Louis Theroux plays Blackjack -Gambling in Las Vegas - BBC
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For more information on how we process your personal data - or to update your preferences at any time - please visit our I Do Not Accept I Agree Modern slot machines develop an unbreakable hold on many players—some of whom wind up losing their jobs, their families, and even, as in the case of Scott Stevens, their lives.
O n the morning of Monday, August 13, 2012, Scott Stevens loaded a brown hunting bag into his Jeep Grand Cherokee, then went to the master bedroom, where he hugged Stacy, his wife of 23 years.
Stacy thought that her husband was off to a job interview followed by an appointment with his therapist.
Instead, he drove the 22 miles from their home in Steubenville, Ohio, to the Mountaineer Casino, just outside New Cumberland, West Virginia.
Maybe this time it would pay out enough to save him.
Around noon, he gave up.
Stevens, 52, left the casino and wrote a five-page letter to Stacy.
He asked that she have him cremated.
Then he headed to the Jefferson Kiwanis Youth Soccer Club.
He had raised funds for these green fields, tended them with his lawn mower, and watched his daughters play on them.
Stevens parked his Jeep in the gravel lot and called Ricky Gurbst, a Cleveland attorney whose firm, Squire Patton Boggs, represented Berkman, where Stevens had worked for 14 years—until six and a half months earlier, when the firm discovered that he had been stealing company funds to feed his gambling habit and fired him.
Failing his daughters had been the final blow.
Gurbst said he would pass along the request.
Then Stevens told Gurbst that he was going to kill himself.
He next called J.
Up until that point, he had put on a brave face for Bender, saying he would accept responsibility and serve his time.
Now he told Bender what he was about to do.
Alarmed, Bender tried to talk him out of it.
He unpacked his Browning semiautomatic 12-gauge shotgun, loaded it, and sat on one of the railroad ties that rimmed the parking lot.
Then he dialed 911 and told the dispatcher his plan.
He was meticulous about finances, both professionally and personally.
When he first met Stacy, in 1988, he insisted that she pay off her credit-card debt immediately.
Stevens doted on his girls and threw himself into causes that benefited them.
He spent time on weekends painting the high-school cafeteria and stripping the hallway floors.
Stevens got his first taste of casino gambling while attending a 2006 trade show in Las Vegas.
On a subsequent trip, he hit a jackpot on a slot machine and was hooked.
Scott and Stacy soon began making several trips a year to Vegas.
She liked shopping, sitting by the pool, even occasionally playing the slots with her husband.
They brought the kids in the summer and made a family vacation of it by visiting the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam, and Disneyland.
Back home, Stevens became a regular at the Mountaineer Casino.
Over the next gambling in las vegas history years, his gambling hobby became an addiction.
Did Scott Stevens die because he was unable to rein in his own addictive need to gamble?
Or was he the victim of a system carefully calibrated to prey on his weakness?
Stevens methodically concealed his addiction from his wife.
He kept separate bank accounts.
He used his work address for his gambling correspondence: W-2Gs the IRS form used to report gambling winningswire transfers, casino mailings.
Even his best friend and brother-in-law, Carl Nelson, who occasionally gambled alongside Stevens, had no inkling of his problem.
He sometimes did this three or four times in a single day.
His colleagues did not question his absences from the office, because his job involved overseeing various companies in different locations.
Stacy had no idea.
In Vegas, Stevens had always kept plans to join her and the girls for lunch.
At home, he was always on time for dinner.
So she was stunned when he called her with bad news on January 30, 2012.
She was on the stairs with a load of laundry when the phone rang.
Even after he was fired, Stevens kept gambling as often as five or six times a week.
Stacy noticed that he was irritable more frequently than usual and that he sometimes snapped at the girls, but she figured that it was the fallout of his unemployment.
When he headed to the casino, he told her he was going to see his therapist, that he was networking, that he had other appointments.
When money appeared from his occasional wins, he claimed that he had been doing some online trading.
Afterward, Stacy studied gambling addiction and the ways slot machines entice customers to part with their money.
In 2014, she filed a lawsuit against both Mountaineer Casino and International Game Technology, the manufacturer of the slot machines her husband played.
At issue was the fundamental question of who killed Scott Stevens.
Did he die because he was unable to rein in his own addictive need to gamble?
Or was he the victim—as the suit alleged—of a system carefully calibrated to prey upon his weakness, one that robbed him of his money, his hope, and ultimately his life?
L ess than 40 years ago, casino gambling was illegal everywhere in the United States outside of Nevada and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
But since Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, tribal and commercial casinos have rapidly proliferated across the country, with some 1,000 now operating in 40 states.
The preferred mode of gambling these days is electronic gaming machines, of which there are now almost 1 million nationwide, offering variations on slots and video poker.
