Dov Wisebrod's "Pascal's Casinos Under Fire"

Some years back while Google'ing on Pascal's Wager, I came across a parody article on the site, Religion Detox, by Dov Wisebrod. The article "reported" on the Nevada Gaming Commission's investigation of a chain of casinos running a rigged game that promised a sure bet but ended up taking the players to the cleaners. That rigged game is, of course, Pascal's Wager.

A few years ago while updating my own treatment of Pascal's Wager, After-Life Insurance (which recounts a proselytizer using Pascal's Wager as an insurance analogy), I wanted to provide a link to Wisebrod's article. Unfortunately, I couldn't because the site had disappeared. I have no idea what its fate was.

But then while sorting through old papers a few nights ago, I found my printout of the article. So I transcribed it and created this web page to share it with others. I hope you enjoy it.

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Pascal's Casinos Under Fire

Las Vegas, NV -- Amid growing suspicion that Pascal's wager is "just a major con job," the Nevada Gaming Commission is spearheading American efforts to regulate the Pascal's franchise of casinos.

The existing legal system of licenses and restrictions now covers all other gambling establishments, but Pascal's casinos have been exempted due to an old bureaucratic blunder that misclassified Blaise Pascal's first venture as a "house of worship."

"It was an honest mistake," said Bill Curran, Chairman of the Commission. "350 years ago, it was generally accepted that what people did at Pascal's was a religious ritual. Nobody gave it a second thought until recently, when we realized it's serious wagering."

"Safe Bet" Ruins Lives

In the Seventeenth Century, Pascal invented a wager that intertwined philosophy, religion, and gambling, and he opened a casino in which his new game was exclusively played. In time, Pascal's wager proved so popular that franchises sprouted in virtually every neighborhood around the world.

Basic gameplay follows the original recipe. The dealer asks, "God is, or He is not. What will you wager?" The players then bet on one of the two possibilities. If you bet that God exists and win, you win everything; if you lose, you lose nothing. If you bet that God doesn't exist and win, you win nothing; if you lose, you lose everything.

For obvious reasons, most players choose to bet that God exists, but that's only the beginning. They are given a complex regimen of "do-s" and "don't-s" to follow throughout their lives -- if they don't, they can't win. Some players come to regret their bet.

"If you lose, you lose a helluva lot more than nothing," said Jerrold Alwell, who is kicking a weekly gambling habit with the help of detox therapy. "They tell you it's a safe bet, but they make you sign your life away. I almost lost my mind to those liars at Pascal's."

"And they don't tell you that only one casino will have winners," added Angela de la Reese, also a recovering addict. "Players at all others will go to the winning casino's hell." Because each casino's regimen prohibits play at any other, players can't hedge their bets by playing more than one. Detox therapists call this the "avoiding the wrong hell" problem.

Government Intervention Expected

These dishonest tactics have led to suspicion that Pascal's wager is entirely fraudulent. Indeed, an extensive search failed to locate even one player who had won or lost the wager, leading many to conclude that there is nothing to be won or lost -- no matter which bet is made.

"Even when the mob ran Vegas, people won," said Curran. "Clearly, Pascal's is just a major con job. We have the authority to act, and we must."

The Commission is entrusted with enforcing Nevada public policy, which is to ensure "public confidence and trust that gaming is conducted honestly and competitively, that the rights of the creditors of licensees are protected and that gaming is free from criminal and corruptive elements."

In its defense, Pascal's CEO John Paul, Jr. said the organization is prepared to aggressively assert its First Amendment rights. They will argue that any government interference in its affairs would be an unconstitutional violation of the separation between church and state.

"Besides," said a smirking Paul, "Even if we lose, we could always transform Pascal's into an offshore gambling operation that people can play on the Internet."

Curran grudgingly admitted that domestic regulation is "an imperfect solution" and that educating the public is essential. "The only guaranteed way to protect yourself from these gangsters -- the only truly safe bet -- is to bet against God."

Originally posted on Religion Detox
Copyright 1997-2000 by Dov Wisebrod

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First uploaded on 2019 April 24.