Global sweepstakes

It did not take the birth of the World Wide Web for us to establish that the passion for gambling knows no borders. In that particular business, however, globalization is already here as bookmakers based in the UK or Asia take bets from around the globe. What we didn’t know is that Greeks are the keenest of Internet gamblers. They put money in all kinds of wagers and despite their economic problems – or perhaps because of them – they plunk down big sums. When we bet at a racetrack or in a football pool, we do so because we have trust in something («I’ve got a safe bet, from the jockey’s brother in law» or «from the coach’s nephew who goes to the same school as my son»…), so it should not be surprising that we do the same when betting on the name of the next pope. True, it’s hard to get inside information from the cardinals’ conclave inside the Vatican, but you can always know «someone» in Italy who has the necessary contacts. The official papal selection process, as with the nomination of every other religious leader, is a spiritual event that draws divine involvement – or so God’s earthly representatives have it. In truth, it’s a political act through and through in which metaphysics (miracles and divine inspiration) is used to paint a dubious halo on the not-so-spiritual practices. Betting en masse on the name of the next pope – wagers are most likely placed by followers of the Roman Catholic Church too – has an apocalyptic effect, with spirit and lucre blending into one. Notwithstanding traditional rhetoric aimed at defaming material goods, these will always find a way to prevail. Their significance was again reflected in the sea of papal souvenirs, an inevitable offshoot of the adoration of a pope who was deified by the people before he could be officially canonized.

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