Their prevalence has accelerated addiction and reaped huge profits for casino operators.
And, despite the popularity of slot machines and the decades of innovation surrounding them, when adjusted for inflation, there has not been a significant increase in the amount spent by customers on slot-machine gambling during an average casino visit.
A soft-spoken personal-injury attorney based in Indiana, he has filed two previous lawsuits against casinos.
In 2001, he sued Aztar Indiana Gaming, of Evansville, on behalf of David Williams, then 51 years old, who had been an auditor for the State of Indiana.
District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted summary judgment in favor of Aztar, and the U.
Kephart had filed for bankruptcy after check this out broke gambling in Iowa, and moved to Tennessee.
When the casino sued her for damages on the money she owed, Kephart countersued.
Unlike in his earlier gambling cases, however, he decided to include a products-liability claim in this one, essentially arguing that slot machines are knowingly designed to deceive players so that when they are used as intended, they cause harm.
In focusing on the question of product liability, Noffsinger was borrowing from the rule book of early antitobacco litigation strategy, which, over the course of several decades and countless lawsuits, ultimately succeeded in getting courts to hold the industry liable for the damage it wrought on public health.
When Noffsinger filed the Stevens lawsuit, John W.
That is more than the number of women living in the U.
Others outside the industry estimate the number of gambling addicts in the country to be higher.
Such gambling in las vegas history simply cannot stop themselves, regardless of the consequences.
Yet despite the fact that there is no external chemical at work on the brain, the neurological and physiological reactions to the stimulus are similar to those of drug or alcohol addicts.
Some gambling addicts report that they experience a high resembling that produced by a powerful drug.
Like drug addicts, they develop a tolerance, and when they cannot gamble, they show signs of withdrawal such as panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and heart palpitations.
Approximately 3 million to 4 million Americans are pathological gamblers—and one in five gambling addicts attempts suicide.
Neuroscientists have discovered characteristics that appear to be unique to the brains of addicts, particularly in the dopaminergic system, which includes reward pathways, and in the prefrontal cortex, which exerts executive control over impulses.
Environmental factors and personality traits—a big gambling win within the past year, companions who gamble regularly, impulsivity, depression—may also contribute to the development of a gambling problem.
Given the guilt and shame involved, gambling addiction frequently progresses to a profound despair.
The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that one in five gambling addicts attempts suicide—the highest rate among addicts of any kind.
There are no accurate figures for suicides related to gambling problems, but there are ample anecdotes: the police officer who shot himself in the head at a Detroit casino; the accountant who jumped to his death from a London skyscraper in despair over his online-gambling addiction; the 24-year-old student who gambling in las vegas history himself in Las Vegas after losing his financial-aid money to gambling; and, of course, Stevens himself.
The Vorhees P roblem gamblers are worth a lot of money to casinos.
According to some research, 20 percent of regular gamblers are problem or pathological gamblers.
Moreover, when they gamble, they spend—which is to say, lose—more than other players.
At least nine independent studies demonstrate that problem gamblers generate anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of total gambling revenues.
Casinos know exactly who their biggest spenders are.
According to a 2001 article in Time magazine, back in the 1990s casino operators bought records from credit-card companies and mailing lists from direct-mail marketers.
These days, the casinos have their own internal methods for determining who their most attractive customers are.
According to Natasha Dow Schüll, an NYU professor who spent more than 15 years researching the industry, culminating in her 2012 book, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas, 70 percent of patrons now use loyalty cards, which allow the casinos to track such data points as how frequently they play electronic gaming machines, how long they play, how much they bet, how often they win and lose, what times of day they visit, and so on.
Each time a patron hits the Spin or the Deal button, which can be as frequently as 900 to 1,200 times an hour, the casino registers the data.
In some machines, miniature cameras watch their faces and track their playing behavior.
Several companies supply casinos with ATMs that allow patrons to withdraw funds through both debit and cash-advance functions, in some cases without ever leaving the machines they are playing.
Some of the companies also sell information on their ATM customers to the casinos.
They also employ hosts who befriend large spenders and use special offers to encourage them to stay longer or return soon.
Some hosts receive bonuses that are tied to the amount customers spend beyond their expected losses, which are calculated using the data gathered from previous visits.
The business plan for casinos is based on the addicted gambler.
Caroline Richardson, for example, became a whale for the Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
It increased the limits on some slot machines so that she could spend more on single games.
It also made a new machine off-limits to other customers so that Richardson could be the first to play it.
Management assigned Richardson an executive host, who offered her free drinks, meals, hotel stays, and tickets to entertainment events.
In 2014, Richardson, then 54, was sentenced to 14 to 20 years in prison for the crime.
