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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Do two-year-olds gamble? You bet they do!

8 January 1999

Dear Mark,
Do you think that kids who play arcade video games are being pre-programmed to gamble since the slot machines of today are video based? Ronnie M.

Forget video games, Ronnie, I can prove to you that two-year-olds gamble. Strong statement, yes, but no whiff of bologna.

First, let me give you two examples of children gambling casino style. On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City children can freely walk into an arcade and play true slot machines by exchanging quarters for tokens. They win crummy prizes in exchange for the tickets the slot spits out. Another example is at the children's arcade at the Circus Circus in Reno. A child can play Flip It, the casino game that flips quarters into the air and on rare occasion pushes them down into trays. They disguised it in name only by calling it Jungle Jamboree. Again, kids get to exchange tickets for worthless prizes.

But I did say two-year-olds. To prove I have one foot planted in mid-air, how about the two-year-old who makes a path with Linus blanket in hand to that thingamajig at the supermarket door that dispenses those plastic transparent eggs. For a quarter a young tot can win an egg containing a bracelet, a cheap watch, but most likely a 3¢ ring-more on that below. These vending machines are classic slot machines.

So is it true gambling? Absolutely. Courts have found that every gambling apparatus must consist of three components; consideration, chance and prize. The child pays something of value (consideration) to use the vending machine: if he wins he receives something of value (prize), usually less than the amount bet; and the outcome depends on chance. Because all three elements are present on the vending machines that dispenses these plastic eggs, this would be considered a true gambling device.

Granted, I doubt anyone would arrest or even put the kibosh on a child for playing grocery store slots, but I do wonder why these vending operators have gone uncontested for so long. Who owns these cash cows milking kids out of quarters?

By the way, Ronnie, vis-à-vis some insider information, the cost of those plastic egg prizes produced in Asia is about 3¢, and there is only one true prize (junky watch) per two hundred eggs. Our offspring are up against tougher odds than the tightest one-armed bandit.

The stimulation to gamble does begin early for many children, well before an arcade adventure. And what parent in his or her right mind is really going to say no? We have to be quarter generous to our kids. They will be choosing our nursing home.

Dear Mark,
When casino executives mention both the "handle" and "hold" of a slot machine, what do they mean? Al R.

The "handle" is the total amount of all coins played through a slot machine. The "hold" (also called "win") is the amount the casino held as profit. The "yield" is the casino's win expressed as a percentage of the profit.

Dear Mark,
Every week I enter all kinds of contests. To this day the telephone has not rung to acknowledge that I'm a winner. Do you think the phone will ever ring? Russell G.

According to Roxy Roxborough, czar of the Las Vegas handicappers, "Your chances are a million to one that any one telephone call will be financially rewarding. Compare that against the caller being a telemarketer or an undesirable in-law, three to one."

Your best bet, Russell, is to leave the answering machine on.

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.