Casinos Make More Sense than the Stock Market

According to a New York Times article on the day before Christmas, one of the world’s biggest bond traders, Cantor Fitzgerald, now owns Nevada’s biggest legal bookie for sports bets. People who enjoy the occasional trip to Las Vegas should be very worried. Of course, some have described the past few decades of capitalism as the “casino economy,” but for my money that’s an insult to gaming houses.

I mean a casino has a hell of a lot more clarity than the stock market. Take Blackjack, for example. I bet $100 and I get back $200 if my cards are closer to 21 than the dealer’s, or I get $250 if I turn over an ace and a face card. Every time the cards are dealt, either I win or the casino wins or a push. Nice and clear.

But on the stock market I bet a thousand dollars in shares of Plunder Mining Corp. and what happens? The price goes up or down, but why? How many of us really understand how the stock market works? Sure, we nod in agreement when the analyst comes on the six o’clock news and says, “Bond prices rose six basis points and the Dow dropped 43 points today on news the November employment figures were higher than expected.”

The truth is I understand that like I understand how an 184,000-kilogram Boeing 747 with 524 people and my Aunt Jenny’s bottomless suitcase on board can leave Hong Kong and appear in Vancouver about the same time it left.

A bull market, they say. A miracle, they called it back when JC did the same with loaves and fishes.

A Ponzi scheme is when people who buy in first get paid their big returns by the people who come in later and it eventually crumbles. Or is that the stock market?

Derivatives? Say what? My cousins from New Jersey?

We’re told what they do on Wall Street or the City or Bay Street is part of the real economy and what they do on the Strip is gambling. Seems to me, real gambling is when you don’t understand what is going on. Think about it: If I bet my pension on whether or not the little ball is going to fall in a red slot or a black slot, at least I can see what happens. If I hand it over to a mutual fund, I don’t have a clue.

If I put my hundred on the table, the least they can do is show me the cards to prove whether I won or lost. On a Las Vegas craps table I can see the pit boss check the dice and cameras watching all the action to prevent cheating.

On Wall Street? No pit boss, no cameras, not even some guys named Guido and Tony to take a cheater out in the alley. Two years after a company steals $10 billion, the government starts a court case that lasts another 14 years with appeals and five rich guys end up spending a few months in jail and losing their trading privileges.

I’m with Conrad Black in finding the rules of the system extremely confusing. Or like those poor guys from companies like Enron and Adelphia who were charged with fraud and corporate wrongdoing. For years they were fudging numbers, putting the interests of themselves ahead of others and driving down workers’ wages and it got them stinking rich. Stories were written and people marveled about their big houses and their wild, lavish parties.

Then one day the music stops playing, a few people can’t find chairs and what happens? Instead of being heroes they’re called criminals.

I mean, looking after No. 1, screwing small investors, screwing workers, isn’t that what capitalism is all about?

It’s so unfair. They pick on the poor guys who steal hundreds of millions, but what do they do about the bankers and bond dealers who grabbed hundreds of billions? Bail them out. Crank up the government printing presses and holler, “load ‘em up and let’s do it all over again.”

Keep your Wall Street, the City and Bay Street; I’ll gamble elsewhere. At least at a Vegas casino the same rules apply to everyone. At least they did before the bond dealers got involved.

Ernie Peshkov-Chow is the author of Great Multicultural North - A Canadian Primer for Hosers, Immigrants and Socialists, recently released by Fernwood Publishing. Peshkov-Chow is a left-wing, hockey-loving, mongrel-Canadian, working-class activist in the tradition of Ginger Goodwin or Joe Hill, who sometimes takes over the mind and body of longtime Canadian journalist Gary Engler. Read other articles by Ernesto.

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  1. Don Hawkins said on January 5th, 2011 at 10:45am #

    One point the amount of money going in so as a few can make millions is large and after the millions for the few the rest somewhat destroyed the labor of millions. That’s not in Atlas Shrugged. Place your bet’s the field that’s where the farmer made his money; after paying the few for nothing.