Casinos are wonderful, wild places full of opportunities—at least, that’s what the casino owners want you to believe. Games of chance are inherently risky, and even if you stick to table games like blackjack, the house has the advantage.
Of course, most people understand that basic concept, but spend enough time in a casino, and you’ll see people suffering from crippling addictions. To some degree, they can’t help it; recent science indicates that while most people receive a rush of dopamine (the feel-good chemical your brain releases when you’re satisfied) when they win, frequent gamblers also receive a dopamine rush when they nearly win. In other words, their brains’ reward systems aren’t operating correctly, and they’ll spend more to try to capture those feelings of euphoria.
In a recent Reddit thread, casino workers, casino goers, and people who’ve somehow had gambling affect their lives shared some of their darker stories about the gambling den. It’s eye-opening stuff, to say the least; we chose a few of the best stories, then edited them slightly for grammar and readability.
It’s a cliche, but it’s important: The house always wins.
“I worked in the restaurant of a casino,” wrote UncleWray. “We had a mother and daughter who were regulars but not there every day. Maybe once or twice a week, they’d come in and spend at least eight hours on the slot machines.”
“One time, they hit it big. They won the jackpot, which, if memory serves, was about £15,000. They looked so happy; they were crying tears of joy. I was happy for them since they were really nice people. Instead of going home and enjoying their winnings, though, they stuck around, feeding more money into the machine.”
“They came back every day for the next week. Within that week, the £15,000 was gone. After another week, they were both banned for asking other guests for money to borrow so they could play.”
Frequent gamblers have trouble hitting the off switch, and sometimes, they’re unable to see how their actions are affecting others.
“I used to work in a casino as an EMT, but this is about a friend of mine,” wrote bringmeadamnjuicebox. “He gambled away all his money, sold all his stuff, and was forced to live back at his parents’ house.”
“His parents had to take a short-term loan to get him home. He gambled all that money away, too. His parents got another loan, but now they are getting evicted from their house. He still claims that it was [his employer’s] fault for not paying him enough, forcing him to gamble to make ends meet. He also claims that his parents need him to live with them because he takes care of them.”
What happens when parents head to the casino with their young kids?
Simple: They drop them off at daycare.
“A friend of mine used to work at the daycare in a casino,” wrote sellyberry. “A daycare. They served [the kids] meals and had snacks they could buy.”
“My friend just made a name tag for one of the kids in advance because he was there so much. All day.”
While that sounds savagely depressing, other Reddit users said that casino daycares are…actually pretty nice.
“Every day, all summer long, my brother and I were put in the daycare in the casino,” wrote lydiaminor. “We also stayed at a hotel near the casino. We just remember the daycare as being fun—biggest jungle gym and ball pit ever—and we didn’t really focus on the fact our grandparents were upstairs gambling their lives away.”
“I went to casino daycares a few times as a kid,” wrote ShiraCheshire. “They’re actually pretty great, assuming it’s just a once-in-a-while thing. It meant the whole family could go on a trip and have fun when the adults want to gamble.”
That’s all well and good, but still—kids are spending time near gambling. That can’t be great, can it?
“The daycare area was very kid friendly (no references to gambling where kids could see),” continued ShiraCheshire, “had a large play area with lots of things to play on, and even had a small arcade. As long as the adults don’t have a gambling addiction, it works really well.”
Some casinos don’t seem to mind taking advantage of people.
“I was in Niagara Falls many years ago and started playing blackjack at a cheaper table (there was a $5 minimum),” wrote Effayy. “I played for a while and started doing well. Another player joined in. He had a mental impairment that I can’t pinpoint. He was friendly enough; he said his goal was to get a comped breakfast. For those who don’t know, if you have a membership card to the casino, you can usually earn points towards free stuff while you play games.”
“The table starts hitting a nice streak. The house busts quite a bit, and we’re all profiting. At this point, the new guy has earned himself about $100. We joke with him that now he can buy us all breakfast.”
