Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Parlor Games?

Maryland and Pennsylvania have joined the states that have legalized controlled locations for slot machines. We use the name "slots parlors," evoking 19th century imagery, instead of "casinos" which comes with pictures of Las Vegas and Atlantic City and all the baggage they bring. A casino is not a slots parlor because it has table games -- blackjack poker, roulette, craps,...

Is this a meaningful distinction? Is the difference that players do not gamble against a living dealer or against each other? Is that experienced difference enough to alter the kind of experience? Is it that table games can have higher stakes and thereby are more likely to cause gambling addiction related and financial problems for the players? Slots can be played by anyone, there is no advantage to be gained from understanding probabilities or complex strategies, therefore slots are not played by people we could call "real gamblers" or "professional gamblers," the class of folks you might run into at a horse or dog track, is that what makes them different?

Are lotteries more like slot machines or table games? We seem to have no problem with them. Or is it completely different because buying a lottery ticket does not require loitering at a machine or table, it requires no gambling space, but can be tucked away neatly at a grocery, liquor, or convenience store counter? Is the difference really about place, not about activity?

Why do we draw the seemingly arbitrary line between these types of gambling?