My friends who know a little something about soccer tell me the USA victory over Ghana yesterday is a big deal.
Search me. The extent of my knowledge of the world’s most popular game is so sparse, as the saying goes, it could be fit into the navel of a flea.
So I did a little digging. Ghana, it turns out, is located in that western protrusion of the African continent that’s home to a whole passel of anonymous (to us) little countries like Burkina Faso, Benin, and Togo. The capital of G. is Accra, which is sort of known, I suppose. Its population is 2.27 million with a total of four million in its greater metropolitan area making it, overall, about as big as Rome or Sydney.
Ghana Soccer Fans
English is its official language although its diverse pop. also speaks tongues like Asante, Ewe, and Fante. That diversity is represented by ancient and traditional tribal groups known as Akan, Mole-Dagbon, the aforementioned Ewe, and others. Ghana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1957 and now is a constitutional democracy. Ghanians produce gold, cocoa, and a barrel or two of oil. Some 50 percent of them work in the service industry. The country is known as one of the most stable and advanced on the continent.
I doubt if I’ve ever met a Ghanian. I know I would have been hard pressed to point it out on a map before doing this bit of seat of the pants research. I’d never heard of its president, John Dramani Mahama. Its air force is only two years old.
Fútbol aficionados in this holy land are delirious about the world’s last remaining superpower’s glorious triumph over little Ghana. I don’t know precisely who the USA is playing next in this World Cup shebang.
A House Divided
The Indianapolis Star reported yesterday that the state’s casinos are “losing money.”
Let me repeat that. Casinos in the Hoosier State are losing money. Losing money!
Friends, that’s impossible. It should not happen. It cannot happen.
The house never loses. That’s the single Commandment in the bible of the gaming industry. In fact, the games that are offered in casinos and other such centers of culture and competition are designed to give the edge to the house. Simply setting up the games and letting anyone, no matter their ability play them, automatically guarantees the house operator a winning certainty.
Take blackjack. The player always goes first. If both the dealer and the player go over 21, the house wins because, under the rules, the player has gone first and therefore loses.
Players cannot count cards but very astute dealers do. When a good dealer notices the deck’s edge going to the player, s/he simply reshuffles.
How about roulette? You’d think the odds of winning would be 50/50, split between the house and the player. After all, you either get red or black, right? Only casino roulette wheels have either one or two extra spaces, a zero or double zero. When the ball lands there, it’s a win for the house. So the odds favor you know who. Over time that slight statistical edge pays off handsomely.
Poker tournaments are big deals in casinos. The house wins no matter what because it takes a cut off the top of every ante. Winning players get paid from their opponents, not the house.
Craps is a big money-maker for the house. Whenever a dice thrower scores a big win, there is screaming and cheering. This automatically draws players to the table, the majority of whom will lose — the odds are built into the dice — so the house loves to pay out big.
I could go on and on but suffice it to say the reason the Outfit got itself cozy in Las Vegas was the guaranteed revenue of gaming. There is next to no risk in operating a casino (other than, of course, getting your brains blown out for cheating the Mob out of its cut.)
So how can Indiana’s casinos be losing money?
Simple. The state of Ohio has allowed several new facilities to open up near Cincinnati. That’s only an hour from three of Indiana’s riverboats and “racinos.” The gaming industry here wants land-based casinos. The state legislature has been loath to allow that for years. Keep in mind this is a state that still doesn’t allow liquor sales on Sundays; just getting floating casinos here was fairly revolutionary. House Speaker Brian Bosma is exhibiting no sign that he’s about to start thinking about allowing brick and mortar casinos.
So things don’t look good for Indiana’s gaming people right now, that is, unless Bosma is wearing his best poker face. Should he push for land-based casinos, the state might get back the millions of dollars lost to the Ohio competition and even maybe even make more than that. Pols, just like gamblers, hate losing dough.
At this moment, the state of Ohio is the house. It’s gonna win. Bosma may feel the need to make Indiana the house once again.
Where It’s At
Jazzman and political science prof. Jeff Isaac stopped in to the Book Corner yesterday. He’s a magazine freak, tending toward titles like Downbeat and Perspectives in Politics, natch. He had to elbow his way to the checkout counter with said titles in hand as this correspondent was holding court with the usual revolving gang of cognoscenti.
“Let me through so I can do some business with this man,” Isaac said. He paused a moment, scanning the semi-circle of faces. “Man,” he said, “this is the nerve center of Bloomington right here.”
So it is.
To wit: State Rep. Matt Pierce paid a visit about an hour later. He says he and his statehouse colleagues are wrapping up last minute business in Indy these days and then they’ll take a few months to get themselves reelected this fall.I told the Rep. I was worried about what the 538 political numbers blog is saying about the November beauty contests. I figured Pierce might try to snow me with partisan cheerleading but he spoke frankly. Bad news on the national front, Pierce observed, trickles down to the local. He’s not worried, personally, as he’s running unopposed to retain his District 61 seat.
We went on to talk about US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s earth-shattering primary loss last week. I told the Rep. Cantor was ousted because only 12 percent of the voters in his district even bothered to show up. Pierce nodded. “You only get the true believers when that happens,” he said. True: If there’s one thing that’s dangerous in politics, statecraft, or religion, it’s a true believer.
Pierce added that only 13 percent of Hoosiers voted in our May primary. “It’s ironic,” he explained, “that the people who can really benefit from voting don’t, so then when pols get in who do nothing for them they conclude that system is broke. Then they become even more alienated from the process. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.”
The Big Mike take-away: An apathetic electorate is just as dangerous as a gang of true believers.
Attn: Pencillistas! I want you to add another blog to your bookmarks. It’s local and it’s goddamned good.Author and playwright Joni Herkimer runs the A Cocktail A Day daily bleat. It’s funny and informative.
Here’s a little taste from Sunday’s post:
I think if I got to choose my royal title, I would choose Countess. I don’t know why exactly, but the title has always appealed to me much more than Queen, Princess, or Duchess. I don’t even know exactly what a real Countess is or does, but I am pretty certain I would enjoy being one.
Keep a close eye on Countess Joni: She’s working on a play right now that’s sure to blow this town sky-high if and when it gets finished and produced. It deals with one of the biggest news stories in our great metrop.’s recent history. Everything you think you know about it, JH swears, just may be wrong.
Other than that, my lips are sealed about the project.
Next up is Portugal, famous in the US for … being next to Spain. Then last game in the Group stage is against Germany, famous for being opponents in a couple of other contests and for splitting Berlin in half and JFK being a donut or Berliner.