We were surprised to read Susan Arendt’s column recently in which she described feeling empty despite scoring a big win in the Monopoly slots game. The problem, as she put it, was that although she won big, she didn’t know why.
In Ms. Arendt’s telling, the slot simply has too much interactivity to be a mindless pastime. This seems to contradict the common thinking that as slots become more plentiful by the month, players want more action. They want more ways to win, a varied menu of actions they can take to win, and a game that is more challenging than just a spin and wait game. People increasingly want to use their bonus codes to access games that involve real interaction.
Susan Arendt says that sometimes she just wants to relax and play. The thinking she needs to do to continue in this game takes away from her main desire which is mindless fun.
This leads to the more general questions of whether gamblers want mindless fun or challenging fun and whether gambling for most people is fun at all.
Is Gambling Fun?
Here we have to separate the many different forms of gambling. There is business gambling, sports gambling (here we mean a team or player taking chances, not sports betting, the new rage in the United States), and political gambling. Added to these are casino, racing, and other forms of gambling based on the outcomes of games.
Many Americans have said in interviews that they voted for Donald Trump because he was a breath of fresh air. They may have disliked many of his statements especially regarding women but they liked his positions on immigration and the economy. So, these people, recent political studies indicate that they were the difference in all the swing states he won, gambled on the outsider with no experience in government at all.
Polls indicate that many of the gamblers are happy with their risk-taking while many others are unhappy. No one has said that political gambling is fun.
In this category we have the entrepreneurial spirit that leads to overall wealth in a society that allows people to gamble on business activity or business investment. While many people lose when they gamble on business, many win and the chase after business success or investment success drives many people toward business gambling.
In study after study, entrepreneurs say that they readily acknowledge that being entrepreneurial is fraught with economic danger and the possibility of real loss. Yet, the most entrepreneurial people all say that the thrill of the pursuit drives them and could be classified as fun.
In every sport, there are stories of players who thought that their careers were over and came back to have great success. These stories need a player who believes in himself or herself and a team that is willing to risk money and its own overall success on a player who everyone else thought was finished.
Baseball saw many players in the last twenty years succumb to drugs. Some were able come back and have some or even great success. Perhaps the most successful of all these reclamation projects was Josh Hamilton who was a drug addict at one time and cleaned himself up and became a great player for several seasons.
While playing sports has often been described as fun, at the highest levels of competition it is extremely hard work. It requires immense measures of dedication. So, it is especially amazing that players who no one thought could play in the top leagues become great stars.
No one who has come back from drug abuse or serious injury has described the process as fun.
We will include in this category all gambling activity such as racing, lotteries, and the like as well as classic casino gambling. Everyone says that such gambling should be almost entirely fun. Unfortunately, for many people it is not fun.
Lotteries are the least interactive of all such gambling activities. Even in racing there is the challenge to study the entrants in a race and choose a likely winner. In horse racing, you can win some money by choosing the second or third place finisher in a race.
Blackjack and poker require a lot of attention and analytical skill. They are considered great fun by the people who most enjoy playing them. This can be seen by the fact that poker and blackjack lose all their vitality when they are played just for fun, without a wager connected to the outcome.
Slots can be played just for fun. There is enough entertainment value in modern slots to justify playing the games without betting on the outcome. So, here we come full circle back to Susan Arendt’s article on Monopoly slots.
She complains that she won money but doesn’t know how. She complains that the game is too complex for a player who would rather be a gamer than a gambler. The best answer we could give is that she should play the game for fun without betting on it. That way she’ll not need to know how she won and can enjoy the game for itself.
We mentioned sports betting in passing. There is still a great deal of controversy and relevant news on this subject, enough to warrant a separate news report.