Casino Life:
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45 pages
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Phil Watts, as an experienced forensic psychologist, knew a lot about human nature before he walked into his first casino at 40 years of age. He had treated clients with a wide range of difficulties including gambling, yet was still struck by the casino environment — an exciting world with its own culture, pace, rules, social etiquette, and shared expectations. This other world intrigued and surprised him. So, he wrote a book about it.
Casino Life will be of interest to those who seeking to know more about casinos and their psychological effects, those who seek to find out why others gamble, and those who do gamble — not as a treatment, but as a window to see what you are doing and how that has an impact upon you.
Along the way you will read about why people gamble, why gambling can become addictive and the treatments used to help problem gamblers, as well as the beliefs around gambling and some of the elaborate theories people use to explain why they try to defy mathematical odds. You will also learn about the fascinating cultural and behavioural patterns of everyday casino life.
Chapter 1 – Why Do People Gamble?
It’s All About Money, Right?
The Big Win
The Winning Rush
Take This Feeling Away
Chapter 2 – The Beliefs which Maintain Gambling
Chasing Losses
The Power of Many
Winning Theories
Conspiracy Theories
Luck
Chapter 3 – Casino Culture
Join the Club
Who Visits the Waterhole?
The Culture of Games
And the Dog Salivates
Croupiers
Chapter 4 – Money Management, Treatment, and the Future of Gambling
Problem Gambling
Money Management: How to be a Winner!
Money Management: Responsible Gambling
Treating Problem Gambling
Future of Casino Gambling

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Publié par
Date de parution 16 octobre 2018
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781925644180
Langue English

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First published 2018 by:
Australian Academic Press Group Pty. Ltd.
18 Victor Russell Drive
Samford Valley QLD 4520, Australia
www.australianacademicpress.com.au
Copyright 2018 Phil Watts
Copying for educational purposes
The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cwlth) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10% of this book, whichever is the greater, to be reproduced and/or communicated by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or the body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.
For details of the CAL licence for educational institutions contact:
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Production and communication for other purposes
Except as permitted under the Act, for example a fair dealing for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder.
Casino Life: Psychology and Culture of Casino Gambling
ISBN 9781925644173 (paperback)
ISBN 9781925644180 (ebook)
Publisher: Stephen May
Cover design: Luke Harris, Working Type Studio
Typesetting: Australian Academic Press
Printing: Lightning Source
Contents
Acknowledgements
Preface
About the Author
Chapter 1 - Why Do People Gamble?
It s All About Money, Right?
The Big Win
The Winning Rush
Take This Feeling Away
Chapter 2 - The Beliefs which Maintain Gambling
Chasing Losses
The Power of Many
Winning Theories
Conspiracy Theories
Luck
Chapter 3 - Casino Culture
Join the Club
Who Visits the Waterhole?
The Culture of Games
And the Dog Salivates
Croupiers
Chapter 4 - Money Management, Treatment, and the Future of Gambling
Problem Gambling
Money Management: How to be a Winner!
Money Management: Responsible Gambling
Treating Problem Gambling
Future of Casino Gambling
Acknowledgements
A book which could write itself from my ideas would be a fantastic revolution. Unfortunately, that is only science fiction and I am left with the tedious job of doing it myself. Fortunately, the task is made easier with the help of others - primarily my team of supporters.
First, I would like to acknowledge the Australian casino staff who at different times have spoken to me. Most of these people were not aware that I was writing a book, but they shared their thoughts and reflections on the industry in which they work. They have been a tremendous help in understanding the other side of the gambling table. Casino staff have a difficult job to do and often experience abuse and bad behaviour from people who blame them for their losses, but who never seem to acknowledge them with their wins.
Crown Casino Burswood, in my home town of Perth Western Australia, has an amazing team of workers (some of whom it has been my privilege to get to know on a first name basis). I have, however, spoken to an army of people. They include Amy, Elaine, Kate, Heidi, Laura, Steve, Rosemary, Naomi and Josh. These, and many others who remain unnamed, have had an impact upon my understanding of casinos and gambling.
Most importantly, I would like to acknowledge my typist Sue Tribe who transcribed my spoken words, Linda McNamara who proof read and edited my work, and Stephen May at Australian Academic Press for publishing this book.
Thanks also to you, the reader, for your interest in this area of psychology. That interest allows you to understand the issues and concerns surrounding gambling, which could ultimately help to change people s lives.