“More time passes, and he’s betting table max now. I believe he was up past $800 or so. I was also happily up a few hundred as well. We start to get a bit of a crowd, and he asks the dealer if he has enough points for a free breakfast now. We all laugh, but as it turns out, he was dead serious. The dealer asks the pit boss, who replies ‘not yet!’ with a smile.
“Well, as luck usually works, the table starts losing. Buddy is still betting max and falling fast. He keeps asking if he earned his breakfast yet. We’re all starting to insist that he could walk away now and buy himself the best breakfast in town many times over, but he was completely focused on getting this one comped breakfast. Every time he asked, the pit boss just kept saying, ‘Nope! Not yet.’”
“Even the dealer at one point was politely suggesting that the pit boss just ring it up. You could tell something wasn’t quite right with the guy at the table, and it really started feeling cruel, you know?”
“Anyway, the guy ends up losing it all. The crowd that formed to watch were sort of in disbelief. The last time he asks the pit boss if he earned his breakfast, the guy looks over, sees that he’s out of money, and says ‘Yep! You just earned your breakfast. Congratulations!’”
“The player was happy that he won the breakfast, but none of us were even sure he understood what he lost to make it. I left the table as soon as that happened, furious that the pit boss was that heartless. I realize it’s a business, but come on. I rarely play blackjack anymore, and I never went back to that casino.”
Of course, some casino workers aren’t so heartless.
“I was dealing blackjack one day with only one guy at my table,” wrote Xahtier. “He looked to be about 45 to 50.”
“We had been playing for a while, and the poor guy couldn’t win to save his life. He was playing right; splitting eights and aces, staying on 17s, the whole nine.”
“One hand, I have an ace up and open insurance. He looks at me, his nose a little red and his eyes wet. I ask, ‘Are you alright, sir?’”
“He broke down crying. The poor dude had just lost his wife to his gambling addiction earlier that day. She couldn’t take it anymore. I tried to console him; we have a program at my casino that will limit your gambling to help your addiction. He cheered up, and later visited to thank me, saying he got his wife back and turned his life around.”
Most casinos have those sorts of programs. Unfortunately, some people don’t learn about them until it’s too late.
“One time, I cashed a guy out for $3,000 worth of chips,” wrote wrldzctzn11. “He looked like he was trying not to cry, and he just said to me, ‘I lost it. I lost everything.’ I was sympathetic, and said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’”
“When he left, I pulled up his account to see his how much he had lost. It was just his third visit. On his first visit, he lost $67,000, the second one, $50,000, and on the last visit—when I cashed him out for $3,000—he had lost $440,000. He self-excluded from the casino for I think six months after that, and was caught at least twice (that I know of) trying to come back in to gamble.”
“Self-excluded,” by the way, refers to government- or casino-enacted policies that allow problem gamblers to voluntary put their names on casino banned lists—if they’re caught in (or trying to get in) a participating casino, they can be charged with trespassing. Research indicates that self-exclusion programs are generally helpful; we hope it eventually helped the person above.
In some cases, winning is worse than losing.
“I’m a former casino employee. I saw a man come in on his 50th birthday with his kids,” wrote michaelscottforprez. “They ate at the buffet and then sat down at a machine. The man put a $100 in the machine, spun twice, won a $50,000 jackpot—and had a heart attack and died. We tried to resuscitate, but it didn’t work.”
Another Reddit user asked what happened to the money; did his kids get it, at least?
“Legally, the money belongs to the man. The moment the jackpot triggers, it goes to whoever pushed the button or pulled the lever. However, in instances like this, the money is held for up to one year for the next of kin to claim. So, short answer, yes.”
Many casinos offer perks like free rides to frequent gamblers.
The goal, of course, is to get those “customers” in the door.
“I was a casino driver part-time for a while,” wrote one Reddit user whose account has been deleted. “My job was driving premium gamblers home after a day at the tables.”
