Non-news from Nova Scotia: Video Lottery Crusader Sues Government.
This reminds me once again why I think those who wish to have pot legalized (not just decriminalized) are off their gobs. Especially you casual users: do you really want to be treated by government, the health establishment, and various do-gooders like smokers and gamblers are treated? Seems to me I'd rather be viewed as a petty criminal.
Anyway, I have a straight-faced suggestion to our provincial & regional lottery corporations. It would reduce the incidence of Larry Mathwhizzes losing their homes, life savings, etc. while potentially making up the revenue from new, casual players. It would also respect the individual's right to flush their own money down the toilet as they best see fit.
Increase the payouts.
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation stipulates that VLT payouts are to be between 80% and 90%. Relative to the 96%-98% slot payouts advertised by most Vegas casinos, that is pure larceny. I don't want to get too mathy here, and the statistics are much more complicated than say, Lotto 6/49, but the difference between an 85% payout and a 97% payout is stark. It might be best illustrated by considering how many times you could lose 15% of your money before you go broke, relative to how many times you could lose 3% of your money.
It's not 85/97ths by a damn stretch. It's more like 1/5th. (Do your own math.) Basically, the guy playing the 97% machine has to be at least five times as determined to piss his life away than the guy playing the 85% machine, to get to the same point where he alienates his wife, pilfers the petty cash at work, etc.
I think a major re-work of the "Educating Problem Gamblers" material is in order as well. I'll sidestep the broader issue of anti-smoking propaganda, but the most visible aspect of it is the warning labels on cigarette packs, and they are admirably straightforward. Take a scientific fact (for argument's sake I will concede this), and plaster it on there in big, bold letters. No "Do you think you may have a smoking problem?", or "Common Signs of a smoking problem", or other wishy-washy crap. Why not transfer this concept to gambling? Next to every VLT, have a nice sign that says something like:
If You Play These Machines For a Sufficiently Long Time, It Is A Mathematical Certainty That You Will Lose All Your Money
Why not have a chart or spreadsheet posted, showing how much the average person with a $100 stake should be expected to lose over various time intervals? If you don't believe that your run-of-the-mill degenerate, wagering his welfare cheque, would have any use for a published set of detailed, standard calculations, try sitting down at a $2 blackjack table sometime (and standing on 16 against a face card).
But back to government-as-bookie: there is one and only one legislative remedy required to solve all these problems. Set the maximum payout at some solid break-even point (ensuring the costs of the machines etc. are covered). Then let individual bars set their own payouts, certified by the government and/or machine manufacturer. This appeases nearly everyone:
- Individuals who appreciate the freedom to gamble their own money
- The anti-gambling folks, because it will be considerably more difficult for "addicts" to lose the farm before intervention
- Local restaurants, Future Shops, etc. who will benefit from more windfall (or non-lost) discretionary spending (some old saying about "found money" eludes me at the moment)
- The other do-gooders, and selected economists, who argue that in the long run, money spent in other areas of the economy brings more good to governments than gambling revenues
Any negative effects would only impact on:
- The doggedly self-destructive, who will either have to be more patient, or take up smoking crack
- Neighbourhood pub owners, who may no longer be able to pay their overhead costs in full with their state-mandated cut from four freakin' computer slot machines.
Great, then it's settled. I look forward to seeing my first "Loosest Slots in Lethbridge" sign.