Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beer, Horses, Poker and Changes

It is pretty amazing to watch how things change over time. But sometimes we wonder why it takes so long.

A couple of years ago I had an interesting and fun double-bill. Heading south from the Tundra I hit Keeneland for a couple of days at the big track. Then it was off to Augusta to watch a practice round at the Masters.

We stayed at a small hotel about 45 minutes from Augusta and got in around 7PM. There was a waffle house, a Pizza Hut and a convenience store near the hotel. I figured I would get a pizza, grab a six pack and bet some races (hey, with a trip to Keeneland and for golf, what do you expect?). I ordered my pizza and walked to the store. I went to the refrigerators to grab some of my favorite libation and noticed they had hockey sticks jammed in the levers. I tried to open it and a kind old Georgian looked at me and said "no beer on Sunday's young man." Other than being happy he called me young man, I was somewhat shocked. I wondered if I went back and  bet the races, the betting police would come get me. I knew there was no horse racing in Georgia.

It seems that might be changing. Georgia, looking for moola from bettors, is planning to legalize horse betting. In addition, if you want to bet Windsor's Sunday card you can do it with a cold one.

If you drive home north and pass through Virginia and want to have a meal at a pub and play some Hold em poker, that is another story. But a bill has entered the house there to legalize such evil criminal activity.

Petersen says he introduced the measure in part because last year a Northern Virginia restaurant, struggling as so many are in the current economic climate, tried to drum up some business by hosting a Texas Hold 'Em tournament. Winners did not get any money; they received free appetizers. Outraged by such an affront to all that is good and decent, the local constabulary raided this den of iniquity and charged the owners with violating the state's anti-wagering laws.

So if you head south, go to Georgia, buy some beer, play some horse races. But never ever play poker in Virginia. Thus ends today's geography lesson.

I enjoy such articles. It shows how weird some things are of the past with gambling. In the linked article above, there was this preface on Pinball in New York.

For decades, it was illegal in many big U.S. cities to play pinball. City fathers felt the game was iniquitous, possibly Mafia-influenced, and certainly should not be allowed. New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia once denounced pinball machines for stealing from "schoolchildren . . . nickels and dimes given them as lunch money." New York cops staged raids and smashed pinball machines with sledgehammers. 

The Big Apple did not legalize pinball until 1976, when — as Popular Mechanics reported four years ago — "the coin-operated amusement lobby (which represented the pinball industry) eventually succeeded in earning a City Council hearing to re-examine the long-standing ban. Their strategy: Prove that pinball was a game of skill, not chance, and thus should be legal."

And let us not forget the change in the public's mood regarding horses. In poker and saloon times it was common-place to treat them poorly. Come about 1940, that changed and it has changed more and more today.

Some might remember the movie Jesse James, with Henry Fonda filmed in 1939. In the film there is a scene where a horse has to jump off a cliff. The problem - they made the horse really jump off a cliff.

The public outcry about such behavior changed the way movies were made forever, thankfully, although such stories from the past are still nauseating to read.

We have a long way to go before we don't get chucked in the clink for a two-bit poker game, race horses are treated with the respect they deserve, and you might pop an ale and bet a horse race in every state on Sunday, but slowly but surely time marches on.

2 comments:

Walleye Willy said...

After spending dozens and dozens of trips stuck in downtown Atlanta over the last 25 years. After seeing CNN -Coke World -Underground Atlanta you might as well kill yourself cause there is nothing to do. Betting on horses would be the greatest thing to happen to that state since they invented the peanut.

Anonymous said...

Didn't you go to the big fish tank? I hear the big fish tank is nice.

PTP