Friday, February 02, 2007


I've never been much into gambling. I get enough in the way of thrills and excitement simply from walking home at night.

Being a fan of tacky Americana I have, however, visited a fair few US casinos in my time.

All things considered they're a bit grim. Very grim actually.

In spite of the bright lights and up tempo decor there's a whiff of desperation about the people who frequent them.

I remember passing one old woman feeding a slot machine in a riverboat casino on the Mississippi a few years back. She had a large cup of quarters held between her legs and was robotically pumping them into the machine. She
was covered in cigarette ash and food crumbs and looked like she hadn't slept for days. She also smelled vaguely of piss. On the wall in front of her was a flashing illuminated sign. It read 'Fun! Fun! Fun!'.

I wasn't convinced.

Nor am I convinced by the claim that casino complexes are a powerful tool for urban regeneration. Based on what I've seen in the States, what you get when you build a large casino in the middle of a deprived urban shithole is...

... a deprived urban shithole with a large casino in the middle of it

Let's be honest, if huge casino complexes were so fucking great they'd be built in well-off districts and nobody would bother with tossing around pretending how beneficial they are.

I mention all this because, of course, we've just found out which of the many competing British shitholes (and there is a lot of competition) gets to be home to the UK's first super casino

And it wasn't London

Not yet anyway

But there's no doubt we'll get a few sooner or later. After all, even though it was faced with overwhelming public apathy and antipathy, our government was hot to trot with forty of the damned things.

Forty of them...


What's interesting about the casino story from the point of view of someone intrigued by alternative explanations of how the world works is how neatly the rise of gambling in Britain over the last ten years dovetails in with lots of other stuff that has been going on and the concept of the narcostate and narcocapitalism.

The narcocapitalism model/ conspiracy theory is a complement rather than a competitor to the Bankers Control the World!!! theory and it basically argues that much of what passes for foreign and domestic policy is willfully manipulated for the benefit of the drugs trade

... drugs being the third most lucrative globally traded commodity after oil and guns and, by happy coincidence, often found in the same parts of the world as oil and guns, which can make for some pretty triangular-shaped diagrams

I was once one of those people who found this particular model quite difficult to swallow and an apparent affront to common sense. After all, for the narcocapitalism concept to work its backers would have to wield a tremendous amount of transnational influence. They would have to secure -
  • Reliable supplies of raw product
  • Somewhere to process that product
  • Reliable high-volume cross-border transport routes
  • Domestic distribution networks
  • A ready market for their product
  • The means to launder the proceeds
Another component of the narcocapitalism model is the need to have a few local conflicts and a little bit of instability going on. Pyscho-warlords are more reliable and even more morally flexible business partners than elected politicians and they are also willing to pay top narcodollar for any 2nd hand AKs you send back down the route the drugs came from.

Advanced versions of the narcostate model also like to emphasise that, as with gambling, pushing hard drugs onto the urban poor is not only fabulously profitable but also an excellent way of keeping the fuckers down.

Like I said, I used to be sceptical about this way of looking at things. Sure, it kind of went on in SE Asia and Central America but that's the sort of shit US Intelligence agencies got up to, not the British.

But now I'm not so sure. It's not as if there isn't historical precedent for this kind of behaviour by the British. In fact there's an embarrassing abundance. And viewing the drugs business as a perfect example of vertical integration would help to explain a few things...
  • It would explain, for instance, why our government sent only 3,000 under-equipped troops into a region filled with 1,000,000 heavily-armed Pathans whose only source of income is opium and pretended, is still pretending, that those soldiers could help stem the production of opium in the region (Afghan opium production up 50% to 6,000 tonnes last year)

  • It would explain why, off the back of one of the many trumped-up wars of recent years, NATO turned over Kosovo to those drug- and gun-running funsters the KLA

  • It would go some way to explaining why our government basically opened our national front doors to just about every organised crime syndicate under the Sun and has lovingly nurtured 'ghettofication' of so much of our cities

