In my first term at prep school, I was introduced to vingt-et-un. It was the most important and interesting game I had ever discovered, and withiin three weeks I owed an older boy something in the region of 89,000,000 royal mints. The royal mint was the figure we used for ‘all the money in England’ to our eyes all the money in the world.
Portions of this debt were paid off in sherbet fountains from the tuck shop for the rest of the term; I’d still be paying off other portions if the racket hadn’t come to the attention of the authorities, who decreed a general amnesty on gambling debts. I have never since gambled for more than I can afford to lose; but I still feel the occasional vertiginous tug from the abyss.
But some things are just too obvious to be tempting. Out of one of the newspapers last week fluttered a brochure from IG Index, offering the chance to make live spread bets from a mobile phone. To bet with credit cards on the internet must be the smoothest form of damnation known to man. Anyone who has ever been drunk in charge of a modem will feel a rush of gratitude that this happened without being online to a bookie. But to do so from a mobile, with the chance of the signal dropping at some crucial moment … well, it would at least be interesting.