Dumb from the customers’ perspective, that is. Ingenious from that of the industry itself.
Gambling. Dumber than alcohol, dumber than tobacco, dumber than network TV. At least drinking gives the user an inflated feeling of self-worth, and at least cigarettes make a statement (“I enjoy slowly killing myself while rendering the radius around me uninhabitable.”)
As for gambling, however, it just impoverishes its practitioners. Nothing else.
We’re not counting football bets between friends here, or a night of poker with the fellas. Those are zero-sum games. Unless you’re exceedingly horrible at reading an injury report or you insist on drawing to inside straights, you’ll end up neither making nor losing money in the long run when you bet among your friends. You’re essentially moving bills back and forth as a form of camaraderie.
Casino gambling is different, thanks to vig. That’s the cut the casino takes from every wager, which will ultimately bleed you dry. On the roulette wheel, the casino takes 3% of every bet. On straight sports wagering (i.e. a single game per bet), the casino takes 5%.
If someone offers you an investment that pays, say, 10%, would you take it?
The correct answer is “I don’t know.” A rate of return needs to be quoted with a time period for it to mean anything. If the investment takes 20 years to pay 10%, that’s .5% annually. You might as well leave your money in a savings account.
What if the investment pays 10% per day?
Say you invest $1. You’d have $1.95 by the end of the week, $17.45 by the end of the month, and $28 million in half a year’s time. Within 11 months you’d be earning more money than the rest of the world combined.
(That being said, when you read an interest rate quoted in a financial publication – or on any Control Your Cash post other than this one – assume the rate is annual unless otherwise specified.)
So an investment’s duration is always as important as the interest rate, with one exception – negative interest rates. These are always bad, for obvious reasons. If the reasons aren’t obvious, understand that having less money today than you did yesterday is something you want to discourage.
So let’s rephrase that earlier question:
If someone offers you an investment that pays, say, -3%, would you take it?
Which returns us to casino gambling. And for today’s example, the casino mainstay of keno. Keno, if you’re not familiar, is a type of lottery. Some states even incorporate it into their idiot impoverishment plans official lotteries.
In keno you pick up to twenty numbers from 1 to 80. The casino then draws twenty numbers, and you get paid depending on how many you got right. The game appeals to idiots for several reasons:
- it requires zero skill.
- it offers an outlet for superstition (“My granddaughter was born on the 17th day of the 11th month. I was 48 when I joined Oprah’s Book Club. I have 2 eyes on my head, which are currently looking at 77 collectible miniatures,” etc.)
- it provides a margin for error (for instance, if you mark 6 numbers on your ticket, you get paid even if you get only 3 right. If you mark as many as 15 numbers, you get paid if you get only 6 right. What’s not to love about a game that still pays you even if you get more numbers wrong than right?
The vig on keno would be criminal, except that keno players engage in voluntary exchange with the casino and know the rules going in.
Say you play the simplest possible keno ticket; one where you select just one number. The chance of you getting it right is 4-to-1. Most casinos pay 3-to-1.
Which means you just found an investment that pays -25%.
We showed how an investment that pays 10% every 24 hours can make you legitimately rich within a few months, and richer than the rest of the world in less than a year.
Meanwhile, a keno ticket pays -25% in about 7 minutes. (The length of time the casino takes to draw its numbers, then set up for the next game.)
By the way, that one-number ticket is the safest (well, “least dangerous”) keno bet in existence.
Say you play a two-number ticket. The chance of getting both numbers right is about 17-to-1, and pays 12-to-1. Here the casino takes a 28% cut.
Like any good (for the casino) game, the dumber players are, the worse they get punished. Take the average keno player, who isn’t there to win a lousy $4 on a $1 one-number ticket, or even $12 on a $1 two-number ticket. Not when she can WIN UP TO $50,000!!!
One Nevada casino doesn’t require players to perform the toughest feat in keno – correctly picking all 20 numbers on a 20-number ticket – to claim its biggest prize. Instead, in a nod to ease and simplicity, this casino offers its biggest prize even to anyone who can just pick all 14 numbers on a 14-number ticket. Again, for a sweet $50,000 prize.
Care to guess what the odds are on getting 14 numbers right out of 14?
“Well,” you’re thinking, “Control Your Cash has already demonstrated that the casino takes a gigantic cut, somewhere in the 25-28% range. So the odds are probably around…65,000-to-1.”
You’re telling me the casino actually keeps most of the money wagered on said tickets, paying the player less than half? That’s horrible.
Yeah, we know. Back to the original question: what do you think the odds are?
Look, we try to keep these posts down to a reasonable length. Stop pussyfooting. The chance of getting all 14 numbers right is…
It’s as if the casino said, “We chose a random person, somewhere on the planet, and got that person to roll a die. Who did we pick, and what number came up?” In other words, you’re going to lose.
We understand that the casino must take some cut for its expenses, like say the 3% it takes on roulette bets. If the casino were taking a similar cut here, then a winning $1 ticket should entitle you to Warren Buffett’s net worth. Or the entire market capitalization of Ford Motor Company. Or the gross domestic product of Costa Rica.
But instead, you get $50,000. Which makes the vig 99.9999%.
But hey, it’s only a buck. And you could win $50,000!!! Which is a big number! And aren’t all big numbers basically the same?
Below is the vig the casino takes on each keno bet. The Roman numerals refer to how many numbers you chose on your ticket. So for instance, if you play an 8-number ticket and get 5 right, the casino keeps 84% of your money. Happy reading.