Like kids in Vegas

IMG_0176Vegas is crazy. Don’t need to tell you that casinos are the masters at taking your money very effectively. It’s all geared towards extracting cash quickly and efficiently and without you feeling the pain until the morning after. But really, the  kids casino was the worst. You feed dollar bills into a huge 70s machine which slams out quarters like you’re winning the fruity. Then, you can feed the quarters into a flashing machine to play a game of chance – a conveyor belt flings a coin into a spinning box or you drop it though a rotating wheel where the smaller holes have a bigger payout. Lights flash, neon, music, wow – it’s a party 🙂

IMG_0171But it’s not cash, it’s tickets – and you get a lot of tickets. For every quarter you put in, you get zero to twenty tickets out! Awesome, can I have more quarters Dad? And then, with your tickets piled in your hand you feed them into a machine which scans them, counts them, and gives you another ticket – the winning ticket – which you can redeem for prizes. Peter’s jumping up and down with excitement – the shelf of glittering delights has everything from a digital camera to a Nintendo Wii. But hang on, 211 tickets doesn’t seem to buy you the big prizes – you need 30,000 for the Wii. So then, it’s a Pirates of the Caribbean jigsaw and a plastic ring with dollar sign. Excellent.

IMG_0173To recap, the $10 bill, investment, or fund was split into to a big pile of quarters and invested in several instruments. Some simple where a steady hand usually results in an average payout and some more risky where there’s a chance of a big win. We play the games, or markets, for some time – and once the investment is in paper form it gets more difficult to see what it’s worth. Finally, when it comes time to cash out the number printed on our certificate can be exchanged for a prize but hang on, is it the fees? Did the market go down as well as up? Either way, we’re so far removed from the initial investment that we’re not really sure why we’re not going home with the Wii.

IMG_0181I’ve even seen a variant which is worse – you need to convert your cash into tokens (er, chips) before you can play.. it’s even harder to figure out where your money’s gone.

So then, it’s no wonder adults find it easy to gamble in Vegas, Wall Street, wherever when it doesn’t feel like it’s real money at stake – we’re all kids at heart and when we’re winning we don’t want to stop. It’s just lucky you couldn’t take out an insurance policy on somebody else losing their tickets. Their carny ecosystem would be supporting credit default swaps of 5x the number of tickets that had been issued.

And did anyone get the Wii? By my calculation Peter got 200 tickets for his $10 so 30,000 tickets would cost you about $1,500. Nice work if you can get it.

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