The National Geographic Channel, also known as NatGeo, is currently running a series of shows titled “Drugs INC.”. Each installment delves into the lives of drug users, dealers, and organized crime bosses in various major USA cities.

Late last night, “Drugs INC.” went to Las Vegas, where drug use is rampant and widely considered part of the mainstream tourist experience. NatGeo looked at people involved in Las Vegas’ drug scene at all levels: homeless veterans begging for drug money, crack manufactures refining cocaine, a dealer who operated on the Vegas Strip itself, and a high-end party promoter who regularly organizes junkets for investment bankers, doctors, and lawyers to experience the must exclusive aspects of Sin City, including illicit drugs. Halfway through the show, NatGeo tailed area law enforcement officials, who face a never ending flow of drug use, dealing, and addiction related problems.

Partway through the hour, the show made an interesting point: most Vegas casinos – including the top brand names on the strip – turn a blind eye to prostitutes and drug dealers serving customers on their gaming floors. In fact, many prostitutes act as proxy drug dealers, selling drugs obtained from dealers directly to Johns, who feel more comfortable asking a sex worker than a random street person for a fix. Though fully legal in much of Nevada, prostitution is considered illegal in Las Vegas. It’s largely a nuisance problem. The police NatGeo followed busting prostitutes usually asked the women (or men) to “move along” and “take your business elsewhere”. Loading up county lockup with prostitutes is a waste of money and time, so police are at a loss for really cracking down on the problem.

We’re actually surprised no major gaming corporations took umbrage with NatGeo’s suggestion that their business is part and parcel with the drug trade, and might even be reliant on the regular circulation of drugs in Las Vegas. One person went as far as to suggest that without drugs, people would not nearly gamble as much, since natural fatigue and their better judgment after a few hours of losing money would send them back to their hotel rooms. With a good dose of crack or meth in their systems, however, a gambling drug user will play for hours (maybe days) on end, until every last cent is lost or their hit wears off. To be fair, these suggestions are largely empirical and not necessarily backed by hard science and extensive studies of Vegas gamblers. Even if such a study was commissioned, the accuracy of any data gathered would be questionable.

That leads us to wonder if online gamblers – particularly those in the act of gambling online – are also high, drunk, or patronizing sex workers. Some online poker websites have players that stay up days at a time to play in tournaments or big cash games. The human body usually needs a rest after 24 hours of constant action, so it follows that some incessant online gamblers either binge on coffee or are high on some form of stimulants. The added privacy of being at home might also encourage prescription drug abuse, which is much easily concealed compared to buying narcotics on the street. Of course, doing drugs in your own living room also means the likelihood of getting caught by law enforcement is much lower, unless you are very careless about acquiring your drugs. Police can’t come to your door without “probable cause”, so short of some other crime happening on your property, they won’t be able to determine whether or not you’re taking pills while playing an online poker game.

Stepping back from the natural controversy of illegal substances, it’s already a well known fact that a free flowing supply of alcohol – even to the stingiest of gamblers – usually means they’re willing to make riskier bets, max out credit cards, or otherwise make poor choices they wouldn’t normally make if sober. If you’re a cheap drunk, head to your nearest casino and sit down at a $5 blackjack table for a couple hours. You’ll be hounded by cocktail waitresses looking to serve you FREE drinks, because once liquored up, your wallet will most certainly become a lot lighter.

If and when online gambling begins to become legal in the USA, it would be interesting for a non-governmental agency to anonymously survey active online gamblers about their use of substances, legal or illegal. One could argue the peer pressure element of being out and about on the Vegas strip inevitably contributes to more people pushing the limits of law. Therefore, it’s possible people gambling behind their computer don’t necessarily feel as “encouraged” to abuse substances because the element of social coercion is gone. Then again, a depressed gambler losing thousands of dollars an hour at home probably wouldn’t give taking a second stimulant medication dosage too soon a second thought.

Gamble responsibly. If you’re getting out of control, it’s time to address your problem, particularly if it includes abuse of other vice elements:

Gamblers Anonymous free support line (USA): 1-888-GA-HELPS (1-888-424-3577)
Narcotics Anonymous free support line (World Services): 1-818-773-9999
Narcotics Anonymous Local Support Lines (Major cities, USA states, Canada) – click here