Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Gambling Bug

So there I was standing at a urinal, answering a call of nature when I spotted a voluptuous girl lying across a table. Now before you run off screaming about toilets and weirdness, don’t worry; this is not a disgusting tale.

On the contrary, I am about to tell you my thoughts about gambling.

I was in a toilet in a pub in Manchester, and on the wall directly in front of me was a picture of the young lady in question. She was holding a chip in her hand and the table in question was a roulette table.

I was staring at an advert offering me the chance to throw away my money in an online casino and it got me thinking (a very dangerous thing).

The whole world seems to have gone gambling mad.

I’ve been to Las Vegas, arguably the most famous gambling centres in the world, and I was astounded by how much money that was changing hands. On the first night, I had decided on a small amount to gamble every single day.

If I lost it then I would stop.

If I won, I would stop.

And in both cases I did just that.

Overall, in the week I was there, I lost a relatively small amount of money. Mrs PM had more luck and actually came out on top.

What amazed me about the experience was that it took all of ten minutes to lose the paltry sum of money I had decided to risk. I watched numerous people in many casinos in Vegas who were there for hours.

Either they were very rich or where being constantly savaged by the Gambling Bug.

I watched one man at the roulette wheel lose a ridiculous amount of money. Sure, he won some of it back but, unless he had bottomless pit of money, I calculated that he would hand over a vast wad of cash to the casino owners.

It would have been easier to hand it over to me; I would have taken in a show, had a lovely meal and still been able to return 75% of the amount of money I watched him discard to the croupier.

Because I was jet-lagged, I found myself wide awake at 4am. I decided to take a stroll around the famous Strip but as I left the hotel, I saw people still there hurling large chunks of cash into oblivion in the name of fun even at that ridiculous hour.

Why? Why throw money away?

As part of my degree, I studied probability and statistics and I know for a fact that the odds are in favour of the casino in every single game you play.


The laws of probability say you cannot win.

Okay, granted, when you play as a one off and somehow manage to turn £20 into £250, you can argue that you won. The problem is that if you go back or decide to gamble the £250, you will almost certainly lose the entire lot – eventually.

When I watch James Bond movies and see the suave and sophisticated secret agent walking away from the roulette table having won thousands of pounds with the words “cash that for me” I feel an urge to laugh out loud – or rant at the absurdity of it.

In Las Vegas, there are tiny signs dotted around the casino warning customers about the dangers of gambling – but this, to me, is just a tick in a box to say “We have morality and have warned you” but really they don’t care.

If you lose £100,000 to a casino – you have lost it. They won’t feel sorry for you and hand it back because you could lose your house as a result.

They are in it to win it.

And things are getting worse. There are web sites and applications that allow you to gamble away your money on the go. All you have to do is log in, hand over some cash, play a game and lose your money.

You can do it on your bloody phone.

Even good old fashioned betting has gone mad. For example, you can bet your money in the middle of a football game. At half time, you see adverts such as this:

You can lose your money while you are at the bloody match. Do they really think Ray Winstone is doing them a favour?

Why don’t people just draw money out of the bank and set fire to it? At least you would see the notes and they would probably last longer.

As you have probably worked out, I just do not get it. While gambling and betting might be fun once in a while, as long as tiny amounts of cash are involved you could argue it is a good way to relax. However, for some people it is a nightmare. The people I am talking about are those who argue that:

“I have a system that guarantees a win”.

“I am so good at playing roulette that I will win all of my money back”.

Whenever I am tempted to gamble, I am lead by common sense. On a recent night out to a dog racing circuit in Manchester, I stuck to my limits. I decided that I would gamble £2 per race all night. Hardly breaking the bank is it?

I had no clue who or what to bet on so I acted on instinct and gut feeling (or blind luck if the truth be known).

I won £20 on the first three races and then lost £2 on each of the remaining races of the night. I ended up in credit because I didn’t blow all of my winnings.

I was lucky. There was no skill involved. My winnings paid for a celebratory beer and I went home happy.

That’s how to gamble, if you feel the need to do so.

The problem is that people think their luck is skill. It isn’t. It’s just like Deal Or No Deal where the contestants think that they can influence the amount of money in the box just by thinking positively.