  • It would explain the record levels of heroin imports (and the consequent rise in the number of heroin addicts) in spite of all that extra border security we've supposedly implemented as part of the 'War on Terror'

  • It would also partly explain the phenomenal, and largely unchecked and unregulated, rise of the money-wiring business here in the UK. It's a grand time to be a Western Union shareholder

  • And it would explain the push for all those casinos - very popular, or so I'm told, with drug dealers and money launderers

Yes, it would take a mental leap to believe that all of these developments are the result of joined-up criminal thinking but, in a way, it really doesn't matter if you buy into the conspiracy theory or prefer the more comforting belief that we are governed by a bunch of fuckwits who don't know what they're doing. Whether our narcostate was planned or not, that's what we're getting.



Anonymous said...

The Poet and former diplomat has an interesting essay on Far West (he's also done a poetry version!).

Tony said...

By now, I think that a significant portion of the people working for the state are interested in only their own benefit.

My wild guess (in the "Pull the numbers out of the ass" school of thought):
10 % of state-employees are genuinely interested in the welfare of the public

This is balanced off by:
5 % are genuine crooks
20 % who are mainly interested in their own benefit (reach a better position, do less work)
25 % used to care, but have given up
40 % don't have a clue at all

The higher in the food chain, the more (criminal) energy you need to reach this level, the higher the number of crooks.

Now, introduce some people who have genuine interest in the public welfare (but don't have a clue). Lets say these people want to fight drugs, because they think drugs are bad. So they go ahead and do the wrong things, making drugs expensive. Now there is money to be made in the drugs business, and lots of it. So other people, who have to operate outside of the law end up with lots of money, money they can use to "connect" with the significant number of crooks in the system.

So, by now, I think what we see with regards to the drugs is just the ghost in the machine. It is a system which stabilizes itself. It was a slight imbalance in the system at the beginning, but it has become a large crack (no pun intended) by now.

And once you end up in this machine, there is no way out. Once you have, for example, taken money, there is no way to undo this. Everybody who has made this mistake, will become a part of the machine. No exit. One is open to blackmail. The system stabilizes itself.

I think this is a function of rules we have. To change this, we would need to change the rules of the system. But different rules mean different problems.

Tony said...

And as to the drugs exported from Afghanistan: I think that those responsible for the NATO and US forces there either don't care about this problem or realize that they could not change anything anyway with a total of 58.000 NATA and US troops.

After all, they are there to fight the Al-Qaeda, the head of "international terrorism".

Tony said...

I forgot to say: Nice series covering "The Conspiracy Theories of the World"!

de said...

I think the availability of internet gambling has pretty much bitten off the Casino debate.

The circus of human misery will no doubt decamp to whichever town wins the gig. The government gets the cash - and I'm sure they will put it all on black.

Sophia said...

Casinos, unlike the one we see in the latest James Bond, are depressing. To your knowledge, here in Quebec and in Canada in general, while cities still open Casinos, as part of the 'We bring you economic development' with the blessing of the provincial and federal governments, governmental agencies, or if you wish, public money, are heavily funding psycho-social and biological research on the gambling addiction phenomenon. They are not asking for accountability from researchers into this kind of research as they would ask for other research projects, which means that as long as they can tell the people that they are spending some money to help them, they don't care what will come out of this. This is pure Hypocrisy because we know very well what will come out of this: we will be told that there is a psychobiological problem behind gambling addiction. Well it may be because people who gamble have other mental illnesses most of the time but that does not justify implementing casinos everywhere.

This works the same way as some environmental hazards that would provoke cancer for example in people who have already the gene. Would you put someone with a genetic risk for lung cancer in a smokers environement ? The government is banning cigarettes from public places and it should do the same with casinos, they are environmental hazards for the desperate and the mentally ill.

Stef said...

@anon re. the Poet

Thanks, I hadn't seen that essay - or the poem - I love those little annotations down the side...

Stef said...


"The Conspiracy Theories of the World"!

Hmmm, an interesting idea

There's probably scope for a non-judgemental website along those lines...