Recently, with the huge Mega Millions jackpot, a lot of attention has been paid to lottery, and even gambling. Much has been written about the odds of winning, as well as the folly of staking your financial future on nothing more than chance.
But is gambling always a bad thing? Are you an idiot if you buy a lottery ticket or play the slots in Vegas? I’m not so sure that gambling always equals stupidity. Sometimes, gambling is just entertainment.
How Do You View Gambling?
One of the main issues is how you view gambling. Do you view the lottery, or some other gambling game, as your only chance at a successful financial future? If this is the case, you might have a gambling problem, and it could be a real issue in your life. This could ruin your finances too.
But for some people, gambling is more of entertainment. I recently went to Las Vegas. I didn’t play the slots, since I had my son with me the whole time, but I usually like to put in a few bucks – just to see what happens. I have a friend who, when she had a spare hour, just took $20 and played that until it ran out. She won enough to keep going for the hour, even though at the end she didn’t come out ahead. She, however, considered the expense a fair trade. That $20 was part of her entertainment budget, and she didn’t spend a cent more.
When I play the slots, I don’t expect to win. In fact, I assume that whatever I win will probably go right back into the machines. I plan for the splurge. I usually allot $5 to $10 for the slots. If I win $1.25 (happened once), I can put that back in, but I don’t dip into additional money to keep going. Once that allotted amount is gone, I’m done.
This view, of course, doesn’t work for someone with an addiction. But for someone who views a little gambling as part of the entertainment experience, it’s not a bad way to spend a few minutes. The same is true of playing the lottery. I rarely purchase a lottery ticket. In fact, I almost never purchase lottery tickets. However, for a little bit of fun, I will occasionally buy a $1 scratch off ticket (I didn’t buy a Mega Millions ticket). I’ve never won more than $5, and I don’t consider the tickets as any sort of investment.
Use Your Entertainment Budget
While I know people who actually make a decent living playing poker (including online poker), it’s not really my thing. Instead, I view gambling – especially Vegas-style slots and the lottery – as entertainment. I never use money earmarked for my retirement account, bills, or emergency fund. Instead, I pull anything I use for gambling out of the entertainment spending. If I set aside money for a lotto ticket, or for the slots, it means that I probably won’t watch a movie, or that I won’t be eating out for lunch one week.
What do you think? Is gambling always stupid? Or can it be entertainment if you stick to a budget, and don’t view it as your ticket to financial success?