(Investigator 86, 2002 September)

If you gamble against the odds you'll probably lose. This is a mathematical truth that some people try to ignore.

One unemployed gambler with a wife and four sons gambled away his Centrelink benefits, then borrowed from a friend and gambled that away, and then robbed a supermarket. He was caught and jailed for 4¼ years. (1)

The odds are against you in casinos, lotteries, horse-racing and electronic gaming machines. The odds have to be against you because your losses pay the wages of people running these events and their taxes and for the infrastructure.

If you get addicted to gambling – which may happen if you win a few times – you may eventually lose so much that you'll steal to keep playing.

A Law clerk, 48, stole $450,000 from the law firm's accounts and its clients to fuel her gambling. (2)

A Melbourne bank officer, 44, lost at gambling, defrauded his employer, the National Australia Bank, of $1,200,000 and was jailed for five years. (3)

An estimated 8,000 - 10,000 of South Australia's 21,000 gambling addicts have engaged in criminal activity to obtain money to keep gambling.

Consider a simple dice-rolling game where we add up what each person throws and the highest total after we've each thrown twenty times wins. But here's the catch. Whenever you throw a six it counts as a four, but when I throw a six it remains a six! Would you play by such rules – perhaps putting up $50 per game?

Common sense tells you that you'll lose most of the time. The mathematically most likely result after twenty throws each, is a total of 70 for me and 63 for you.

My advantage over you by the above rules is approximately equal to the advantage the electronic gaming machines have over you.

That’s why South Australians lost $473 a head on gaming machines in the 2001-2002 financial year – a total of $606 million. Of this $394 million went to the hotels and clubs and $212 million went to the State Government as taxes. (4)

A kit to help 2,000 SA doctors identify and advise patients with gambling problems was recently launched. (5)

[All references from The Advertiser: (1) 2002, May 25; (2) 2002 August 7, p. 9; (3) 2002, August 3, p. 11; (4) 2002, August 9, p. 3; (5) 2002 August 7, p. 10]