Keeping Score with Chip Ainsworth: Betting big doesn’t always pay

Published: 02-16-2024 4:52 PM

Good morning!
Three days before the Super Bowl, Caleb was headed for work at MGM Springfield. We didn’t have long to converse, but he said his job paid the bills and clothed his children, management was fair and how good the food was depended on the day’s chef.

Were the stories true, I asked, about people who walked into the gaming area for a few rolls of the dice or spins on the roulette wheel, and walked out financially ruined.

He didn’t answer the question directly but said, “In six years I’ve worked here there’ve been five suicides. Last week someone jumped, the others [killed themselves] in the garage.”

No one answered the phone in media relations at the Springfield Police Department. A message recorded by someone named Ryan Walsh said to send him an email. The MGM Springfield operator also gave me an email address to try.

If there’s a suicide a year at the Springfield casino, I wondered how many happen in Las Vegas. A story by Heidi Lothringer on medium.com reported that of the 1,100 visitors who die every year in Las Vegas, 15 percent — about 165 — are suicides.

One day while I was waiting to get new tires I wandered over to the casino and watched people playing roulette. They spread their chips on black or red and played multiple numbers. It was astonishing how much was bet on one spin, and how much the house reaped. “Nobody ever tells me they’re losing, but I can see it in their faces,” said Caleb.

It’s not just casinos, of course. Any adult can walk into a convenience store and play Keno or buy scratch tickets and the numbers games.

My friend MaryJo struggles to stay away from scratch tickets. As long as I’ve known her she’s been in and out of Gamblers Anonymous. “It is bad, bad, bad,” she said. “I’ve got two days. I had four months. I work three jobs a week then I scratch all my money away.”

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The Mass. Lottery produced nearly $2 billion in net profit last fiscal year. To hit back at sports betting it introduced a $50 instant scratch ticket. The odds of winning $1,000 are 832-to-1, but odds be damned people keep scratching and the house keeps winning.

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Amherst native Ryan Leonard went into Friday night’s Boston College hockey game at UMass with 18 goals and 20 assists in 27 games.

“Just hoping Leonard doesn’t light us up when we play them but that’s his makeup,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said in an email. “He rises to the occasion.”

Leonard leads the Eagles with 16 penalties, screams at opposing goalies, blows kisses to hostile crowds and crushes opponents into the boards. He’s hell on skates.

Mike McMahon of the College Hockey News noted that Leonard took two unsportsmanlike penalties in back-to-back games last month. “It tells you he’s starting to get a reputation with the officials,” said McMahon.

Bernardston’s Doug Weiss saw Leonard’s behavior on and off the ice at the World Juniors in Sweden. “I like him,” said Weiss. “He’s a kid like the Tkachuk brothers, Brady and Matt, great guys off the ice and kick your a**ss on it.”

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Nobody gave the UMass basketball team much of a chance against A-10 leader Richmond on Wednesday but they out-muscled them, out-rebounded them and finally hit their free throws (21 of 24), to hand the Spiders their first home loss of the season. 

“This is not a team you’d want to play in the A-10 tournament,” said Bob Black, the voice of the Spiders.

The last time anyone said that was 10 years ago under Derek Kellogg. Moments after the 69-59 win, Massachusetts Collective boss Pat MacWilliams texted from Saratoga, “Sleeping giant. Whiskey’s flowing at Solevo’s. Cheers.”

Cheers indeed.

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Steve Asmussen’s front-running colt Track Phantom is the 7-2 morning line favorite to win his fourth race in six starts under Joel Rosario in tonight’s Gr. II Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. Chad Brown’s dark bay closer Sierra Leone is 4-1, and Catching Freedom saddled by Brad Cox and ridden by Luis Saez is 5-1. Honor Marie under Rafael Bejarano and Hall of Fame with Ricardo Santana in the irons are both 6-1.

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SQUIBBERS:  Former UMass guard RJ Luis had a team high 16 points and 14 rebounds for St. John’s in the Red Storm’s three-point loss at Providence on Tuesday night. … Not giving the ball to Christian McCaffrey on third-and-four at the Chiefs’ 35 with under two minutes left was like not handing off to Marshawn Lynch near the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX. … Boston starters Lucas Giolito, Garrett Whitlock, Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford and Nick Pivetta were a combined 41-48 last season, shades of Reggie Cleveland in the 1970s. … Seats for the second session of the Sweet 16 at TD Garden on March 30 are listed for between $300 and $1,600 on StubHub. … Legion boss Billy Phelps remembers watching Harvey Kuenn and Al Kaline hit home runs against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in 1957, and Ted Williams hit one halfway up the bleachers against the Tigers in 1958. … A Red Sox insider says John Henry is slashing payroll across the board. It’s gonna get ugly on Lansdowne Street. … Broadcaster Mike Valenti gave Boomer Esiason the business when he saw him wearing a blue double breasted pinstripe suit. “You looked like you should’ve been fiddling with a light bulb during the Feast of San Gennaro,” said Valenti, a reference to Godfather II. … There was a time when DePaul made the NCAA tournament in 14 of 17 seasons under Ray Meyer and son Joey. The Demons are 3-21 this year and have gone through four coaches in five years. … The Rangers are trying to land veteran netminder Jacob Markstrom from the Flames for their Stanley Cup run. … Happy 61st, Michael Jordan. … The Minnesota Gophers’ 25-year-old goalie Justin Close recorded his 12th and 13th career shutouts in back-to-back games against Penn State last week. … Xander Bogaerts’ batting average dropped from .307 his last year in Boston to .285 in ’23, but his 665 plate appearances, 19 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 21 tries were more than in his last year in Boston. … Meanwhile Xander’s replacement Trevor Story had six hits in his last six games to creep back over the Mendoza Line. “When you’re in a slump,” said former big leaguer Vance Law, “it’s almost as if you look out at the field and it’s one big glove.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at chipjet715@icloud.com