What chance have you got?

The National Lottery will institutionalise gambling in Britain.Discover what drives people to indulge in the universal -but dangerously addictive - pastime

Slot machines: £2.3 billion gambled each year
Slot machines in Britain are small fry compared with Las Vegas,where the highest payout on a slot machine is $6.814,823.This is made possible by an electronic system which links all slot machines in Nevada into a single grid.

Pools: £700 million gambled each year
The largest pools win stands at £2,255,387.This is the most popular form of gambling,although the stake makes up only five per cent of the country's total gambling turnover.

Racing: £6.8 billion gambled each year
The biggest payout made by a bookmaker for a bet on the horses was £567,066 to Dick Mussel,a £200-a-week cleaner,on a combination bet in 1992.This represents odds of 2,800,000 to 1.

Lotteries: £28 million gambled each year
At present lotteries in Britain are on a small scale.But the National Lottery will change all that next year - it's projected turnover is between £1 billion and £4 billion.

Casinos: £1.9 billion gambled each year
In Britain there are 117 casinos.The average amount exchanged for chips on a single visit is £85,of which you would expect to lose £17.
Simon Timmins is so certain that Michael Jackson and his sister are one and the same person that he's bet £25 with the bookmakers at odds of 500 to 1 on just that.If he's proved right he stands to win £10,000.Also wagering £25,James Orr stands to do even better if his son scores a goal in the 2006 World Cup.The odds are 100,000 to 1.
With betting shops in every high street,scratch cards at the newsagent,the pools at home and bingo available seven nights a week,our eagerness to gamble seems almost insatiable.
You name it,and you can bet on it.Bookmakers will quote odds on developing a perpetual motion machine (250 to 1) the existence of the Loch Ness monster (200 to 1) and world government by aliens (100,000 to 1).
In the last three years the odds against the Second Coming have stayed at 1000 to 1, although the odds against a UFO landing have shortened alarmingly from 500 to 1 to 150 to 1.
(What do they know that we don't?)
But the bookies don't always get it right.Failing to recognise that Mr Blobby was going to get to number one in the pop charts at Christmas cost Ladbrokes around £60,000.
We are a nation of gamblers.When the National Lottery is introduced next year it's estimated that the £55 which the average Briton currently spends on gambling each year will double.
The British government is the latest in a long line to succumb to the temptation to tap it's citizen's weakness for gambling.Even Albania has a national lottery.
Gambling is popular across the classes:at the races,cleaners rub shoulders with the Queen Mother,while at casinos - which have been called "bingo in a black tie" - million scan be won or lost in a few minutes.
But while casinos and bingo halls promote themselves as just another arm of the leisure and entertainment business, there's a darker side to gambling. Gambling's roots are buried in the magical and irrational side of life. The world of the gambler is a primitive place of lurking superstitions and signs. For the gambler the universe is alive and full of personal meaning.
When the chosen horse is first past the post, or the roulette ball clicks into the prayed-for slot, it's a sign that the universe is controllable. We may not all wager thousands every night, but who hasn't played prediction games like the one with the traffic lights: '"If I get through these lights before they turn red, it means I'll get that job"?[Imbuing things with meaning that they haven't got -LB] That's the gambling mentality.
But as nearly everyone loses overall, why do we continue to do it? As far as psychologists are concerned, explanations such as "fun" and the possibility of "winning a fortune" don't begin to explain the attraction.
At the beginning of the century Freud declared gambling was an attempt to obtain "narcissistic supplies" - the love and food that had been denied in childhood. One popular theory in the Fifties was that gamblers are rebelling against the rational world of logic and moderation and showing unconscious aggression towards those in authority. This theory suggested that all gamblers secretly wanted to lose to punish themselves.
Behaviourists have found that the best way to get people to keep on doing something - whether it's packing eggs in a factory Or pulling the handle of a fruit-machine is to give them a reward only some of the time. [Like training rats or chickens -LB] This is based on the idea that people simply get bored if they are constantly rewarded.
The Dutch psychologist Dr Wilhelm Waganaar believes that people's gambling decisions are based on a series of mistakes in our decision making.
Psychologists have discovered that we all use general principles to help us make day-to-day decisions. An example of these rules of thumb is the principle that if things often appear together then there is a link between them. This reasoning is fine for telling you that a loud roar means a lion is nearby, but it can lead you astray at the races.
It may account for why gamblers are so superstitious: if they were wearing a particular shirt when they had that big win they often conclude that it will always bring them luck. It also explains why some strategies at the gaming table remain favourites even though they don't work.
