Your Entertainment Budget and Gambling

By Michael Stevens in Casino & Gaming on February 15, 2017

I recently overheard a conversation between a married couple. One of them enjoys going to the casino to blow off steam and the other enjoys going to the movies and going out to eat.

They both do all of these things together, seem to have a solid relationship from the outside, and make enough money that they can afford to do pretty much whatever they want within reason.

In the conversation I overheard the one that enjoys movies and eating out more than the casino was giving the casino lover grief over all of the money they lost at the casino. The one who likes the casino tried to explain that as long as they were being entertained that going to the casino was no different than going to a movie.

The other partner refused to look at it this way.

I don’t know if this is a normal argument or if it just recently came up. And I don’t know how the discussion ended because we stopped being close enough so I could hear. The next time I saw them they were still married so I guess that’s a good sign.

Notice I’m carefully not assigning gender to the couple. It doesn’t matter if the husband or wife is the casino lover because the argument I’m going to make doesn’t take into account gender.

The question is how do you view your casino losses?

Is gambling a form of entertainment and if so do you budget for it the same as other entertainment expenses?

If it’s a form of entertainment, how do you handle it when you have a lucky casino trip and win?

Let me be clear about a few things before we move on.

I’m not judging the way you spend your time or money. I’m a firm believer that if you have the time and money and you aren’t infringing on others that you can do whatever you want. You’ll learn some of my viewpoints about entertainment and gambling below, but they’re included just as talking points. They aren’t meant to suggest that you should do what I do or believe what I believe.

Is Gambling Entertainment?

This is the question at the heart of this discussion.

The answer depends on how you treat your gambling activities.

A professional poker player or sports bettor would probably not say their gambling activities are a form of entertainment. They might enjoy parts of their gambling, but the way they have to operate it makes it more like a job.

If you know any professional poker players who grind out a living playing 50 to 80 hours a week, ask them if poker is fun. Most of them don’t play for fun and are going to tell you that their passion has turned into a job.

Of course it’s still better than working a real job, but grinders aren’t having a ton of fun.

On the other hand, a player who goes once a week to the casino and plays slots on $100 until they run out of money is doing it to be entertained. This player has a set limit or budget and doesn’t go over it, occasionally leaves with a win when they get lucky, and plays for fun. They know that they’re never going to win in the long run unless they hit a big jackpot, but the ability to play for a few hours and forget about the real world is what they consider the best form of entertainment.

This can often go so far as being one of the reasons they work. Some people work all week so they can afford to do the things they enjoy on the weekend. It just so happens some people enjoy the casino more than going out to eat, bowling, or seeing a movie.

So it’s clear that gambling can be entertainment and it can be something else.

How do you tell if it’s a form of entertainment or something else?

Is it entertainment if you budget for it?

This can’t be correct because most professional gamblers have a budget. The percentage of professionals who use a budget is probably much higher than the percentage of people who play for fun. So a budget doesn’t make it entertainment.

Is it entertainment if you have fun? Is it fun when you lose?

We like to think of entertainment as something that’s fun, and it usually is. But we don’t have to have fun to be entertained. Have you ever seen a good movie that made you sad?

So how do we know if gambling is entertainment?

It’s completely up to you.

You get to decide if you want to gamble and if it’s a form of entertainment to you. Others might not agree with you, but it doesn’t really matter what they think.

If you want to use some of your entertainment budget to gamble, then it’s clearly entertainment to you.

Budgeting

Do you have an entertainment budget? Do you have a set amount every month that you use for things you like to do or do you simply go out when you want if you have money?

The good news is there’s not a right or wrong answer.

Some people have a strict budget for everything in their life, some use a schedule of some sort but not really a budget, and many simply live day to day and spend what they can if they have it and stay home if they don’t.

The simplest thing to do is put aside a set amount each week or month for entertainment and then budget this amount to choose what you want to do. Determine how much you’ll spend on each thing and then stick to your budget.

When you follow this plan then there’s no doubt that you’re treating your gambling activities as a form of entertainment.

The best thing about gambling for entertainment is when you have a good day you actually can make money while being entertained. Seems like an excellent form of entertainment to me.

