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Post No.: 0658betting


Furrywisepuppy says:


Gambling in casinos, on online casinos, in the bookmakers, on fixed odds betting terminals, and the like, may be regarded as a fun pastime if one is indeed having fun and can afford to lose what one is betting with. But if it’s about trying to beat the house and come away with a profit, it’s irrational because the games are set up so that the house will always win in the long run. (This was one of the quick things I thought everyone should know way back in Post No.: 0021.) That’s why operators of casinos, betting shops and other gambling services make some of the richest businesspeople – money overall flows from the gamblers to the operators in an almost guaranteed way because of how the game rules are set to give a mathematical advantage in their favour.


The house will always win in the long run because the odds of you winning any game against the house are less than 50%. Games like blackjack, craps and baccarat have been designed to give punters a slightly less than 50% chance of winning so that punters perceive it as pretty much 50% and fair – but it’s not exactly fair if one does the maths. With other typical gambling games, like roulette, slots and keno – the odds are even worse! Player-versus-player games like poker present the fairest, most level, odds.


Knowing this, it’s troubling that more gambling venues per capita are present in the poorest towns and cities, in the UK at least, instead of more amenities that would help lift the poor out of poverty. The poor are exploited for gain via as patently clear a net ‘trickle-up effect’ as you can get! More poor people play the lottery and buy scratch cards too. Gambling, on the whole, presents a false hope or opportunity for a better life.


Although they generally receive a strong backlash – paid-for random loot boxes are barely-disguised forms of gambling because you pay your money but won’t know what you’ll receive, if anything at all. Some modern videogames thus have ‘pay-to-win’ mechanisms, and reward those who have the deepest pockets (or biggest debts) over the most skilled. (I remember when old-school videogames used to be hardcore solid and unforgiving if you lost, including having to start all over again from the beginning of the entire game if you ran out of ‘credits’ or continues, and so it really was about your furry persistence and skill.) Many online gambling games sneakily look and feel like free-to-play mobile games too – except those numbers represent real money as opposed to just a score.


Gambling operators or betting companies want their customers to use their intuitions rather than do their critical thinking homework because they know that this benefits the companies rather than their customers. This is expressed in some of their adverts that suggest that the gut feelings of punters should be trusted and they should rely on their superstitious charms and rituals.


Betting is also a zero-sum, win-lose situation – you win a bet, they lose; or you lose a bet, they win. This is unlike, say, the clothes industry where you get some clothes and the seller gets some money and both sides go away happy in a win-win result. Betting companies may argue that even if their customers lose, they receive some thrill from the experience – but I reckon that if it weren’t mainly about trying to win money, people would simply make predictions with their friends without any money involved.


However, for the most vulnerable – gambling feeds a behavioural addiction to the anticipation of the result of a wager. So it’s not (just) about an addiction to winning – they’re addicted to the playing itself, whether they win or lose.


Irregardless, because of the win-lose nature of betting, the interest of these companies is to cripple their customers – to take every penny they possibly can off them. Thus to expect these businesses to regulate themselves and turn down their most profitable customers (i.e. those who are losing lots of money yet are willing to continue doing so, which likely indicates a gambling problem) is to expect them to voluntarily do something that’s directly against their own profit-maximisation goals.


Gambling addiction is a deleterious affliction in society but we cannot expect gambling operators to tackle it – gambling addiction is a desirable side-effect that helps serve their primary profit-maximising objective. It’d present a conflict of interest for them to stop people, especially those who are losing lots of money to them, from continuing playing. In fact, their strategy is to directly incentivise those who lose tons of money to them to continue playing, such as via ‘bonuses’ and VIP treatments. They call them their ‘best customers’!


Even if you win a big jackpot, casinos may try to entice you into returning until you end up losing all that money, and more, back to them again. Their interest is in stopping those who repeatedly win from playing again! If a person is truly skilled at a game (e.g. works out the probabilities, or uses questionable/illegal techniques like ‘courtsiding’ or match fixing) then these betting companies will very much want to immediately restrict or even close these accounts down. So they do have the rapid mechanisms to stop people from gambling on their platforms if they want to – but their interests are in rapidly blocking those who are winning lots of money, and keeping those who are losing lots of money, who might also have gambling addictions.


The only place I can think of right now where intelligence is directly punished is when casinos ban the technique of card counting inside one’s own head! It’s impossible to prove without a confession, and it’s not immoral or illegal anyway, but the casinos make the rules and they can kick people out on suspicion alone. Then again, no one’s forcing anyone to gamble. But the self-regulated market decision here – as in the law hasn’t intervened to disallow it – is to punish the ‘cream of society’ or the smart people who use their brains to increase their odds of winning. It’s not like they’re guaranteed to win – yet skill is being directly punished.


