Gambling's perception shift

Updated: February 24, 2010, 5:12 PM ET
By Chad Millman

Editor's note: If you'd like to meet Chad and ask him questions, he'll be at ESPN The Weekend on Friday in Orlando. He's going on early (10 a.m. ET), so set your alarms accordingly. You can find more info here.

Meet George Jarjour. He's a senior at the University of Washington. He also works 40 hours a week, part-time as a search engine reliance tester for Microsoft -- and part-time for his parents, who own nine As Seen On TV stores throughout Washington state.

About a year ago, George was watching a college hoops game with his roommate. (I know, this all sounds ominous, but it's not, I promise.) His roommate happened to be playing in-game wagering on Sportsbook.com. George has a group of eight guy friends, and they all bet on sports. But George, whose family moved to the U.S. from Syria when he was 2, was slow to pick up the habit. Coming from the Middle East, "gambling wasn't a part of our culture," he says.

That night, however, George's curiosity got the best of him. He logged onto Sportsbook.com and opened an account. "Now I play almost every night," he says. "I usually play the prime-time games, something to look forward to when I am done studying. If I win, I go out for beers; if I lose, I look for games to play the next night."

Each week, George takes half his paycheck and puts it into his sports betting account. He says he is good about money management and has never reloaded after losing his limit for the day. And whether he is or isn't, it doesn't matter. Like I said, this isn't going to be an ominous don't-bet-on-sports tale (or a cheery bet-the-house tale, either). George's story is fairly typical. What struck me is, when I asked him if I could use his name for a column, his response was, "Sure. I don't feel like I'm doing anything wrong."