Gamblers, beware! Don't be fooled
The Editor, Sir:
Senator Arthur Williams, state minister in the Ministry of Finance, has urged Jamaicans "not to lose sight of the economic benefits that can accrue from casino gaming". And, who would not be fascinated with the 2,000-room hotel at the cost of some US$1.5 billion! The possibility of 33,000 jobs to Jamaicans is phenomenal!
The question is: Who will inform the Jamaican people who choose to gamble about the law of 'probability' in terms of the 'odds against winning'? Probability is simply the ratio of the unfavourable possibilities to the favourable ones.
There are three basic elements in gambling: chance, evaluative skill, and strategy (CSS). Most gamblers may never have the evaluative skills or the strategies to plan their gambling; the most they will have is chance. If the probability of throwing a seven is 1/6, then in every six throws, 'on the average', one throw would be favourable and five unfavourable; that is, the odds against throwing a seven are, therefore, five to one.
The senator makes the point in The Gleaner, April 30, that "the major challenge was to ensure that casinos are run according to the strict rules that are set down".
But let me ask Senator Williams: Who will educate the public about the gamblers' fallacy called 'the doctrine of the maturity of the chances'? (or the Monte Carlos fallacy - sounds like 'Carlos Hill Fallacy'). The fallacy assumes that each play in a game of chance is not independent of the other, and that a series of outcomes of one sort should be balanced in the short run by the other possibilities.
Did you know that in some games the advantage may go to the banker or dealer? Therefore, not all players have equal chances to win equal pay-offs. And, commercial gambling operators can use strategies so that they can occupy advantaged positions. It does not take a prophet or rocket scientist to know that casino operators can also add rules that enhance their profits. Additionally, casino rules may limit the amount that may be stalked if it profits dealers.
Most of the stigma attached to gambling has resulted from the dishonesty of its promoters. Is the Government going to set up control mechanisms to deter cheating? But it may be shocking to know that governments can orient laws in order to derive more tax revenues from gambling than to control cheating.
Gamblers, beware! Don't be fooled!
I am, etc.,
School of Religion and Theology
Northern Caribbean University