Banning cards in high school

One of the questions I often get is, “What are the effects of the popularity of poker on teenagers?” I think that if you think about it for a second, that’s a really stupid question. First of all, it assumes that someone could measure exposure of teenagers to poker like it was a caustic substance or something. Second, what do you think the effects would be? They’re playing more, and some are richer, others poorer. People think that I sit at the nexus of a vast information network, in which gambling behavior throughout the world is automatically monitored and analyzed. That is not the case.

So I’m always on the lookout for stories about teenagers gambling, if only to have something to say. A story from New Trier High School is, I guess, typical: no one knows exactly how much kids are gambling, so the reaction is to just ban it:

From the Pioneer Press:

Students at New Trier High School’s Winnetka Campus will no longer be able to play poker or any other card games at school after an upswing in gambling prompted a policy change.

Winnetka Campus Principal Debbie Stacey said in recent years, card playing had been allowed, but was limited to the student lounge and on the condition that nobody was keeping score. Until recently, most students seemed to stick to the spirit and letter of that policy, Stacey said.

“Last year, in the spring of the year, the Northfield campus decided that they were no longer going to allow cards on their campus and they banned card playing of any kind,” Stacey said. “We talked about it at the Winnetka campus but at that time the adviser chairs and the deans were saying that there really didn’t appear to be situations that were causing us to move to banning cards completely.”

That changed by early October, when it appeared that more students were taking up games such as Texas Hold’ em, and seeking to make it more interesting. Though they were not necessarily exchanging money in sight of school officials, it became clear that they were finding ways to track the game and settle up later, Stacey said.

Rather than trying to separate the innocent games from the more frequent gambling, the school decided to head it off by banning cards, a move that had been made in past years. The popularity of card games and gambling has risen and fallen over the years, and now appears to be on the rise in schools as it is in popular culture.

“Instead of just addressing an isolated situation here and there, it had grown into a situation where they were seeing multiple kids and there’s just no way we were going to turn our heads and ignore it,” Stacey said.

Gambling concern leads to card ban

Seriously, did they think that the kids were just playing for fun?

Here’s an idea: instead of having kids run around selling cookies and candy to raise money for school programs, why not allow kids to gamble but take a 10% rake off the pot to go towards the school? You could fund all manner of activities without making kids shill candy.

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