The thefts ultimately put the company out of business.
A representative for Ameristar Casino declined to comment on the lawsuit.
District Court for Nebraska agreed that Colombo had sufficiently proved its initial claim of unjust enrichment, which the casino would have to defend itself against.
The machines have names such as King Midas, Rich Devil, Cash Illusions, Titanic, and Wizard of Oz.
But the vast majority sit at the slot machines.
Slots and video poker have become the lifeblood of the American casino.
They generate nearly 70 percent of casino revenues, according to a 2010 American Gaming Association report, up from 45 percent four decades ago.
Three out of five casino visitors say their favorite activity is playing electronic gaming machines.
Their popularity spells profits not only for casinos but for manufacturers as well.
Old-fashioned three-reel slot machines consisted of physical reels that were set spinning by the pull of a lever.
If the same symbol aligned on the payline on all three reels when they stopped spinning, the player would win a jackpot that varied more info size depending on the symbol.
The odds were straightforward and not terribly hard to calculate.
But where each reel stops is no longer determined by the force of a good pull of the lever.
The physical reels are not spinning until they run out of momentum, as it might appear.
Thus it is possible for game designers to reduce the odds of hitting a big jackpot from 1 in 10,648 to 1 in 137 million.
Moreover, it is almost impossible for a slots player to have any idea of the actual odds of winning any jackpot, however large or small.
The intent is to give the player the impression of having almost won—when, in fact, he or she is no closer to having won than if the symbol had not appeared on the reel at all.
Some slot machines are specifically programmed to offer up this near-miss result far more often than they would if they operated by sheer chance, and the psychological impact can be powerful, leading players to think, I was so close.
Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier Law School and the author of Gambling and the Law, has written, Nevada regulations operate on the theory that a sophisticated player would be able to tell the real odds of winning by playing a machine long enough.
The business plan for casinos is based on the addicted gambler.
Indeed, as early as 1953, B.
In the United States, by contrast, the federal government granted the patent for virtual reel mapping in 1984.
IGT purchased the rights to it in 1989 and later click at this page the patent to other companies.
Technology has evolved such that many machines lack physical reels altogether, instead merely projecting the likenesses of spinning symbols onto a video screen.
Instead of betting on one simple payline, players are able to bet on multiple patterns of paylines—as many as 200 on some machines.
This allows for more opportunities to win, but the results are often deceptive.
You can get 150 to 200 of these false wins, which we also call losses, an hour.
Because the machine is telling the player he or she is winning, the gradual siphoning is less noticeable.
Related to the video slot machines are video-poker terminals, which IGT began popularizing in 1979.
The standard five-card-draw game shows five cards, each offering players the option to hold or replace by drawing a card from the 47 remaining in the virtual deck.
The games require more skill—or at least a basic understanding of probabilities—than the slot machines do.
As such, they appeal to people who want to have some sense of exerting control over the outcome.
They saw, for instance, patrons going more often for four of a kind than the royal flush, a rarer but more lucrative hand, and they adjusted the machines accordingly.
Video poker also offers its own version of losses disguised as wins.
Whatever the exact figure, the house odds make it click to see more that if a player plays long enough, she will eventually lose her money.
T echnological innovations have not only rendered electronic gaming machines wildly profitable; they have also, according to experts, made them more addictive.
A crucial element in modern gambling machines is speed.
Individual hands or spins can be completed in just three or four seconds.
Players have gone for 14, 15, 16 hours or more playing continuously.
They have become so absorbed in the machines that they left their young children unattended in cars, wet themselves without noticing, and neglected to eat for hours.
Casinos and game designers have come up with many ways to keep patrons at their machines and playing rapidly.
The chairs are ergonomically designed so that someone printable texas holdem hands chart sit comfortably for long stretches.
Winnings can be converted back to credits or printed on vouchers to be redeemed later.
Waitresses come by to take drink orders, obviating the need for players to get up at all.
Both, they claim, are products specifically and deliberately engineered to have addictive properties that are known to hook users.
The EGM product, used precisely as intended, will cause users to lose control of time and money in sufficient numbers for the industry to flourish.
Eubanks was the lead counsel for the Justice Department in successful federal litigation against the tobacco industry between 2000 and 2005.
She joined Noffsinger in representing Stacy Stevens after he convinced her that the deception used by the gambling industry paralleled that of the tobacco industry.
The data they track in real time on player cards alert them to these pain points: a big loss, for instance, or when credits start to run low after a dry run.
Hosts are also on the lookout for telling behavior, such as someone striking a machine in frustration or slumping over it in discouragement.
When hosts spot someone in a state like this, they may swoop in and offer a voucher for some free credits, a drink, or perhaps a meal in the restaurant, where the player can take a break until the resistance passes and he can resume gambling.
