Source: The Courier-Mail, 11 July, 1998, p.WEEKEND 4
[from page 1] The people who try to help compulsive gamblers believe the pokies are the most addic- tive, partly because there are so many of them, casinos are harder to get to and people have built up a resistance to TABs over the years. Allan Suares, of Relation ships Australia, which runs the Break Even counselling service for compulsive gam blers, said the pokies were the most accessible to the most people and their instan- taneous gratification helped to ``hook" punters, particu- larly if they happened to get a big win early on. "I've noticed some people get hooked within a couple of weeks," he said. "They couldn't tear themselves away from the gambling ven- ue and gave up their jobs. They had some early winning and then started using credit cards and got really hooked within the space of two weeks." Heavy gamblers also are often superstitious and read significance into random events, persuading them selves that something other than a machine determined their luck. So when five peo- ple collected more than $125,000 from Jupiter's Casino in less than two days this year -the pokies paid out $31,154 to a local man, $25,000 to a Japanese tourist and $11,326 to a local woman and keno paid out $10,000 to a local woman and $50,000 to a Bris- bane man-you can bet that compulsive gamblers read it as a "sign" for good or for bad. Suares said the extent of compulsive gambling was hard to ascertain but prob- ably 2 percent of gamblers had a problem. And although the extreme cases of compul- sive gambling were tragic, leading to the loss of houses and life savings and some time to fraud charges, a lot of the effort needed to be directed towards borderline cases, where the chances of rehabilitation were signifi cantly better. The poker machines that cause most of the problems mentioned by Suares use ran- dom number generators to produce the set percentage payout. The machines have no memory, so if one has paid out regularly all night-or the reverse-it has no bearing on its performance. The first poker machine, the Liberty Bell, invented in the 1890s by San Francisco mechanic Charles Fey, had three spinning reels, each with 10 symbols, including one belt Three bells (a 1 in 1000 chance) paid the jackpot. The software in electronic machines works similarly and, in effect, the machines pick at random from the available symbols on each 'reel" on each go. The size of the bet, or whether the player is winning or not, has no bear- ing on the selection. Details of the program that runs the machines are hard to come by but one suggestion is that each machine selects a random number between, say, 1 and 1,000,000 on each play and the machine con tains a code that determines the result based on the num- ber drawn. If the chip is set to pay a jackpot about once in every 50,000 plays, a block of 20 numbers will be set aside and the machine will pay a jackpot if the random number selec- ted falls within this range. The best odds you'll ever get on a poker machine are on a "double-up", where you're invited to stake a win on, for instance, a black or a red card. This is a straight even money bet, says a casino official, who points out that there is always a limit to the number of times a player can double up. "Someone might have won $5000 for 20¢ and we have to protect ourselves by limiting our exposure. The normal return is built in, the double-ups aren't." There will be streaks in any form of repeat gambling, when winnings go up and down like a yo-yo. The greater the house advantage, the more time the yo-yo will spend at the bottom of the string but with these games even a tiny percentage will grind away at punters' win nings. In Australia, roulette tables have 37 numbers - 0 to 36. Punters can bet on 0 but most other bets lose when 0 comes up. The house pays 35-1 on number bets and even money on colour bets, giving it an edge of about 2.5 percent. Casinos often install "clocks" that show the last 20 or so numbers at the wheel. Numbers, of course, have no memory and, unless the wheel is defective or rigged, past winning numbers bear no re- lation to future winning num- bers. The house knows this only too well. If knowing the record of winning numbers gave punters a real edge, would the house be keen to publicise them? About the only solid advan- tage any casino player has over the house comes from "counting" in blackjack. Ca- sinos declare that counting is cheating and will eject any players they find using the technique. If there were any advantage in recording past roulette wins, players who did so would also be ejected. The games with the really big prizes, such as lotto, keno and art unions, tend to work differently, with huge odds against the punter. The odds against winning anything in lotto are 210-1. The odds against winning top prize in lotto are 8,145,060-1, in pools 2,760,681-1, Super66 1,000,000-1 and in keno the odds against picking 10 out of 10 numbers are 8,911,702-1. Payouts in lotto, pools and Super66 vary depending on the number of tickets sold in each game but the keno pay out is $2 million-less than a quarter of the odds against. With second dividends, the odds against are 678,755-1 in lotto, 461,114-1 in pools and 555,556-1 in Super66. The pay out for picking nine out of nine numbers in keno is $140,000 but the odds against doing so are 1,380,636-1. The odds against winning art unions vary between organisations and between games, because the number of tickets sold varies. The prize must be worth at least 20 percept of the value of the tickets printed but usually only about 90 percent of tick ets are sold. Some charity art unions chafe at the restrictions placed on them by the State Government - restrictions the Government ignores when it comes to its own operations. For instance, major art unions may not give cash prizes and must budget for a total estimated profit of 30 percent. One charity, Boys Town, has got around this by registering itself interstate, which is why it can offer a $1 million prize. So what's the best bet? When it comes to big prizes, the best bets are to be had with the art unions but com pare the payout with the odds. The odds against in current and recent raffles range from about 10,000-1 for the multiple sclerosis art union, with a payout value of 3500-1, up to about 600,000-1 in the RSL art union, with a payout value of 240,000-1. The bigger the prize, the bigger the odds against. You've got to be in it to win it but cynical mathematicians will say the difference be tween a 10 million-to-one chance and a 10 million-to none chance is so small that you might as well not enter. If you want the best chance for your buck, don't pay the "tax on stupidity": give the lotteries a miss and go for the art unions. Even if you don't win, the profits go to the char- ity of your choice.
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