Just how powerful an influence these rules can exert can be seen in the way even professional gamblers - playing 100 hands an hour, eight hours a night - behave at black- jack. Instead of following a well-known strategy that reduces the house's overall takings from eight per cent to half a per cent, gamblers invariably ignore it and follow their own hunches.
Dr Mark Griffiths, a psychologist from Plymouth University , studies teenagers who are addicted to slot machines. He believes gambling is controlled by a mixture of rules of thumb and basic learning principles.
"For example, where I see a series of losses the addict sees is a series of near-misses," says Griffiths."Fruit machine manufacturers make use of this by putting more jack-pot symbols on two of the three reels so people keep thinking they are getting close to winning"
Another factor that encourages people to gamble is the feeling that they are in control.
Those addicted to fruit machines often have a favourite machine, which they start to believe that they can influence."I have uncovered at least 20 things which players claim as skills- such as when to press the nudge button or the hold button - which actually have no effect all, "says Griffiths.
Seeing other people win makes you gamble more,according to some studies - and fruit machines make use of this.When a jackpot is paid out, the machine's Technicolor lights flash and it makes a lot of noise, which encourages other punters to keep putting in money.
For a few people, around five per cent of the gambling population, gambling becomes compulsive. In some cases lives are totally ruined by gambling.For compulsive gamblers nothing matters except the next bet. Paul, a teenage fruit machine addict who stole his mother's housekeeping and played truant from school,says: "Every morning I'd wake up and say 'I won't go near the machines," but then you get a slippery feeling in your palms and you've just got to go and do a number on the bandits."
For these gamblers, debts mount up and friends, relations and lovers are stolen from and lied to. There's no shortage of cautionary tales of how compulsive gambling has led to theft, embezzlement and sometimes even murder. A few years ago city businessman Nicholas Young was jailed for four years for betting £3.3 million of other people's money; bingo addict Margaret Allen murdered her mother with a hammer for the sake of £3000, while Florence Samarasinha, a high-ranking official with Croydon council, resorted to prostitution and murder to pay for her £1000-a-week gambling habit.
Compulsive gamblers who reach rock bottom and decide they need help often turn to Gamblers' Anonymous. This is a self-help organisation that runs weekly meetings all over the country where gamblers can meet and talk about their problem with other gamblers. Gamblers' Anonymous believes that the first step on the road to recovery is to accept that you are a compulsive gambler and that gambling is a progressive illness.
Members go to regular meetings and recount their stories. Alf hasn't had a bet for seven months. "For the first time I have peace of mind. I don't have to get up early to get to the post before my wife in case there is a letter from a loan company."
Others, like Ewan, reveal almost unbelievable horror stories . "I am addicted to roulette. I came here after I realised I was seriously considering burning my house down with my wife and kids inside so I could get my hands on the insurance money."
So why does gambling drive some people to such desperate extremes? One explanation that has been suggested is that compulsive gamblers have a problem with their brain chemistry.
Dr Griffiths believes that gamblers are trying to change their mood. Evidence for this comes from his finding that when fruit machine addicts gamble they become aroused and their heart rate goes up on average by 22 beats per minute.
Compulsive gamblers may be addicted to arousal. Some scientists suggest that noradrenaline, a brain chemical associated with arousal, thrill and excitement,must be involved. This fits the idea that compulsive gamblers are addicts who get a rush and then '"crash'' afterwards, and I would explain why only placing a bet makes them feel better.
But other researchers believe that another chemical found in the brain, called serotonin, is more relevant. People with low levels often find it hard to control their impulses, and some compulsive gamblers have been successfully treated with a drug called fluvoxamine,which helps to boost levels of serotonin.
"We are right at the frontier of neurochemistry here," says Dr Brown."Serotonin and noradrenaline are involved in all sorts of brain processes and we don't know what the levels of these chemicals are in the general population. Does everyone with low serotonin have poor impulse control? We just don't know."
To confuse the issue even further, some researchers believe that depression is the real key to compulsive gambling. Dr Anne Marie O'Dwyer, who works at Addenbrooks hospital in Cambridge, has successfully used anti-depressants to treat compulsive gamblers. She claims that in these cases serotonin levels are higher than normal and that depression is involved in about 70 per cent of the serious gambling cases in the US.
The day a foolproof chemical cure is found for compulsive gambling is still many years off.
In fact, even the idea that heavy gambling is necessarily a pathological state is fiercely challenged by some.
A study at a centre for gamblers found that only 15 per cent of patients could be classified as neurotic. A report found: "Most were not guilt-ridden, masochistic megalomaniacs whose aim was to lose.
Gambling was seen as creating an acceptable fantasy world where the gambler feels free,
challenged, powerful, influential and respected." Jerome Burne.

