University should allow games of chance

Repent, ye students of UCSD, for there is a lecherous snake in your midst! Yes sir, the evils of gambling and other “games of chance” have a strong following at UCSD, so repent before ye are cast into the pit of debt and destitution caused by this reckless and rampant mob activity! What’s that you say? The “gambling” that the university banned in spring 2004 was not reckless, nor rampant, nor tied to the mob, nor involved in a single case of student destitution, but instead was the college-age equivalent of students frittering pocket change at the whack-a-mole at Chuck E. Cheese.

Graphic by Riley Pearce

Well that may be, but try telling that to Director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs Nicholas S. Aguilar, who suddenly decided earlier this year to apply a stringent ban on any UCSD event where an item of value is exchanged for the chance to win another item of value.

From a strictly moral and/or legal perspective, this decision makes a slight amount of sense. After all, UCSD students have enough money woes from exponential rises in textbook costs and student fees; why add to the burden by allowing them to be suckered out of any more money through games of chance? This position will win you points on a legal brief, but in the real world it reeks of hypocrisy of the highest order. Currently, UCSD students can waste plenty of money legally by driving 20 minutes to Pechanga Casino, or even as close as the corner drug store to waste a dollar on a lottery ticket for a game several hundred thousand times harder than guessing somebody’s P.I.N. number. Even on the UCSD campus, students are free to engage in a game of chance with their life by consuming the prepackaged food items in the refrigerator at Plaza Cafe.

Of course, these are only the unquestionably legal games of chance available to UCSD students, and plenty of other gray area activities exist, including but not limited to football pools, home poker tournaments and that simmering vat of sin known as Internet gambling. So much for effective deterrence against gambling at UCSD.

Yet despite successfully preventing rampant UCSD student gambling, the spring ban on games of chance is a surprisingly effective deterrent against student participation at UCSD. One has to realize that these now-banned raffles and bingo games are not profit-making enterprises, but harmless fundraisers to help underfunded student groups get UCSD students off their collective asses and prevent the university from cultivating mass social retardation. Games of chance offer one of the few remaining draws for UCSD students to stay involved at school. After all, what reasons do students actually have to stay on campus and go to these silly events? Social interaction? Sorry, Board Club parties and other events frequented by San Diego State students hold the monopoly there. Legal consumption of alcohol? Sorry, not allowed, better run downtown to a club or take your fake ID to Sav-on and drink alone in your dorm room.

Despite the implications for UCSD’s rapidly diminishing social scene, the games of chance ban could be justified if it could be used to break up something heinous like a slot machine ring or bimonthly blood-for-money tournament. Yet is the ban in response to any such widespread evil? As much fun as it would be to see a sword-fighting tournament, it seems as if the actions of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs have no effect other than to administratively bitch-slap John Muir College Residential Life’s practice of holding two annual raffles and an annual bingo tournament. (To be fair, the bingo tournament is still permitted by the ban on games of chance if Muir ResLife is successfully granted a permit by the City of San Diego).

We’re talking about a charity raffle here, folks. A raffle that is used to raise money so the same kids who attend the silly raffle can attend other such silly events. Such a charity raffle is a much more effective fundraiser and attendance booster than charging admission, so why not let Muir ResLife have its fun?

Now, before this author is deluged with a collection of complaints stating that Muir is an evil organization for breaking state law and that Student Policies and Judicial Affairs is a saint for enforcing state law, let us be clear on one thing: The current ban is one interpretation of state law, and the previous laissez-faire policy was another equally valid interpretation of state law. As a unit of the state, the University of California essentially chooses its own laws.

Occasionally this can be a good thing, such as the university’s decision to fund the beer-swilling joke paper The Koala, instead of following state policy by refusing to fund the racist publication and arranging a public hanging for all of its members. Yet the university’s choice of laws can also be a detriment to students, like its decision to ban student representation from student hearings. The gambling ban falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, since it takes away a previous privilege UCSD students had, specifically the right to engage in these games of chance.

No matter what the university chooses to do, the point remains: It does have a choice in its interpretation of the law. The state of California chooses to give itself leniency as far as gambling is concerned by sponsoring a state lottery, so it does not take a superhuman stretch of the imagination to see that a unit of the state, the University of California, could easily allow itself to hold simple raffles and bingo to improve student life on campus. In the wake of massive, searing budget cuts that all but remove the few remaining heartstrings of life on this campus, it is the only ethical thing to do.