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Why People Gamble in Casinos

8 February 2007

By Frank Scoblete

Most of my good friends are casino gamblers. The world of casino gambling is the world that I live in. Yet, part of me wonders why people are so in love with going to casinos and, frankly, losing their money. Yes, on any given night with some luck you can win some money but we all know that most casino gamblers lose most of the time and that just about all casino gamblers are long-run losers.

Here's what casino gamblers face: They play games where the house has an edge. In some games that edge is relatively small. Games such as blackjack and craps have very low house edges if approached correctly. In other games the house edge is moderate. Roulette, Three-Card Poker, Let It Ride, all come in with house edges well under six percent. In other games, the house edge is immense. Most slot machines come in with house edges between five percent and 15 percent.

The bottom line for all casino gamblers is the same - the more you play, the better the chance you will lose your money. That's how it works. And all casino gamblers know that's how it works. Now, not all casino gamblers are fully aware of the math behind the games and exactly how the casino extracts it's winnings, but they all know that somehow or other this is what happens.

So why are the casinos always filled with people hungering to gamble and lose their money?

Mary Jean Corcoran has been going to casinos for 30 years and she is an inveterate slot player. "I have lost many thousands, many tens of thousands of dollars on those machines but I love playing them. When I go to the casino, it's not like I am going with the intention of losing my money. I don't want to lose. I want to win. I know the house has an edge. But the actual experience of being in casinos is what I call a 'full-body experience.' You become consumed by what you are doing and the outside world fades away. When it's just me and my slot machine, whatever problems I might be facing, why they just disappear into the background noise and I am focused on only one thing - playing that machine."

Jim DeRatna loves to play craps. "I have played craps for 15 years, ever since I graduated from college. I know the house will ultimately beat me but the pleasure of playing the game makes up for the realization that playing this game costs you money. I would rather play craps than go to the movies. I really find going to the movies to be a waste of money."

Paul Smith says, "The casino isn't just gambling to me. I play blackjack and craps, but I love to eat in the restaurants, see the shows. To me the casino environment is a complete environment. It entertains all of you. When I travel to a casino, I will work out in the gym, swim in the pool, and take advantage of all the perks and amenities the casino has to offer. So, yes, I am losing money at the games but the complete experience is certainly worth the money I will lose."

John Lawrence is the complete gambler, "I will gamble on just about anything. I love putting money at risk. It can be sports betting, table games, lotteries. I love to bet." John not only frequents the casinos on a weekly basis since he lives in New Jersey, he enjoys traveling from one casino town to another. "I love going to Atlantic City and Vegas. I just discovered Tunica thanks to reading one of your [meaning my!] books. To me each casino town has its own particular character and each is different as can be. I soak up the atmosphere and I enjoy the action."

The word "action" was cited by several people I talked to as the reason that they go to casinos. The word "action" in casino-talk means the money you risk at the games. For players, "action" also means the adrenaline rush they get when they play the games. John Lawrence stated, "There is a real emotional jolt when you risk money on a game. You are looking to win but you know that you can also lose. It's very much like being an athlete. You play the games to win but you are well aware that you can lose. Your emotions are really churning."

Some casino gamblers are not as charged up as Mr. Lawrence. Sally Cummings only plays nickel machines. "I have plenty of money but I'll be darned if I am going to throw it away playing games I can't beat. My friends enjoy going to casinos and I enjoy being with my friends. I play five cents in a machine and I play very slowly. I give myself fifty dollars to lose. If I lose that I am finished with my play for that day. When I win I am excited but I realize that in the long run I will ultimately give all my winnings back so that's why I bet small. I'm not going to be giving back too much."

When I go to casinos in the daytime I notice plenty of senior citizens playing the games. I asked some why they went to casinos in the day rather than do something else.

"What am I going to do?" asked Conrad Jean. "I'm eighty-three years old and I love to play craps. I have been playing craps since World War II. Now that I am retired, I play almost every day. My goal is not to have any money to leave behind me when I die. So I am going to have to play a long, long time to accomplish that!"

Mary Livingston said that she goes to the casinos because "it is alive. When you reach my age, which is well over 39, you don't want to sit on a porch with a bunch of other old people who are complaining about their illnesses and their kids and grandkids. In the casino, you are focused on an adventure, trying to win money. My arthritis doesn't hurt as much when I am playing the machines."

Obviously, casino gambling meets some fundamental need in the people who do it. There was no one that I spoke with who said that they were going to quit going to casinos because they were losing money. Almost all had apportioned a certain amount of their income for purposes of gambling. It was their preferred form of recreation.

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at

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