Being an author is somewhat taxing. Writing takes precious time away from those who matter the most in life - family. I am grateful for my family s support and encouragement. To this end, the most important acknowledgements are for my beautiful wife Bethwyn, who supports me in all that I do despite the difficulties of her health, and my amazing children Jarom and Arielle who live their lives with a busy father.
Preface
A s you walk through the doors of a casino, it feels as if you are travelling through a portal into another dimension. It is neither a science fiction parallel universe, nor an exotic country. The sights, sounds and behaviours within the casino environment, including the people you see standing or sitting around a gambling table, are very different from the mundane outside world. As you experience the transformation from outside world to casino environment, you begin to realise that the casino has its own culture with written rules, unwritten social etiquette, and shared expectations of how to fit in.
I am not sure what would strike the first-time visitor the most - the excited energy, the cacophony of sounds (electronic and human), or the money being thrown around like nowhere else on earth. As a first-time visitor, I was awestruck by the money, particularly the large amounts of money thrown onto tables with seemingly reckless abandon. This distinguishes the casino from a bank where people quietly and conservatively hand over cash to efficient bank staff, or a supermarket where plastic cards are used to quietly conduct transactions. In the casino, money is swapped for colourful plastic chips, or casino currency money chips, to be won or lost in a matter of minutes.
Why do people throw money on the table? The appeal of gambling is a promise from lady luck - referred to here as Madam Chance. She is a lady of great allure, entrancing the unsuspecting player with her siren song. The player believes that if they put a sum of money on the table, Madam Chance might reward them with a win of a much larger sum. The amounts involved can be massive and transactions can occur quickly. Seasoned gamblers know that Madam Chance is adulterous. She is fickle - coming and going on a whim - affecting anyone. She will spell-bind players as they wait for her loving charms to multiply their winnings.
If the players paused for a moment they would see casino staff everywhere. These staff include the croupiers, pit bosses, security guards, cashiers, hospitality and public relations. The croupiers (the attendants at a gaming table who manage game play and collect and pay bets - also called a dealer ) control the individual tables and the relatively small number of people grouped around the table (most games like blackjack or table-based poker have 6 to 8 seats). The pit bosses supervise 6 to 8 tables to resolve errors and disputes and ensure larger sums of money are correctly managed. Security staff monitor the doors and circulate within the building. Each table has a security camera focussed on it for the review of games and behaviour by security staff in other parts of the building. If you are lucky, you might meet the cashiers who convert winning chips back into cash. Then, of course, hospitality staff deliver drinks and cleaners make the building look spotless. Public relations people and other administrative staff work for the casino and therefore also need to be paid. Where does the money come from to pay for all of this? A quick Internet search shows that casinos make billions of dollars in annual profits, much of which is paid to shareholders. Despite this, players believe that it s not their money contributing to the running of the casino or paying dividends to shareholders. Players think that they will defy the odds and go home a winner.
All forms of gambling exist because the gambling operator (or house) has a relative advantage, and yet people return again and again without taking this logical house advantage into account. A quick Google search will reveal the odds on any game and how different games, or actions within games, have different payout probabilities. You may wonder if the casino pumps a gas which disconnects the brain s logical processes to put so many people under its spell. Casinos do provide liberal quantities of alcohol to those who want it, but the players arrive already under a spell. All the alcohol does is make the players more reckless when flirting with luck. Madam Chance has the power to control people without the need for witchcraft or chemical influences.
As a psychologist I am a student of human behaviour. I have studied drug addictions and understand what is known about the resulting chemical changes to the brain (an exciting and expanding area of knowledge). I am fascinated by addictions which work on behaviour without physiological alterations, such as computer addiction (gaming or pornography). Therefore, why people engage in behaviours which may be destructive to them is intriguing to me. In this book, I examine the psychology of why people gamble, but more broadly provide some observations on the culture and reasons for gambling patterns. I also provide insight into what underpins casino life.
This book is designed to have a wide appeal. It is written for those of you who will work in the gambling industry, to better understand the casino life you will be a part of. This book is for those of you who seek to find meaning in complex patterns of behaviour. This book is also for those of you who gamble - not as a treatment, but as a window to see what you are doing and how that has an impact upon you.
I hope that this book will also be useful to those of you who help problem gamblers understand gambling and its broader consequences. In Western countries gambling is permitted to exist as a business because it returns profit, but nevertheless is highly regulated. In Australia, every casino has warning signs about gambling becoming a problem, and all Australian states have gambling help hotlines. This book is designed to be of assistance to those people wishing to understand gambling behaviour.