When players do exhaust all their funds, casinos will sometimes loan them additional money.
In 2006, she spent an entire night gambling at Poker tournaments las vegas Riverboat Casino, drinking strong alcoholic beverages provided for free.
When she eventually came to the end of her money playing blackjack, the casino offered her a counter check, basically a promissory note, to enable her to keep playing.
She signed the check and gambled away the money.
That happened five more times.
Noffsinger countersued on her behalf.
Players become so absorbed in the machines that they leave young children unattended, wet themselves without noticing, and neglect to eat for hours.
Experts say casinos should be aware that when they extend credit to losing patrons, they are by definition enabling problem gamblers.
Casinos might similarly be held liable for the financial consequences suffered by gamblers to whom they extend credit beyond a certain limit.
In 1994, the widow of a man who killed himself after racking up insurmountable debt at a Mississippi casino sued the casino under an extrapolation of dramshop laws.
So far, no U.
Nor should they, according to the gambling industry.
Nothing of that sort exists to measure what the level is to have gambled too much.
Mountaineer Casino and IGT both declined repeated requests for comment.
It does not, however, prevent them from losing money if they visit a casino despite the restriction.
Some experts believe self-exclusion lists are not effective, because they seem to be erratically enforced.
Despite the presence of sophisticated surveillance technology, patrons are not routinely screened for their self-exclusion status.
Members of the board of directors, she asserts, do not make research decisions, and the center has a separate scientific advisory board.
She says that the problem is rooted in the individual.
Independent research not funded by the NCRG has shown how false wins, near misses, and other such features influence gamblers, especially the way they perceive expected outcomes.
Most of them are making correct conclusions based on deceptive information.
The group, which maintains a neutral stance toward legal gambling, receives a large share of its funding from the industry.
One reason for the ongoing growth is the financial clout of the industry itself.
Many states provide tribal casinos with regional monopolies in exchange for revenues skimmed off the top of casino profits—as much as 30 to 40 percent in some places.
Kansas actually owns the games and operations of nontribal casinos.
New Jersey, Delaware, and Rhode Island have all provided financial bailouts to faltering casinos.
It should not be allowed by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Nelson Rose, the author of Gambling and the Law.
Many gaming-commission members—including those who approve applications for casino licenses—are advised by consultants for private companies also on casino payrolls.
Yet such essential disclosure is not required of electronic gaming machines.
They seem unwilling to deal with the social costs.
Essentially what the West Virginia Supreme Court has said is that gambling interests in West Virginia are immune from liability.
Former West Virginia Gambling in las vegas history Majority Leader Rick Staton has expressed regret over his role in expanding legalized gambling in the state.
There have been more people who have lost a lot of money, there have been more people who have had to file bankruptcy, there have been more people who have embezzled, there have been more people who have committed suicide.
They cannot afford to have that made public, because it would confirm what everybody knows: that one- to two-thirds of their income comes from the roughly 10 to 20 percent of their customers who are pathological and problem gamblers.
The more lawyers read about it, the more they are going to start smelling blood in the water.
It just takes for a case to be brought up in the right jurisdiction.
A photograph of him later that week, when he was deep-sea fishing in Cabo San Lucas, a place that usually brought him happiness, reveals the heaviness in his expression—his eyes defeated, his smile gone.
In the months after he was fired, Stevens tried taking the antidepressant Paxil and saw a therapist, but he did not admit to Stacy that he was still gambling almost every day.
As spring turned into summer, he knew that charges from the IRS were forthcoming following its investigation into his embezzlement and that even after serving time in prison, he would likely still be on the hook for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he owed in back taxes and penalties.
His former employer seemed close to pressing charges, having put the police on notice.
He would never be able to work in the financial sector again.
Once the affair hit the papers, his family would be dragged through the gantlet of small-town gossip and censure.
He could see no way to spare them other than to sacrifice himself.
By mid-afternoon on August 13, 2012, Stacy had started to worry.
It was Tim Bender, the Cleveland tax attorney helping Stevens with his IRS troubles.
Stevens had just called him.
Bender had tried to talk him out of killing himself, but Stevens had hung up.
Bender said he would call 911.
Let things be okay.
They found Https://fukiya.info/las-vegas/casino-near-the-rio-in-las-vegas.html sitting on the railroad tie by his Jeep.
They spoke to Stevens across the gravel parking lot.
Show us your hands.
He raised the muzzle of the shotgun to his chest, reached for the trigger, and squeezed.
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Gambling Addiction in Las Vegas
Today Las Vegas is indisputably the entertainment and gambling capital of the world. Yet little in its history would have suggested it, as it began as a stopover ...
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