Find out more
. Bizarre Bets by Graham Sharpe (Virgin £4.99)
. All Right, Okay, You Win by David Spanier (Secker & Warburg £16.99)
. Gamblers' Anonymous helpline 071 3843040

Get 'em young
Research reveals that ten per cent of school children play fruit machines every week, and that a substantial number of them are already addicted to the habit.

Female full house
Bingo is the only form of gambling where women outnumber men. It's the third most popular type of betting, but accounts for only five per cent of the total spent

Racing certainties
Eighty per cent of bets placed in the country's 10,000 betting shops on horse races are small - less than £5. One of the perks of going to the races is that you don't have to pay tax on an on-course bet

Heads or tails?
Tossing a coin is one of the simplest forms of gambling and is found in cultures all around the world.Using the toss of a coin to make decisions has links with gambling's religious associations -"I can't decide,so let God or the Fates decide...."

Big spenders and high rollers: people who have won and lost a fortune

When it comes to the gambling big time, the losses (and wins) of the super-rich are simply astounding.This provokes a mixture of envy and outrage in the rest of the population,who see millions changing hands.
You don't have to be super-rich to make a living as a professional gambler. Mike Perry and Andy Cattrell have become expert at playing the fruit machines. Just by looking and listening carefully to a machine they can tell when it's ready to pay out.
They travel about 100,000 miles a year checking out machines all over the country.Their longest stretch on the machines was 72 hours, which earned them over £4000. They have become notorious and are banned from 200 clubs around the country.
The late Robert Maxwell reputedly lost £1.5 million in three minutes playing three roulette wheels simultaneously at Les Ambassadeurs casino London. That works out at over £8000 per second.
Two years ago two Korean businessmen lost$14 million in a London casino playing a game of roulette.
The Australian business tycoon Kerry Packer once raked in £7 million during a four-week gambling spree in London.
The Greek tycoon Frank Sarakakis lost about £8million on roulette last year.

The biggest gambler in the world is a Japanese property developer called Akio Kashiwagi, who bets £10 million pounds an hour at baccarat. Four years ago, he won $19 million in Darwin,
Australia, and £4 million at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.He then lost £5 million there a few months later.

How the odds are stacked against us

At the races each horse or greyhound has its own odds.These odds are initially based on past form and are then altered according to how many people place bets.With other kinds of gambling the odds are fixed according to the laws of probability.The odds are:

1 to 1 : for or against a tossed coin coming down heads.

1.25 to 1 : against a draw being dealt a pair in five card draw poker.

35 to 1 : against throwing a double six in backgammon.

46 to 1 : against being dealt three of a kind in five-card draw poker.
188,405 to 1 : against winning the £10,000 prize on a single ticket in the proposed British lottery.