I am a most unlikely student of gambling behaviour. I understand that statistically it is not possible to win in the long-term through gambling and that it is an exceptionally rare individual who is a successful gambler. I had not even entered a casino prior to my 40th birthday. My first visit occurred when pumped up with adrenaline, wandering the city streets to unwind after running national workshops for psychologists. The casino is always open, even in inclement weather. Going through the doors of the casino enchanted my psychological mind in relation to the behaviour of the people inside.
In my forensic practice I see a small but significant stream of people whose lives have been devastatingly impacted because of gambling. Those people often faced legal and social difficulties because of their gambling. Those difficulties included financial ruin, Family Court battles with embittered ex-partners (often feeling let down as a consequence of economic loss), as well as crimes committed in a desperate attempt to finance the gambling habit (often with the belief that money taken from an employer will be used to make a big win , enabling them to repay the borrowed money). These people were not criminal or antisocial in the normal sense - most of them had not previously been in trouble with the police. They had managed to completely convince themselves that whatever they did was not a crime because the money would be repaid. Curiously, as their difficulties increased and the hole they dug for themselves got bigger, they became more desperate and gambled more, not less.
This collision between my scientific mind and the observations of a clinical practitioner shaped my desire to write this book. A book written from a psychological perspective, but easy to read, would be a useful tool for workers and others to understand why people gamble, and what the dynamics of casino life may be like.
In the first chapter of this book I seek to explain why people gamble and why gambling can become addictive. You might think that this information stems from a breakthrough in new age understanding. Ironically, psychologists studying pigeons and rats in the 1960s learned principles which govern much of gambling behaviour. Pigeons pecking for reward pelts taught psychologists a lot about behavioural principles. While treatment has become more sophisticated, and brain scanning technology allows insight into the parts of the brain which activate during gambling, good old-fashioned behavioural psychology explains a lot.
In the second chapter I discuss aspects of beliefs around gambling. People develop elaborate theories to explain why they try to defy mathematical odds. These beliefs are worthy of discussion as they are the keys to understanding the concept of Madam Chance. She can seduce even the most intelligent person. If you understand how she uses her charms, when you visit the casino you will recognise her in action. The gamblers fallacy, a faulty belief explained in more detail later, is as fascinating as it is dangerous. The gambling fallacy is the spell Madam Chance uses.
In the third chapter I examine some of the cultural and behavioural patterns of casino life. A casino is a cultural entity. There are regular visitors and daily and weekly cycles, all of which result in a fascinating array of patterns. As a university student, my favourite branch of psychology was social psychology, and my minor degree was in anthropology. The study of group behaviour and culture have a special place in my observations.
Finally, for fairness and balance, I discuss the available treatments and help for gambling problems. With any addiction, by the time it becomes a problem, the brain has wired in deeply imbedded pathways which are almost impossible to untangle. I also include a few observations about the future of gambling in light of modern computer games altering what people find exciting. Will casino games from the last century survive with a generation raised on fast action computer games?
Key Points
The casino is another world with its own culture, code of conduct, and patterns of behaviour.
Gambling exists because the gambling operator (or house ) has a relative advantage. The odds are always in the favour of the house.
People go to the casino believing that they will somehow defy the odds and win - it will not be their money adding to the casino s profit. This false hope is underpinned by some particular beliefs.
Luck allows people to win. While luck may be fickle, it is hope associated with possibility which allows people to override their normal logic.
About the Author
Dr Phil Watts has been working as a psychologist since 1990 in both the public and private sectors. He has been involved in professional training and community education covering issues such as sexual abuse, giving evidence in court, psychological assessment, internet pornography addiction, and risk-taking behaviour. He teaches as an adjunct Associate Professor in clinical psychology at Canberra University and clinical master s supervisor at Murdoch University. He currently runs his own practice, Mindstate Psychology, where he specialises in treating a range of issues including trauma, internet pornography, legal issues, shared care, and parenting arrangements. Phil is also an occasional guest lecturer on specialist subjects at the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, and Murdoch University in both the psychology and law departments. He has written five previous books as well as co-authored the highly successful Fit to Practice: Everything you wanted to know about starting your own psychology practice in Australia but were afraid to ask .
Chapter 1
Why Do People Gamble?
It s All About Money, Right?
