Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Culture: Atlantic City - Stock Market For The Poor

The poor don`t invest in the stock market. They spend their money in the casinos, therefore they stay poor. This claim might be a bit exaggerated, but I got this impression when I visited Atlantic City last weekend. This place, which has a lot of casinos, is just around 3 bus hours away from Manhattan (wikipedia).

Last Friday, my girlfriend and I took the 6.30 pm bus from Manhattan`s Port Authority and arrived there around 10 pm. The next morning at 4.30 am we took the bus back. In the 6 hours between we visited the casinos Golden Nugget (goldennugget), Trump Plaza, Caesar´s and Bally´s while playing a bit at the slots and spotting the other visitors.

It was striking that the usual cool young people, which are usually crowding Manhattan at a friday night, were missing. Instead the people there looked more like lower income groups you can observe in New Yorks boroughs Brooklyn and Queens or in New Jersey.

There were a lot of cheaply dressed elderly people, who seemed to be focused and worked patiently at the slots. I got the impression that these people try to polish up their meager incomes. Other groups, maybe a bit younger, circled the tables where roulette, poker and other games were played. Some of the tables where in the hands of Chinese speaking people. There also were groups of casual dressed young people who seemed to party there. Many of the girls where overweight, the cute very fashion-conscious girls, whom you can see frequently in the streets of Manhattan, were absent (except for my girlfriend).

These observations fit the gambling statistics. "Players with household incomes under $10,000 bet nearly three times as much on lotteries as those with incomes over $50,000" (overcominggambling.com).

The statistics also show that people usually will get poorer while gambling in a casino (wikipedia). The casino industry earns billions of dollar yearly. Casinos are highly profitable because they have a so-called house advantage (investopedia.com). That means that each game you play at a casino has a statistical probability against you winning (wikipedia). Every single time. The worst part are the one-armed bandits, the slots, where the gamblers have a very low chance to win (wikipedia) (investopedia.com). 

Our visit at Atlantic City confirmed the statistics. As expected the slot machines were hungry and ate all the money we fed to them. But we didn`t loose too much. The casino Golden Nugget has a smart marketing strategy to attract people: They refunded our bus tickets (together $72) with vouchers for eating and gambling. We spend part of the credit at the casino`s Chart House restaurant (goldennugget), which had good food and a pleasant view to the Marina and the boardwalk, and we omnly used our casino credit of $50   - plus $5 extra cash - for gambling. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the show. The visit was worth it`s small investment.

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