278,784 to 1 : against picking the winners of all four football league divisions (but book makers only gave 653 to 1 in 1991/2).

A brief history of gambling
People have always gambled. Carved pebbles for use in gambling and dating from around 10,000 BC have been found in caves in the Pyrenees. Dice, dating from 2600 BC, have been unearthed from Mesopotamian royal tombs. The earliest written record of betting is the Indian Gambler's Lament - from 1200 BC.
Most religions have a problem with gambling. Hindus regarded gamblers on a par with assassins, while gamblers weren't allowed to be witnesses in Jewish courts. But gambling also appears in religious myths. The Hindu gods gambled,and the Tibetans have a ceremony in which the Grand Llama plays dice with the devil.The Navaho Indians tell how The Gambler from Heaven enslaved humans by getting them to bet on their freedom.
In the West, the Romans laid bets on chariot races and Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus' robe.
The early church condemned gambling along with other earthly pleasures such as drink and sex, a tradition continued by the Elizabethan Puritans. Gambling doesn't fit with the work ethic. Societies still feel it has to be controlled because winning millions on a single ticket makes a mockery of the virtues of hard work.But it's tricky to distinguish the gambling spirit from that of the admired entrepreneur or dealer on the Stock Exchange.

Take a gamble on Las Vegas
Las Vegas in Nevada in the US, is the gambIer's Mecca. "If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing'' is the city's motto.
But the likelihood is that you will lose $533 dollars - the average person 's gambling spend - to some of the city's 86,000 slot machines. Last year Las Vegas earned around $5000 million from gambling.
Sixteen years ago, Nevada was the only state in the US where you could legally go to a casino. But despite the fact that nine US states now have casinos, Las Vegas retains its appeal.
"It screams bad taste and I love it,"says gambling journalist and author David Spanier. And so do the 20 million visitors who flock there every year.While slot machines account for about 50 per cent of the takings, up to 30 per cent comes from baccarat - the game of the super-
rich - in which the players may bet $100,000 a hand.
Casino managements are as prone to superstition as gamblers. When a table has a run of heavy losses the management will do anything to try to change it. The Las Vegas Hilton even dismissed an entire blackjack crew - a decision could cost them $38 million in compensation.

Fantasy palaces
Apart from rows of gleaming slot machines , Las Vegas has many other ways to encourage punters to part with their money. Elaborate fantasy hotels, such a 30-storey Egyptian pyramid, complete with a 10-storey sphinx and obelisk, have been constructed.
Excalibur, with its jousting knights, is devoted to the Arthurian legend. The Mirage has tigers, and volcanoes that smell of pina colada.

Britain's strict attitude
Gambling is much more strictly controlled in Britain than anywhere else in the world.Under the 1968 Gaming Act casinos can give credit or serve alcohol where play takes place.
Only members can play, and it takes 48 hours for an application to be cleared. Staff are vetted by the Gaming Board, which tightly regulates gambling in casinos and bingo halls, and on fruit machines and in lotteries.
Casinos are not allowed to induce customers to gamble by advertising. They can service only "unstimulated demand" , although big players are offered an enticing range of free dinners and gifts.
Overstepping the mark results in a swift investigation by the gambling Board,during which time the casino can be closed down.
Casinos are only allowed two slot machines on the premises.This is a contrast to the US, where machines take about 60 per cent of the total amount of cash bet on the premises. Betting shops are equally restricted. The frontage must prevent passers-by from looking in. The idea is that they should be unwelcoming - somewhere you place a bet and then leave.
Technically any bets not made with a licensed book- maker are illegal:betting with a few friends in the pub on a snooker match may be fun but it's against the law.
Outlawed activities that undoubtedly attract gambling are dog or cockfights, bare-knuckle fights, as well as fights between badgers and dogs.

Biting British controls
Gambling in Britain is tightly controlled by law. Dog fighting is not allowed, although illegal fights are common. Betting shops have to be purposefully austere to make customers feel uncomfortable and prevent them from lingering too long.They are not permitted to have carpets on the floor.
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