Vacation

Some people only gamble when they go on vacation. They take a trip to Las Vegas or one of the other big tourist destinations that offer games of chance.

This is probably the clearest form of gambling for entertainment.

I still suggest having a set amount budgeted for gambling so you can do everything you want while you’re on vacation, but the entire trip is a form of entertainment so do whatever works best for you.

Here’s a sample gambling budget for a trip that you can use as a template for your next gambling vacation. Feel free to make adjustments that suit your needs and desires for the trip.

If you have a $1,000 gambling budget for the trip and plan to play for four days simply divide your bankroll into four. This leaves $250 for each day to gamble with.

If you lose your entire $250 any day simply stop gambling and do something else for the rest of the day.

When you finish the day and still have money left you can either put it in your pocket and call it profit for the trip, add it to the next day’s gambling budget, or split it over the rest of the days left on the trip.

Here’s an example:

On the first day of your trip you have $90 left when you finish gambling. You can put that in your pocket or add it to the next day’s budget. If you add it to the next day’s budget you have $340 for your second day.

What I like to do is divide it over the rest of the trip, which gives you $280 each of the next three days.

Religion and Gambling

This is a dangerous subject so I’m going to tread lightly. Feel free to skip this section if you don’t like the idea of religion in a gambling discussion, and feel free to disagree with my conclusions below.

Religion has a long history of suggesting to people that gambling is bad. Some of the popular religions come right out and say it’s a sin while others beat around the bush quite a bit but try to make you feel bad if you gamble.

But at the same time some religious organizations promote gambling, which muddies the waters quite a bit. The most common form of gambling promoted by a religious organization is bingo. In some places you can even play bingo for money in a church.

If you’re the religious sort of person and you gamble to the extent that you take food off the table of your family or can’t pay the rent or mortgage because of your gambling then it may be a sin. But the same can be said if you spend too much money on anything and can’t pay your bills.

So why single out gambling?

Many believe that because the church depends on contributions from their members to survive that they don’t want you to lose money gambling so you can have more to give the church.

Some church doctrine suggests that to try to get something for nothing is sinful and they say that gambling is trying to win money without working for it.

What do you believe? More importantly, why do you believe it? Is it because someone told you how you should believe?

I fall on the side of belief that if you can control it so it doesn’t hurt your financial ability to take care of yourself and your family that gambling is just a form of entertainment. But you have to make this decision yourself.

Just don’t let someone else make the decision for you. It doesn’t matter if this person is a preacher, pastor, priest, monk, or any other religious name.

This brings to mind a quote from the Bible. It goes something like this.

“Let he who has no sin cast the first stone.”

In other words, if you’re a religious person you know that no human is completely sin free. So don’t let another sinner condemn you and tell you how to live your life.

But if you let gambling get out of control and you start letting it damage other parts of your life then get help. This has nothing to do with religion. It’s just good common sense.

A Word about Relationships and Gambling

Because the idea for this post came from the conversation of a married couple I wanted to take a minute to offer advice for those of you reading who haven’t tied the knot yet.

If you enjoy gambling you need to make sure that you and your future spouse are on the same page about it before you enter into a formal relationship that will have lifelong consequences whether you stay married or not.

Most of us get married too young to know exactly what we should be looking for. Some of us get lucky and have a good relationship until we die, but others aren’t so lucky and the differences grow and force a giant wedge between us.

Life is filled with many things that are certainly more important than gambling, but the time to learn about your compatibility on everything important is before getting married.

The hardest thing to do is determine exactly what you want in a mate. The second hardest thing to do is find the mate who had these qualities who’s looking for a mate with your qualities.

Winning

As I mentioned above, gambling is one of the few forms of entertainment that offers the opportunity to leave with more money than you started with.

When’s the last time you went to dinner or a movie and came home with more money than you started with?

Most of the time when we gamble for entertainment we lose all of our stake, or at least some of it. But to me the entertainment value is at least doubled when I get lucky enough to win.

Conclusion

Have you decided if gambling is a form of entertainment in your life?

Remember that at the end of the day only you can decide if gambling is entertainment and nobody has the right to make the decision for you. I just hope you’re having fun on trips to the casino or by making bets on your favorite teams.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016.

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