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Arm yourself with insider knowledge. But most casino patrons don't realize just how heavily the odds are stacked against them. Take keno, in which you pick a string of numbers, hoping to match them to what the casino randomly generates. The odds of hitting, say, the 10 spot -- a string of 10 numbers -- are nine million to one.

Getting killed by fireworks is nine times more likely.

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Slot machines are popular because they offer a shot at a big jackpot for little investment. The odds of winning?

Nearly 17 million to one. You have a better chance of being killed by an asteroid striking Earth. OK, so maybe you won't win the jackpot in slots.

But surely you have a decent shot of walking out ahead of the game, right? Don't count on it. And in craps, the pass- and come-line bets give the house an advantage of less than 1. A few pulls later, three jackpot symbols popped up in the windows.

The Sengels jumped up and down, hugging each other as fellow slot players rushed over to congratulate them. Or so they thought. A supervisor, claiming the machine had malfunctioned, denied the Sengels the payout. The couple appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court, which this June ruled against them.

Effie Freeman can sympathize. But the state gaming commission ruled that it didn't count because the machine had gone into "tilt" mode. Todd Westergard, a Nevada regulator, says that such decisions, no matter how cruel they sound, are only fair.

It's the computers inside the machines, not what pops up in the window, that determine winners, he says, and in the Sengels' case the computer connection was disrupted. But gamblers don't care about the technical explanations. Now 37 states have lotteries, and 28 have casinos including Indian gaming. Why have policy makers and the public allowed gambling to flourish?

One reason is the notion that it creates jobs and commerce. But research suggests the downside far outweighs the benefits. Much of the income generated by casinos simply gets diverted from other local businesses, critics say. Atlantic City's a good example. Within four years of the casinos' arrival, a third of the city's retail businesses had closed. That money surely is a windfall for causes like public education, right?

A study by St. Mary's College professors Patrick Pierce and Donald Miller found that while lotteries provide an initial boost to education budgets, the increases quickly taper off.

In fact, the professors say, states with lotteries eventually provide less support for public education per capita than do states without them.

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Inthe company began gathering details on players when it rolled out its Total Gold frequent-gambler cards now called Total Rewards and has built a database of 19 million customers. Players insert the cards into slot machines or hand them to casino supervisors when they play table games. The cards are marketed as a prestige item that helps players accumulate comps such as free rooms, meals and show tickets. But the real purpose is to track the habits of each customer and tailor a marketing plan that will keep players coming.

If you're a big bettor, you'll find that casinos know all kinds of creepy information -- just enough to push your buttons. She gets information on you. Next time you come in they ask about your wife or dog by name. They know your anniversary. They'll definitely send you a card for your birthday.

Some stocks have been outright busts. And let's hope you didn't let your money ride on The Donald. With a recent expansion of casinos and hotel rooms, Vegas may be getting saturated. Add in competition from Indian gaming in California and the prospect of a slowing economy, and revenue could take a hit.

Gaming stocks are not for the faint of heart. Saddled with debt, many of these companies experience the kind of wild price swings that only a day trader could love.

Similarly, Illinois professor Grinols estimates that one-third to one-half of casino revenue comes from problem or pathological gamblers. Perhaps more disturbing are cases where casinos allow known addicts to continue betting. After losing a million dollars, Houston businessman Joe McNeely sent a letter to several Louisiana casinos asking that they not Of Winner Casino Machine Malfunction Plaques Scatter Casino Yify Ag to gamble.

McNeely then sued five casinos, claiming they continued to market to him aggressively even after they were aware of his addiction. Representatives of one casino, he says, even showed up at his mother's funeral and invited him to stop by. Though the casinos pointed out that McNeely hadn't registered with the state police, which has a self-banning system in place for addicts, they settled the suit last fall for an undisclosed amount.

They're growing up with a message that wagering is acceptable. To make matters worse, Derevensky has found that the addiction rate among youths is two to four times that of the population at large.

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In some states, ticket sales aren't always monitored. Twenty-nine states use automated machines in public places such as airports and stores as one way of dispensing instant-game tickets. Last year, for example, the council flagged the New York lottery for its marketing tie-in with Warner Bros. It's not just lotteries that are accused of catering to kids.

Pete Earley, author of "Super Casino", points to the new family-friendly atmosphere promoted in Las Vegas. MGM Grand now has the second-largest theme park in the country. It was the first of many similar cases for Dennis McNeilly, a psychologist at that clinic. He began studying the effects of gambling on seniors and found that casinos tailor their marketing to attract an older crowd.

The Station Casino in St. Some casinos run shuttle buses from retirement homes. The industry even has a term, "third-of-the-month club," to describe gamblers whose casino trips coincide with the arrival of Social Security checks.

He points out research that shows seniors get to the crisis stage of gambling faster, and don't have the time to rebuild their finances when they get in trouble.

He acknowledged that MGM couldn't complete a permanent facility in four years, as it had Of Winner Casino Machine Malfunction Plaques the city. Still, he added, "There's no way in the world they're going to shut us down. We pay our gaming taxes daily.

His comments reflect just how reliant policy makers have become on casino money. And it's Shamrock Free Casino Games Video Poker just in the form of taxes.

With that kind of spending, it would be tough to pass antigaming legislation, says William Thompson, a professor of public administration at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

The casinos make contributions to every viable candidate. But the truth is, regulators often have their hands tied. Though they have to cooperate with the states to some extent, often tribes are left to regulate themselves.

A new compact in California, for instance, leaves it unclear whether the state has the power to audit the tribes' books or inspect their slot machines. Keeping tabs on Internet gambling is even tougher.

Congress is discussing possible measures, but for now regulators can do little about the foreign sites that cater to U. In some countries, all that's necessary to get a license is to register. Then there are the "cruises to nowhere," boats that depart from coastal U. Facebook 0 Twitter 0 Email Print.

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