T he croupier picks up a small object from the roulette table layout where it was sitting after the last winning number. This object is a plastic device called the dolly . When the dolly is on the table it marks where the payout bets are located. Bets have just been paid, so now the croupier says in a relatively loud voice Place your bets . The 7 or 8 people standing around the table hurriedly and systematically drop different coloured chips onto the green-coloured felt surface of the roulette table. There are a variety of positions covering different numbers. One chip on a single number is called a straight-up . There are various other positions for half and quarter bets on the inside of the table layout ( splits , corners , columns etc.). The inside layout of the table has a complex array of numbers which makes sense if you study it over time.
Other people prefer to make what is called an outside bet - on the outside edge of the table layout. These are bets which are not based on an actual number, but on broad characteristics associated with numbers. That is, simple outcomes such as whether the ball will land on a red or black coloured number (half the numbers are red, half are black and a zero is green). Outside bets can also be whether the number is odd or even, or a low or high number (1 to 18 or 19 to 36) etc.
As people join the table they glance up at the LED-lit numbers of the last 15 spins, to determine whether the table is likely to be a winner. These might be a run of red numbers, or a run of numbers in a particular section, all of which shapes each person s betting decision. A player will then drop $50 or $100 notes, which the croupier exchanges for either a plastic coloured chip (in roulette it is possible to have your own colour for that table) or casino chips of monetary value. The problem with the latter is that there may be a lot of people putting these chips on the table and arguments ensue as to whom the chips belong (interestingly, arguments are limited due to the security cameras filming the placement of bets).
The frantic pace slows as the players finish swapping money for chips and placing bets. The croupier flicks the small white ball in the groove of the roulette wheel. It spins around the rim of the wheel several times (if less than three spins it is called a no spin and therefore has to be done again). As the ball begins to slow the croupier waves their hands across the table saying, No more bets (the hand wave allows casino management to see when the last bet was called to prevent people betting after the winning number is known).
It s possible for every number on the table to have some combination of chips on it. Therefore, all 36 numbers plus a zero are ALL considered by the players to be possible winning numbers. That means that if a player has bet on only one number, they have 36 chances of being wrong (on a single zero table)! Put another way, a single straight-up bet would have just one chance in 37 of winning (or less than 3 per cent). As you can probably see, the casino will make money because they only pay 35 to 1. That means that if a player bet on every number every time they would lose 2 bets.
There is a silence where time almost stands still as the small white ball begins to slow its cycles around the ball track, dropping across the various diffusers ( diamonds ) which can change its direction, before it lands on the pockets of the numbers and bounces to its final resting place. The wheel is of course designed to make the drop random and the ball may bounce or roll in different directions. It is not a smooth decent onto an obvious number, but a breath-holding process of bouncing either toward or away from the numbers upon which bets have been placed. The croupier guards the table without looking at the wheel to ensure that no one places a bet or removes a chip once the betting has closed. Most of the players track every movement of the ball, willing it to land in a particular place (although on one occasion I observed an older European man, who had placed $25 chips all over the layout, walk away from the table because he didn t like to watch the ball land).
With a clunky sound the ball bounces across a few more pockets before it lands in its final resting place. The croupier looks at the wheel, announces the winning number (e.g. 26 black ) and immediately begins to clear away all bets except for those around the winning number - the inside of the layout, in the black, even, 18-36, or highest third section of the outside of the layout.
The croupier systematically pays out the winnings for those who were lucky enough to have a chip on the number 26, and to those who had chips on the outside of the bet (outsides are always paid first as they are more accessible to someone trying to cheat by adding an extra chip or two). Some of the crowd leaves before the payout as they know their numbers did not win.
To those who have bet on the number straight-up, the croupier pays 35 chips for every chip placed. The European man who walked away and who had 2 $25 chips straight-up, returns to be paid $1,750. As a large stack of chips is pushed towards him, a novice player says, Great win mate, you re so lucky . However, the European man (a regular gambler) responds I ve lost $5,000 today already . He then places the larger part of his winnings back on the table ready for the next spin, with the hope that there will be another winning number.
From this scenario, to which I will return later, it is obvious that people put their money on numbers in a game of chance because they hope that they will win. At this point you could roll your eyes and say We didn t need a psychologist to tell us that . However, the key to understanding gambling is that people are motivated by the adrenaline-charged experience of winning, coupled with a variety of other psychological experiences, and not simply from the desire for money.
The following simple example illustrates the point. Ask a gambler two questions, the first of which is How did you go at the casino last night? They will probably tell you Had a fantastic night, had some great wins at which point you think to yourself going to the casino is all about winning money . However, the second question reveals the telling aspect of the psychology of gambling, and that is So, how much money did you walk away with?

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