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Navigating the Intersection of Hobbies, Habits, and Addiction: The Complexities of Card Collecting and Gambling

Is the hobby merely a habit? Should there be a Card Collectors Anonymous? Personally, I have a love for gambling, especially in Las Vegas where I frequent with my husband multiple times a year. Roulette is my vice; I always believe I can turn it around, and sometimes I do. Three is my lucky number, and after enough plays, it inevitably hits. However, I know my limits. I set boundaries. When I go to Vegas, I bring a specific amount of disposable income that I've saved or set aside for this purpose, typically a couple of hundred dollars for an entire night. If I play my cards right, pun intended, I might even get a few free drinks from the staff, which isn't much different from going to a club, buying drinks, dancing, and paying a cover charge. It's money designated for an activity I enjoy. I don't expect to leave with what I came with; the house always wins.


But who is the house when it comes to the hobby of collecting cards? Is it the breakers, the card companies, or Fanatics? The comparison to sportsbooks and card collecting is strikingly evident. You don't need to look too hard to see the parallels. Breaking is akin to gambling, as is ripping wax. You're essentially betting that the money you spend will pay off with a big hit. However, the odds are rarely in your favor, and they seem to be worsening. I don't subscribe to conspiracy theories about loaded boxes, but it's undeniable that the only sure winners from ripping wax are the card companies and the breakers.


So, what's the solution? Do I advocate for banning breaking? No. I firmly believe people have the right to spend their money as they please. However, we owe it to ourselves and our community to recognize when our friends have a problem. And it is indeed a problem. I have a close friend who admitted to struggling with a gambling addiction, yet he was also an avid card collector. Before he gave up traditional gambling, collecting was merely a hobby. He didn't go overboard, nor did he purchase cards of players he didn't collect. But once he stopped traditional gambling, it was as though a floodgate had opened. He started buying into every break he could find and waiting overnight at stores for restocks. He plunged into just as much debt as he had during the peak of his gambling addiction because, in reality, he was still addicted. He simply swapped scratchers and slot machines for breaks and ripping wax. He justified it all because, at the end of his spending, he had a tangible, albeit often worthless, item. I had thought things had improved since the card market corrected itself, but recent events have made me question that belief.


What triggered this reflection was a recent encounter. Someone contacted me, having found Reckless Cards online, claiming to have about $1500 worth of cards to sell and expressing desperation. Upon seeing the cards, it became evident that they were worth no more than $40. He didn't know how to properly assess their value, and even if he did, they were still not something I would buy. He was stranded far from home with no money for the return trip. He was adamant that I was mistaken and refused to listen, so I suggested he try his luck at a few card shops. What's worse is that he had purchased those boxes while driving because he was convinced he would hit it big. He spent his last $150 dollars on retail boxes still sitting on shelves at Walmart, hoping for a score.


So, what can we do? How do we prevent situations like these? No one wants to address it, but regulations in this space, particularly regarding breaking, are necessary. We need to be able to recognize when our friends have a problem, and breakers need to acknowledge it in their clients. I understand this is an unpopular opinion, but just as we cut off over-served individuals at the bar, we should do the same in the card- collecting community. The hobby is veiled behind a family-friendly facade, but it's starting to crack. When a hobby causes harm, it ceases to be merely a hobby.


We all need to be the change we want to see in this space. Compulsive gambling is indeed more common in younger and middle-aged individuals. Starting gambling activities during childhood or the teenage years significantly increases the risk of developing compulsive gambling behavior. However, it's essential to recognize that compulsive gambling can also affect older adults. As such, the issue of addiction within the hobby community becomes even more pressing when we consider that many individuals start collecting cards from a young age. It underscores the importance of promoting responsible practices and fostering awareness of addictive behaviors across all age groups within the hobby community. The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that approximately 5 million Americans meet the criteria for compulsive gambling. However, only around 8 percent of these individuals will ever seek help for their problem. Gambling addiction is highly treatable, with a 50-70% recovery rate, once identified. The challenge lies in recognizing when the hobby itself becomes the problem.


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