Vice Squad
Monday, April 26, 2004
New Orleans Vice

Alas, I have little first-hand experience to report upon, despite having spent the last few days in the Big Easy. I will note that the caffeine/gambling connection seems to be growing, as there is now a Starbucks inside the twice-bankrupt Harrah's casino. (Yes, casinos can go bankrupt -- even multiple times.) Perhaps in an attempt to avoid further bankruptcies, the casino is on the verge of opening a new 516-seat theater that will offer Las Vegas-style entertainment. Oh, and earlier this month it started knocking down some 19th century buildings to build a 26-story hotel, though a couple of the 19th century facades will be maintained, and one old building will be incorporated into the hotel design. In case those two previous bankruptcies have you worried, well, I wouldn't be too concerned. Harrah's New Orleans managed to win $27.6 million from its customers in March -- and, I am sad to report, $4.50 from me in April. I even turned down the free drink offer -- though if a Starbucks' coffee was one of the alternatives I might have reconsidered.

Or maybe I lost more. People wildly underestimate their gambling losses. A report prepared for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission a few years back indicated that survey respondents underestimated lottery losses by two-thirds or three-quarters, while the responses by casino players indicated a net win -- all the casinos should go bankrupt! Similar results have been found in asking participants in zero-sum situations like a regular Friday night poker game: people either purposely mislead researchers, or mislead themselves, about the true state of their gambling balance.

I am sticking with my "lost $4.50" claim, nevertheless.

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