Monday, June 27, 2005

Games of Chance

There's a story in about a movement to ban VLTs in Nova Scotia. Before I go further, I have to say that I had played them from the time they started becoming common and were even allowed in convienience stores, and I played them for years because basically, I could afford to, since I was still living at home until 1998 and had more disposable income. However, six months after I moved out, I realized that I could not afford to play them anymore, and have not wasted any money on them for over six years now. Also, I kept hearing horror stories about families being torn apart and suicides, and it still seems to be going on. What's more, I knew some people personally who jeopardized their livelihoods and may still be doing so now.

Years ago, I read a book co-written by Harry Anderson of "Night Court" fame (subtitled "A Guide For Suckers"). I found it really clever, funny, and informative, and quite probably prevented me from getting addicted to VLTs (I do have an obsessive personality and could have been a prime candidate for it) and doing anything horrible as a result. He talked about, well, not so much winning at gambling, but not losing so much, and games of chance that you really have no chance of winning at all. Casino games have what's called a "house percentage" of what's tabled, and anything over 15% is considered excessive, and by the time of printing, no casino games in Atlantic City were allowed to go over that figure. Anyways, you are always supposed to lose in the long run, according to the law of averages, and one quotation from the book for me: "There are no non-profit casinos", and that would apply to just about any gambling activity.

There were times that I had gotten the "swinging bells" or the "all fruit bonus", and it usually made my night, but one thing that I always wanted to happen is to get all of one item, and my score would have gone up at least 100 times, but that never happened, and what's more, I never saw it happen to anyone else. It's probably like winning the lottery, and how many people does that happen to?

Also, I can only imaging how much I lost in the long run, because they do not tell you about such things as house percentage for VLTs, but I believe that it must be REALLY high. I think that if more people knew these tidbits of information, people would get wise and stop playing those horrible things and so many tragedies would be prevented. I do actually go to the Halifax casino once in a while to play the slots, but I try to keep track of which machines pay better, because each game there is different, and also, I have a Casino card with some points on it, but I have a limited income and can go very seldom, and I follow all or at least most of the rules in Anderson's book. The first rule I think was "Don't risk more than what you can afford to lose".

So back to the movement, it is my sincere hope that they accomplish what they are setting out to do. There are people out there destroying their lives and the lives of the people around them, something has to be done to stop this, and quickly. For your part, dear reader, you can help by going here.


Aaron said...


I've been reading plenty of papers on the economics of casinos and gambling. You probably heard of the recent Canada West paper that was released recently. Well, anyways, anywhere from 25-50% of casino revenues come from a minority of pathologically addicted people. I have this 2001 paper I read about how Gaming would become the next tobacco, because even though it's addicting, no governments really warn people about it. I can email it to you if you are interested.

Chris said...

I don't see why it is the machines and the people who set them up that get the bad rep. Some people can afford to play them, and do so. You yourself played them because you could. Why should the people who have control over themelves suffer because of those who don't? I believe that perhaps it's the people who should be treated as opposed to the machines being outright banned.

Looney Canuck said...

Thank you Aaron, feel free to e-mail a copy of that paper, my inbox can handle up to 300MB. The new tobacco? Hard to argue with, it may even make me exceed the 10 month limit on my casino card and lose my 200 odd "valuable" points, but I'll try to cling to that belief that there is something inherently different about VLTs.

Chris, I cannot say that I've suffered since quitting VLTs. It may have been a bit of an adjustment at first, but I got over it quickly. Most of the horror stories I've heard about compulsive legal gamblers seem to involve VLTs, but I could be wrong about that. A lot of good people have ruined their lives and the lives of the people around them by their inablility to control their gambling habits, and I did not want to be a part of at least one aspect of it anymore.

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