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While many of their moonlighting colleagues are betting on legal thrillers, lawyer/authors Mark Multerer and Rudy Stegemoeller are betting on gambling. And why not, they figure, since the practice of law these days is something of a crap shoot anyhow, what with unpredictable juries and judges. Multerer and Stegemoeller recently parlayed their passion for gambling into what they call a “strange brew of fact, fantasy, useful information and farcical humor,” and their publisher, Gollehon Books of Michigan, calls “How to Win a Million.” The timing of their new book, which sells for $12.99 and was released just as gambling seems to be a major legal and political issue in New York, was nothing more than luck. Just last week, Albany Supreme Court Justice Joseph C. Teresi issued a decision in Dalton v. Pataki, 719-02, that could result in a handful of new casinos in New York. And last month, the Court of Appeals held in Saratoga County v. Pataki and Wright v. Pataki, 42, that Governor George E. Pataki cannot enter into Indian gaming compacts without legislative approval. Next month, the Government Law Center at Albany Law School is sponsoring the Saratoga Institute on Racing and Wagering Law, a continuing legal education program. Meanwhile, the New York Racing Association is under investigation by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and federal authorities. But the authors of “How to Win a Million” do not engage in the sort of high-brow analysis that consumed Justice Teresi and the Court of Appeals, nor do they take it as seriously as Spitzer as he pursues possible corruption throughout the racing association. They are in it strictly for fun. “Gambling at this point in my relatively staid, wholesome family life represents a real outlet for the id,” Stegemoeller said while vacuuming the carpet in his rural Rensselaer County home and attempting with dubious success to contain the chaos of his two young children. “If you have to let your id run wild, gambling is as good a way to do it as any.” Stegemoeller, an energy and environmental lawyer who now runs a consulting business out of his Poestenkill, N.Y., house — precisely 129.7 miles from the nearest casino, by the way — got the gambling bug early and never lost it. These days, his gambling money comes mainly from pocket change savings and a separate account maintained just for betting. Wagering with family finances, Stegemoeller said, is just too risky. “I was 5 years old when my brothers made me play poker and took me for my entire net worth, five cents,” recalled Stegemoeller, a former “Jeopardy!” champion married to a law professor. “My mom made them give it back, which was probably a mistake since it created this misperception in my mind that I’d always get my money back.” Multerer was a relative latecomer to betting. A native of Buffalo and product of the Christian Brothers at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, Multerer went to Columbia University and eventually became a public defender in Brooklyn. His walk on the wild side led him to Atlantic City. “If I am talking to my client about their chances at trial, inevitably it comes down to a discussion of the odds,” said Multerer, now a personal injury lawyer with Cellino and Barnes in Buffalo. “I’ll handicap their chances and tell them they have a 50-50 chance, or that they are a long shot. That’s particularly true with the jury system.” EXPERT OPINIONS The authors, whose wives are cousins, conjured up the book during drives to Atlantic City. They decided to share their empirical knowledge to help the uninitiated differentiate between dumb and dumber bets. Stegemoeller claims he is ahead, at least in recent years; Multerer, a long-suffering but faithful Buffalo Bills fan, concedes that he is not even close. They say casino blackjack and craps offer decent odds, about 50-50, if played conservatively. Slot machines are dicey, depending on the regulatory structure, but offer the best chance for a really big pay-off. Horses are trouble, largely because the percentage of the purse that comes back to the bettor is small, but also because big, dumb animals are rather unreliable. But for really dumb bets, the state lottery takes the cake, according to Multerer and Stegemoeller. “Lotteries in this country … remain little more than state-run thievery,” they say in the book. “If your state lottery were run by a private corporation, your Attorney General would have shut it down a long time ago.” In New York, for instance, 60 cents of every dollar wagered goes to the state. With the right slot machine, the payoff can reach 90 percent. The lottery, the authors suggest, is for suckers, at least if the purpose is to make money. POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS Odds aside, the authors acknowledge that gambling is potentially disastrous and devote an entire chapter to family values. “Let’s face it,” they said in the book. “Gambling and marriage make a lousy combination. As a gambler, what you crave is to be an irresponsible idiot — to risk a week’s pay on the flip of a card or the spin of a wheel — to throw aside all conventional values and indulge yourself in an orgy of pure greed. These are not exactly the type of things you promised to do when you made your wedding vows.” But the authors say that when the ultimate aim is entertainment rather than income, the danger is minimal. “People who don’t gamble tend to assume that it is all about money,” Stegemoeller said. “People who do gamble know there is an excitement, an action. If it is about money, there are lots of smarter ways to get money.” Multerer views his gambling expenses the same way he views other entertainment expenses, observing that going out to dinner with his wife, while enjoyable and fun, is not profitable. He looks similarly at gambling. “I think it is a legitimate form of entertainment if you make sure to keep it under control,” he said.

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