MTV and several major media sources recently ran a story about a Lehigh University college student who robbed a bank. Some bizarre facts surround the story, especially when you consider that the Lehigh University sophomore class president and his lawyer are blaming online poker as the reason why he committed the crime. Local and national media have jumped all over this story, but what many people don't realize is that there is a lot more at stake here than just one kid's future.
The first part of this story takes place last week when the 19-year-old walked into a Wachovia bank in east Allentown, Pa., and told the teller he had a gun. Greg Hogan then left the bank with $2,871 and a noose around his neck.
It didn't take long for police to catch up with this bright Lehigh student because he failed to realize that someone might write down the license plate of the sports utility vehicle that one of his fraternity brothers was driving. According to Hogan, neither of his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers knew about the robbery because he told them he was going to cash a check and when he walked out of the bank, he did so in a normal fashion.
Apparently, Hogan fooled a lot of people . "There are some students here that you just wouldn't be surprised to see arrested. But Greg wasn't one of them. Greg's just a friendly energetic guy. You would have trouble finding anyone who didn't like him," said Pat Thornton, one of Hogan's fraternity brothers in a recent article in The Morning Call.
The fact that a Lehigh student would consider robbing a bank is bizarre in and of itself. I should know. I went there for several semesters (although I graduated from another school). During my time on campus, there was plenty of money to be found as the school's $31,181 (in tuition alone for 2005-06) yearly fee tends to bring in wealthy students from New York, Pennsylvania, and surrounding states.
Hogan was one of these kids. After attending a $19,000-a-year private high school in Ohio, paid for by his Baptist minister father, Hogan chose Lehigh and was leading a hectic life playing second chair cello, working part-time in the chaplain's office, and serving as class president.
This is where the story takes another twist. This future leader of modern society somehow managed to find time play a good deal of poker. This isn't uncommon on the campus as plenty of students at Lehigh enjoy getting some action on cold winter days.
What is uncommon is that somehow, Hogan went far above his bankroll and lost roughly $5,000 playing online poker. This is the only information being disclosed about the case. There has been no naming of the online sites or how he managed to fall $5,000 in debt, which is quite the trick considering that unless a player is using a credit card, it is virtually impossible to play without paying for chips via Neteller or a personal bank account. This means that he had to have gotten the money from somewhere.
This is the part where the story takes another twist. What many people outside of the Lehigh Valley (an hour from Philly and an hour and forty-five minutes from the Big Apple) don't know is that there is a major battle being fought over the introduction of a major gaming venue into the area. Although a proposed casino is set to be "slots-only" , any publicity about gambling is a hot topic and commands front-page space in the local newspapers. Events like the Hogan arrest draw negative attention to the gaming industry, especially poker.
Today's media jumps all over stories involving poker because it is one of the hottest phenomena at the moment. Several newspapers put the Hogan affair on the front page, but in typical newspaper fashion didn't flesh out the bizarre circumstances surrounding his terrible decision or the political battle that is enveloping the area in which he goes to school.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't have sympathy for Hogan. He definitely needs counseling for more than just a possible poker addiction. What I am saying is that this is the case of a young, wealthy student who had all of the opportunities his parents could provide and he messed up. It happens. What I don't have sympathy for is the fact that he is blaming his problem on online poker and that thanks to the media coverage people are all-to-eager to blame his sad situation on poker.
What Hogan did was serious and he faces 20 years in prison on bank robbery charges. Whether his defense that he has a gambling addiction will work is certainly going to be put to the test and you can bank on plenty of media coverage of the trial.
Just keep this in mind when considering the facts. This isn't some poor kid who had nothing and robbed a bank to feed his family. This is a bright, wealthy, student who is blaming his problems on his irresponsibility, which is something that many of us who went to college probably majored in.
Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't help to rehabilitate Hogan or people who have gambling, drug, or alcohol problems, but when it comes to the demonizing a whole industry because of one person's actions, I can't help but think that there is something seriously wrong.