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Regret is the most likely “prize” in games of chance.

Mark Levitt
By Mark Levitt

This article appeared originally in the July 2014 Levitt Letter.

…is not to gamble, ever. Any temptation to try your luck with wagering on games of chance probably stems from overestimating not only the odds of winning but also the likelihood of knowing when to stop in order to keep your winnings.

The Wall Street Journal recently answered the question, “How Often Do Gamblers Really Win?” An unprecedented trove of public data details the behavior of thousands of anonymous Internet gamblers over a 2-year period. Over the full period, just 11% of players ended up in the black, and most of those pocketed less than $150. Losers of more than $5,000 outnumbered big winners by a whopping 31:1.

The analysis concerned 4,222 Internet gamblers who played casino-style games such as blackjack, roulette, and slots. European online-gambling giant “Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment PLC” made the raw data available to gambling-addiction researchers affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

A different database of gambling in the northwestern U.S. produced similar patterns and similarly skewed ratios of big losers to big winners. Jim Kilby, a former professor and now author of three books on casino management, said the scant number of winners surprised even him. Although gamblers know the house has an edge, he said, “the average person doesn’t understand the math” of the multiplier effect: “Casino games are nibbling machines, and the more nibbles you have, the bigger your losses.”

Joachim Haeusler, Bwin’s oxymoronic “responsible gaming” manager, said the company provides entertainment and people shouldn’t gamble “based on the idea to get rich, because they won’t.” Unfortunately, “gambling for entertainment” ushers unsuspecting patrons to addiction.

An Indiana University report on addictive behaviors related the “thrill” gamblers talk about. As in other addictive behaviors where beta-endorphins in the brain cause individuals to repeat a behavior to obtain the pleasant feeling, the treatment for compulsive gambling involves withdrawal symptoms similar to those suffered by addicts of depressant drugs: headaches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cold sweats, tremor, and nightmares.

Proverbs 13:11 explains, “Wealth gained by vanity will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.” Statistical data and neuroscience prove that regret is the most likely “prize” in games of chance.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to problem gambling for several reasons, including loneliness, time on their hands, access to money and casinos, and greater disposable income. While not every senior who visits a casino is a problem gambler, gambling can be a bad bet against their retirement.

As a matter of stewardship, investing in the Kingdom of God consistently yields eternal winnings. (Matthew 6:20–21) With Zola Levitt Ministries, what you see is what you get. Tune in our TV program, read our Levitt Letters, and visit levitt.com to verify that you are always a winner when you “bet” on and share in our devotion and efficiency in spreading God’s wisdom.

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