Let’s start with a definition. What is gambling? Gambling is betting on something that may or may not happen in the future. When we gamble, we take a risk, choose an uncertain outcome, and bet on it. Gamblers bet on casino games, horse racing, and sports where the result can’t be predicted with certainty. Some people will bet on anything. Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer bet on the arrival and departure times of airplanes at a New York City airport?
How is gambling different from buying stocks and bonds? Stocks and bonds are considered investments and not gambles because we can reasonably expect to come out ahead in the long run. They may be risky but not in the same sense as gambling.
How is gambling different from buying insurance? When we buy insurance, we are betting on something that may or may not happen in the future. We don’t want to take the risk that it will happen, so we pay someone else (the insurance company) to take the risk for us. When we buy homeowner’s insurance, for example, we are betting our house will burn down and the insurance company is betting it won’t. (Of course we hope we won’t win this bet.) This isn’t gambling because the risk can be calculated. The insurance company uses all kinds of statistics to analyze the probability of our house burning down and fixes the premium we will pay accordingly.
People have gambled since ancient times. However, society never approved of it because it was labeled an attempt to get money without working for it. Society believed that hard work should pave the way to financial success. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that states (except for Nevada which had legalized all forms of gambling earlier) started to run lotteries to raise money for worthwhile causes.
So why do we gamble even though we are unlikely to win in the long run? We gamble for the excitement of the uncertain outcome. Some gamble to try to make their financial dreams come true. Some people gamble for entertainment or enjoyment, such as a night out with friends at the casino or a bingo game for a charitable organization or a lottery ticket. Some think they can beat the odds and make a living out of gambling. There are people who gamble because they simply love the challenge. They look at gambling as a game of skill or problem solving and they are sure they can win. Some like the environment or the thrill of a possible big win, or the adrenaline rush of taking a chance. Casinos allow us to socialize and pass some time. There are no clocks in a casino; we lose track of time; we forget all our troubles. It’s like a therapy session! If we are timid, we can go to a casino and boldly take chances.
Occasional gambling may be a relaxing form of entertainment but be careful not to get addicted. Addiction may lead to obsession. You may lose control and become so fanatical that you can ruin you life or suffer other catastrophic consequences. So if you gamble, be sure to set limits and keep to the limits you have set.
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By Joseph Starr
Joseph Starr (pen name) completed his formal education when he earned a Ph.D. in Finance and Accounting. He taught business, economics, and computer subjects at the college level for thirty years and is now retired. Visit his website http://allaboutcasinogambling.com to read all about popular casino games and strategies.