Just watch how everyone cheers when the poor old lady turns down £88,000, gambling that she might win £250,000. Yes – they love a gambler, don’t they?

That is until she throws it away and wins just a penny.

At least in this case she didn’t pay any of her own money; she came out on top (albeit by just a penny).

All this goes to prove is that Deal Or No Deal and gambling in general is just pure luck and the odds are against you.

I’ll leave you with a cartoon that leads me to believe that some people are infected by The Gambling Bug.

I know I’m not.

Are you infected by the Gambling Bug, dear reader?

Or are you sensible, like me?

Or do you just hate gambling?


Elephant's Child said...

The gambling bug hasn't bitten me. I don't buy lottery tickets (another form of gambling) don't bet on sports and am happy that way. And the poker machines strike me as a very boring way to throw money away.
I throw enough money in the direction of my other obsessions - I don't need another.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

I sometimes buy a lottery ticket. I've only ever won about £20 though - sadly!




River said...

I'm very glad to say I do not have the gambling bug. I do buy lotto tickets, but that tiny amount is factored into my weekly grocery budget and I buy the groceries first, if there isn't enough cash left over for a ticket, then I don't get one. Unless there is a mega-draw on, then I'll make sure to get a ticket. Can't pass up a chance at $20m can I?
Like you, I'm appalled at the gambling advertising taking over everything, even young children are now becoming addicted to sports gambling and who know where that will lead them?
It's got me wondering though, when everyone has lost everything, where will the governments get their taxes from?

Jackie K said...

Not me either. Though I get to hedge my bets with lotteries because my husband buys the tickets! My dad and his family all bet, and all of them always understate their losses and believe they more or less come out "even". They don't.
I vividly remember seeing people mindlessly feed coins into slot machines in Las Vegas and that was from what little I could see as a kid.
Casinos wouldn't exist if you could win.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

$20 million dollars would do me too. I would happily take that - but not spend a fortune to get it.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

That's exactly true - casinos definitely WOULD NOT exist if more people won than not.




jeremy north said...

Definitely not for me either PM. It is , as they say, a mugs game, which is why I'd be amazed if any followers of your erudite blog would fall into the trap.

For me it is a form of greed. Sadly there are a lot of people who view it as a way out of poverty and they of all people can least afford it. There are a lot who have a real addiction to gambling. There are many footballers etc who have blown their massive fortunes on it.

Like you I am staggered that advertising is allowed for such a business which is immoral. Ray fricking Winstone says it all with his east end cheeky cockney thing. Why not just resurrect Ronnie or Reggie and get them to do it.
One of my suggestions for your blog a while ago for oxymorons was 'gamble responsibly'. How can they put that at the end of an advert? There should be a government warning along the same lines as for tobacco.
Why are horse races televised? Why not just have people setting fire to wads of cash instead? Far more entertaining at least, and no equine casualty or posh people in frocks
Gambling should be outlawed, to protect the naive and vulnerable.

Come on PM let's have a campaign

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jeremy,

Yes - it is definitely a mug's game and greed has a lot to do it with it.

A campaign might work - but with the money that betting shops and casinos make we might struggle to win it.




DrB said...

Sadly, my uncle lost his fortunes on horse betting. He was pursued by loan sharks and my dad had to bail him out times after times. My grandma and my dad had a fallout when my dad refused to bail him out, and my uncle disappeared. So, my dad had to rise his family of children in addition to us four. That was when I was seven yo. My cousin was the same age as me, and she burst in tears when I lent her my nice clothes and shoes, to go to fancy restaurant, when she was staying with us.

Yeah, I realised at that young age that gambling does not just affect the gambler but also those around him.

During my college year, my best friend and I worked out a formula to beat the roulette. So he will hit the casino every sat to earn the allowance for the week. I will remind him to leave once he won $2k, then we will have a fancy sat dinner. It took more than a year and a half for the casino to realise what we were doing, and they lowered the limit of betting, then our formula stopped working. It was fun when it lasted.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

I am certain that if you try you can beat the system for a short while. But in reality, it never lasts too long (in my experience anyway).