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How Often Do Gamblers Really Win?  May 20, 2016 – 12:18 am
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The casino billboards lining America's roadways tantalize with the lure of riches. "Easy Street. It's Only a Play Away, " screams one in Arizona. "$7.1 Million Every Day. We're a Payout Machine, " reads another.

But how often do gamblers really win? What are the chances that a gambler will win on a single day or over a longer period? Don't bother to ask the casinos. Although they gather vast quantities of data about their customers for marketing purposes, including win and loss tallies for many regulars, casinos keep such information a closely-guarded secret.

Now, thanks to an unprecedented trove of public data detailing the behavior of thousands of Internet gamblers over a two-year period, The Wall Street Journal can provide some answers.

On any given day, the chances of emerging a winner aren't too bad—the gamblers won money on 30% of the days they wagered. But continuing to gamble is a bad bet. Just 11% of players ended up in the black over the full period, and most of those pocketed less than $150.

The skew was even more pronounced when it came to heavy gamblers. Of the top 10% of bettors—those placing the largest number of total wagers over the two years—about 95% ended up losing money, some dropping tens of thousands of dollars. Big losers of more than $5, 000 among these heavy gamblers outnumbered big winners by a staggering 128 to 1.

The analysis comes from a database containing anonymous records of 4, 222 Internet gamblers who wagered on at least four days on casino-style games of chance such as blackjack, roulette and slots. They played between 2005 and 2007 on websites run by a major European online gambling concern, Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment PLC.

Bwin made the information available to gambling-addiction researchers affiliated with Harvard Medical School, who . Bwin says there's no reason to believe a more current sample of customers would show significant differences.

Although the online Bwin customers differed in some ways from those typically found in a U.S. casino, their win and loss patterns should be roughly similar because the games are similar, said Robert Hannum, a University of Denver specialist in gambling mathematics.

To check, the Journal asked Puneet Manchanda of the University of Michigan and Hee Mok Park of the University of Connecticut to analyze a private gambling database to which they have access, detailing two years of play by 18, 000 holders of loyalty cards at a Native American casino in the northwestern U.S.


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