There are conflicts of interests in other industries too that mean that it’s not sensible to expect firms to robustly self-regulate to tackle a problem they profit from (e.g. junk food manufacturers and the obesity crisis, social media platforms and popular and profitable fake news). We also cannot expect those with gambling problems to regulate their own behaviours by setting personal limits or using self-imposed cooling-off periods.


External regulators do usually eventually catch up with understanding the tricks that are used to boost or sustain businesses that have scant regard for the harms they cause to wider society. But any regulations might be too late for some and still not enough for many.


Regarding gambling additions again, the powerful betting industry lobby group (like the spin doctors in the tobacco cancer denial scandal or climate change denial scandal, to name but a couple) tried to cast doubt on scientific research on addiction, and via the media rather than scientific community peer reviews too i.e. they tried to appeal directly to consumers. They did this regarding the harms caused by fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in particular.


They deliberately delay and further delay regulations whilst they rake it in at the expense of exploiting vulnerable people who are prone to gambling addiction. Concurrently, as propaganda, they then blame governments for lax laws and regulations for why they continue to do what they do(!) But why don’t they simply prove that their industry can regulate itself for the sake of optimising societal well-being? No one’s stopping them from stopping themselves! Why must the government intervene and legislate before an industry starts to act more morally?! Many in the industry will even admit that gambling addiction is a real worry and that FOBTs feed a real societal problem, yet they won’t stop themselves and they say they’ll only stop if the government forces them to stop. Irrespective of the tax income they generate (because the costs to society are far greater), the industry can take the initiative and effectively self-regulate – unless they’re saying that betting industry lobbyists have unduly influenced the government and that’s what’s stopping the government from doing the right thing? (Like regarding many lucrative industries – when we blame the government, we might really need to partly blame the powerful corporate interest groups acting behind the scenes.)


Although I’m sure strong systems are in place to prevent this from happening (e.g. independent bodies who can scrutinise every single line of code at any time they want) – I wonder if electronic/online betting platforms ever manipulate ostensibly random dice rolls or next cards from a deck? Unlike a physical pair of dice or deck of cards in front of you, electronic ones are visually represented by pixels on a screen that can be easily manipulated behind the scenes to further favour the house. This is only a speculation, but it puts me off playing online casino games. I know that some people know how to modify features and cheat in multiplayer online videogames.


It is said that gamblers don’t play until they win – they play until they lose. They often only stop playing when their wallet has been emptied and they literally can’t play anymore. Hence why casinos aren’t too bothered if punters occasionally win – most of them will plough that money back in, and then some, rather than quit forever once they’re ahead.


Gambling brings out many highly irrational behaviours, such as being biased to potentially high pay-offs with low probabilities, and ultimately playing when there’s a negative expected utility. Or how ‘nearly winning’ feels like ‘making progress’. (Many in-app purchases for casual games on mobile devices prey on the feeling that one has done 99% of the work already, or has ‘nearly won’ – so why not spend a little bit of money to cross that line instead of having to start all over again? But of course the difficulty level soon elevates again and one feels the need to pay a little bit to progress time and time again for the instant gratification it gives and the instant status of passing a stage compared to one’s friends (hence the competitive leaderboards play a part too). It doesn’t feel like much to pay each time but it all adds up.) ‘Accumulator/parlay bets’ are numbskull bets pretty much all of the time because the conjunctive odds of several events all becoming true are much lower than if just one of those events came true.


The ‘gambler’s fallacy’ is the tendency to think that future probabilities are always altered by past events even when two specific events are actually independent from each other. This results from an erroneous conceptualisation of the law of large numbers. The ‘hot-hand fallacy’ is the fallacious belief that someone who has experienced success necessarily has a greater chance of further success in their future attempts, thus players are considered ‘streaky’.


Another foible is how some people look to recoup their losses by making ever-larger bets and therefore taking ever-greater risks when they’re losing – rather than taking on less risk after a pattern of losing – especially come the final bet of the day. So there’s often a ‘double or nothing’ attitude because we hate losing, thus we’ll risk losing even more for a chance to possibly win back what we had just lost. (This attitude can also arise in the minds of political leaders involved in armed conflicts.)


The primary skill in games of luck is in deciding whether to play them at all, and in accepting and making the most of the result whether you win or lose. If you apply skill without cheating, therefore – you should decide to never play these games against the house with your own or borrowed money!




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