They put all of us at risk. Any of us could make a same simple error in judgment like that of British Airways – that is if you think it was an error. Beware of those drummers, they have an axe to grind and they play loose and fast with the truth. Any time you hear their thumping pay close attention to the facts, not the chant.