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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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What kind of person is gambling one seat over from you?

25 January 2010

Harrah's Entertainment has long been commissioning biennial surveys profiling American gamblers. The American Gaming Association (AGA) has also been producing studies of this topic, using data from Harrah's as well as from polls sponsored on its own. Other analyses of who gambles and why have been performed by organizations without evident self-serving agendas to support (not to accuse Harrah's or AGA of bias). Examples of the latter include work by the Roper and Gallup Organizations, summarized by Kevin Huebsch in the May 1997 American Demographics Magazine.

Published research predates the current global financial malaise, which has not spared the gaming industry. Specific figures gathered even in the recent past may therefore no longer hold, although the broad qualitative conclusions should still apply.

American Demographics found, for instance, that easily accessible gambling such as bingo and lotteries are most popular among middle-income people while casinos attract patrons with above-average earnings. This article added that "casino gamblers exhibit other traits related to high income. They are more likely than average to have a college degree ... to have white collar jobs ... and to be in the peak earning years of 45 to 54."

AGA data substantiated the earnings assertion in American Demographics. The 2008 AGA study gave median household incomes of $59,735 for casino aficionados and $51,653 for the general population, a difference of over 15 percent.

For education levels, however, AGA's 2008 contrast of casino customers and the public in general, respectively, did not reveal the distinctions suggested by American Demographics. AGA's numbers were as follows.

         College post-bachelor's degrees: 9 and 10 percent;
 	 college bachelor's degrees: 18 percent each;
 	 some college or associates degrees: 28 and 26 percent;
 	 no education after high school: 44 and 46 percent.

Similarly, AGA's 2007 report showed job types not differentiated materially. For casino visitors and other Americans, respectively, the data were as follows.

         White collar: 41 and 38 percent
 	 blue collar: 13 percent each;
 	 retired 20 percent each;
 	 other: 27 and 29 percent.

More, AGA ascertained that median ages were close, 45 or 46 years for Americans in general and 47 years for casino goers.

Harrah's 2006 survey indicated that people who enjoyed the casino scene were more sophisti-cated about personal finances than non-gamblers. For instance, 57 percent of casino bettors versus 44 percent of non-gamblers said they were "in control of spending and borrow only when necessary." Likewise, 43 percent of casino buffs as opposed to 32 percent of non-gamblers asserted they were saving for the future and/or trying to grow their nest eggs.

Among non-retired survey respondents, 65 percent of those who were casino gamblers indicated they were planning financially for this period of their lives while only 46 percent of non-gamblers said they were doing so. Among retirees, 50 percent of gamblers compared with a much lower 33 percent from non-gamblers noted they counted on some income from savings and investments.

Regarding money management in the casino, AGA's 2008 synopsis indicated that 86 percent of the solid citizens queried said they "always" set a limit before starting, 6 percent usually did, 5 percent sometimes did, 4 percent never did, and 1 percent didn't answer. AGA also quoted budget figures. These were:

         50 percent less than $100,
   	 25 percent $100 to $199,
 	 12 percent $200 to $299,
 	 8 percent $300 or more,
 	 5 percent no answer.

So, why do folks go to the casinos, anyway? The surveys cited in American Demographics noted that 75 percent say, in essence, mainly to win "a really large amount of money" with a somewhat overlapping 57 percent mentioning entertainment and recreation as important. Of course, there are individuals who assert that gambling is minor -- they come for the camaraderie, the decor, the buffet, and whatnot. But, you know what people mean when they state "it's not the money." They mean "it's the money." Here's how the wily Wordsworth of the wallet, Sumner A Ingmark, put it:

When you win, you can say you were gambling for fun; When you lose, that philosophy's quickly undone.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.