Gambling on virtual machines makes little sense

There’s been a bit of a furore of late, about gambling and gaming terminals in bookmakers’ shops – particularly in the UK where High Street bookmakers are far more commonplace than they are in almost any other country.

The thinking goes that such digitally-based betting terminals prey on those least able to afford the losses. Also – those lossesare inevitable, of course, over time as the betting terminals are rigged to provide the equivalent of a “house edge”.

All this is true and in an age where there is absolutely no point visiting a physical bookmaker’s premises anymore in acountry which is so free and easy with its online gambling. So the people who do go to the traditional bookmakers generally tend towards the lower end of the socio-economic scale.

Online punters who are tech-savvy tend to go to Betfair, which is purely an exchange with no traditional “bookmaking” operation involved at all. Instead, it’s simply an exchangeof buyers and sellers with the Betfair company taking a 5% commission on the winner’s stake.

But the problem with the terminals inside the old-fashioned bookmakers, of course, is that some people do sometimes win large jackpots. And when you’re desperate for cash and perhaps not much of an expert on the laws of probability – the very possibility of a big win is appealing for a relatively small stake – and so the whole “circus” rolls on.

It’s the same principle as the National Lottery. As a general rule with state-run lotteries, around half the money used to buy tickets comes back as prize money. So it makes no sense from a probability perspective, ever, to buy a ticket. Yet millions of people the world over do so every week of their lives in the hope of that enormous life-changing win. And we read about these wins continually because the lottery operators make sure these winners get a huge amount of mediacoverage. So once again – the whole thing rolls on ad-infinitum, always preying on those least able to afford the outlay.

But at least with state-run lotteries, a significant proportion of the income also gets directed into good causes such as charities, and the development of the arts and sciences etc. In bookmakers’ shops, on the other hand – the profit element goes to the bookmaking chain.

The same principle holds true of the virtual races that most High Street bookies screen between actual races or in the quitter times. These are usuallybased on horse racing or greyhound racing etc., and are purely digital – and make equally little sense to gamble on continually. Yet that’s exactly what many people do.

But people who enjoy dog racing in real life, or horse racing, are using their skill and judgement of the animal before deciding whether to gamble on a race. In the virtual world – the same gamble makes zero sense; because this is all made up stuff of course!

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