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The Gambling Gene – How to Measure the Entertainment Cost

RTE had an interesting program on the other night called The Gambling Gene. It looked at the Irish people’s liking for a bet, to see if we were more inclined to bet than our European neighbours. Overall I thought it was pretty balanced. The presenter Joe O’Shea looked at both the problem side of gambling, but also acknowledged that gambling provides entertainment to so many. If you haven’t seen it check it out on RTE Player.

Most people I know that like a bet, will admit that in the long run they will lose. They may aspire to turn from a losing punter into a winning one, or they may hope for the big win, that will cancel out all their loses and more. Both of these can happen, but in reality most people that bet, will end up as losing punters. Why then do they bet? That’s easy. Gambling provides entertainment and should be treated as an expense, the same as going to the cinema. We know the cost of going to the cinema but how much does gambling cost us?

Because luck plays such a short term part of betting, it can be hard to put an expense on it. If we go to the cinema we know the cost of the ticket, popcorn etc… but in gambling we may win €100 one week and lose €120 the next, lose €400 one month but win €350 the next. If you keep records of all your bets, after a period of a year, you’ll have a rough, but not exact measure of the cost. Most fun bettors don’t want the hassle of adding up every penny they’ve bet though. Where’s the fun in that?

Rather than the time consuming process of adding up everything over an extended period, why not use some averages to ascertain the entertainment cost of gambling. If you have an idea of the sport your betting on, and aren’t betting at any crazy over rounds, than I suggest a 10% loss on investment would be about right for most people. It may be slightly higher if your betting at big prices with bookmakers, but you should place those bets on Betfair or Betdaq for better prices anyway.

So if 10% is a reasonable estimate of most punters loses, how does that help us measure the entertainment cost of each bet? Its quite simple really. If your betting €10 the cost is 10% of that, which is €1, and if your betting €100 the entertainment cost of the bet is €10. yes sometimes you’ll win, and sometimes you’ll lose, but overall your loses will level out at roughly 10% of what you stake. Some people will do better, especially if their reasonably selective, while punters that will bet on two flies going up a wall, will probably lose more.

Your average punter probably bets maybe €50-€100 on a weekend. So his entertainment cost would be €5 to €10 per week on gambling. One trip to the cinema with his girlfriend will set him back more than that. That goes vice versa for girls, before I get any sexist accusations! The €100 a weekend punter could still lose all his bets for a few weeks in a row, so although it may only cost them €10 a week long term, you have to ensure you can afford to lose your full stake every time you bet.

In Betting Discipline – Fun bets and the inevitable Losing Runs I state you shouldn’t have fun bets if you want to win money gambling. You shouldn’t, or at least you shouldn’t count them as part of your normal bets, which you treat as a profession. You should count them as an entertainment expense, just as you would a nice meal out with your loved one. I have fun bets. I seemingly think Pod is going to win another major, I like opposing Andy Murray in Grand Slam finals, and I’ve been known to have an interest bet at the races while having a few drinks with friends.

Once you ensure you can afford to lose, the money you gamble with, there’s no reason not to use the 10% figure to decide if the entertainment is worth it. Would you rather a €10 bottle of wine, or a stake of €100 spread over the matches on a Saturday? Will the high’s and low’s, the excitement when you win, the despair, when your team ships a late equalizer, compensate for missing that bottle of wine? For many it will, and society shouldn’t frown on us for getting a kick out of having a bet. After all us gamblers don’t go out of our way to belittle people who spend money on flowers, but we all know whose wasting their money now, don’t we?

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