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Lemon Bill Sets an Example
May 9, 2003
By Mike McArdle

I ran across my friend Turf Club Doug in, well, the Turf Club which is kind of Pennsylvania speak for off track betting. It was Kentucky Derby weekend and I decided to place a couple of bets on the race.

Dougie on the other hand is something of a fixture at the Club, a large room with dozens of TVs showing races at tracks all over America so he can have several bets down at once. Occasionally when his penchant for the ponies keeps him at the Club quite late he's been known to bet on races from as far away as Australia.

Doug was smiling from ear to ear which, of course, could only mean one thing. He was winning.

"How are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm down about two fifty. Isn't it great?"

"How much did you come in with?"

"Two hundred. Borrowed a hundred from the barmaid about half an hour ago."

"That doesn't sound too great at all," I said.

"No, but what's great is that now I can do all this without feeling bad about myself. I found out today that even that big important virtues guy does it."

"You mean Bill Bennett?" I said.

"You got it. I mean, look - all these years I've been losing money on horses and football games and lottery tickets and I've felt lousy about it as long as I can remember. Have you ever had to tell your five-year-old little girl that Santa Claus wasn't gonna to be able come around this year because he busted up his sled and was in goddamn traction?"

"Well no but…"

"And once I had to send her to school for a week with nothin' for lunch but bags of Beer Nuts that I got one of the bus boys to steal for me. How do you think that made me feel?"

"Like shit?"

"You got it. But this guy Bennett's changed everything. I mean this a guy who people hire to give speeches and write books about morals and bein' a good person and damned if he isn't losin' more in a weekend that I could make in ten years."

"But look," I said, "Bennett says that it's not a problem. He makes a lot of money so that he can afford the losses without hurting his family and his wife says…"

"His wife? You know how many lies I told my old lady before she walked out on me?"

"Well okay," I said, "Bennett did tell the casinos to call him at work and not at home so maybe he wasn't totally up front with her but he says it's just recreation and…"

"Oh come on. A guy gets himself limoed to a casino in Atlantic City. Sneaks into a room reserved for the biggest high rollers so that nobody sees him and spends an entire weekend watching his $500 tokens gurgle down into a machine that keeps showing him lemons. Sunday night gets here, he's down a half mill and he's on the cell phone making reservations for Vegas for the next weekend. Tell me this guy's enjoying himself."

"Yeah, Dougie, but Bennett's never really come out against gambling and I have a feeling he'd be a little disapproving of the way you chase girls. I mean he was very critical of President Clinton over the intern thing." (I figured it wouldn't hurt to remind Doug that he has an affinity for fast women in addition to the slow horses that he can't seem to get enough of.)

"Oh yeah. Ever been to a casino and hung out with the high rollers? See the kind of women that are all over these places ? Don't tell me Bennett ain't dippin' old Mr. Virtue while he's on these weekends of his. I mean I am just so vindicated."

"Well, Bennett says that he's going to stop gambling…"

"Of course he does. I've said that hundreds of times but this Bennett guy has changed my life, I'll tell you that. He's shown me the way to go."

"You're going to quit gambling too?"

"Hell, no. I'm gonna write a book about morals. But first who do you like in the fifth at Santa Anita?"

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