“I’ve met people from all walks of life, from high rollers to that 80-year-old granny who’s there to play slots because she has nothing to do. The saddest story I’ve come across was this guy…let’s call him Joe.”
“My initial contact with Joe was when he took my car back to his place, his family in tow. He had just won big. I [dropped him off at] one of the high-value estates in my country. Smiles all over. He tipped me $500 bucks.”
“I spoke to him while on the road. He was an investment banker, married with three young kids, and he owned a few properties. I asked him if he came to the casino often; he said he just came once a week to cool off and eat good food. He was prim and proper with a nice shirt and pants.”
“I took three shifts in a week, and, I would always see Joe at 10:30 p.m. on Fridays with his wife and kids in tow. It came to the point where I called him Joe, and I knew his kids’ names. He tips me well. Once, I even brought him and his family to this late-night joint to eat. I waited outside for him to finish.”
“But something changes after the first few months. I still see Joe, but his family’s no longer in tow. He’s alone. ‘Ah,’ I think, ‘the kids are sick, or the wife is over at the mum’s.’”
“Send me to [this address],” he says. That’s not the original place that he was living in. I reach the place and see his wife waiting outside the house. I let him out and drive off. No tips.”
“The next few months is more of the same. The estates [where he’s living] get worse and worse. I saw the wife once, and she glares at me. They’ve gone from a huge mansion to a small apartment complex.”
“One day, my friend calls in sick and asks me to take the shift on Thursday. I get there by 8:30 p.m. It’s chill. You literally go in and do [nothing], as there’s low traffic on the floor.”
“I bump into Joe. We make light conversation, he’s here to cool off after an argument with the wife. Okay, bro, good luck. After a few hours of playing FIFA, I get called by my manager. There’s a guy out there. It’s 4:30 a.m. I walk out to the car…and it’s Joe. He had been gambling since 8:30 p.m.”
“A security guard is holding him up. He got angry at a bad deal and threatened the dealer. I scanned his casino card; it was suspended. He lost his premium chauffeur services. I called my manager, and he told security to call a cab. I said, ‘Nah, let him chill in the break room, I’ll cab him back.’ My manager says that’s not allowed. After some back and forth, my manager agrees—and the security guy tells me that this is not the first time.”
“In the cab, he breaks down. He’s broken. I tell him to stop gambling. He says he will win it all back. The cab stops. No wife outside. I carry him up to his apartment. I realized it was a rental—no sight of the kids, no sight of the wife. The place was a mess. I put him in bed and got out. I never saw Joe again.”
If there’s one crucial takeaway from these stories, it’s this: Know your limits.
Look at the time you spend in a casino as part of your entertainment budget—not as supplemental income.
“I worked VIP reception at the hotel of a large casino,” wrote Ms_Lonely_Hearts. “I’ve seen people win and lose. I’ve seen people come to check in for one night, only to extend their stay for a week because they’re chasing their money.”
“I checked a man into his suite for the weekend, only to find him back at my desk a half hour later checking out—he had already lost $50,000. I’ve had wives frantically calling because husbands have cleared out their accounts and disappeared. I listened to a woman sob on the phone that her husband had taken their kid’s college savings. I’ve got stories of people defaulting on their homes trying to ‘turn their luck around.’ Casinos are cities of vices, and sometimes, you see the lowest a person can get. Gambling addiction is very hard to watch.”
As the addiction gets worse, people go to ridiculous lengths to keep gambling.
“I was watching a blackjack table,” wrote SecretAgentMan_007. “A man with a decent amount of chips on the table asked the dealer to hold his seat while he got up to use the restroom, and the dealer agreed.”
“Shortly after he left, a well-dressed woman sat in his seat and said she was the man’s wife and that she would play for him. The dealer basically told her that he was sorry, but the man said nothing about having a wife, and he could not allow her to use the man’s chips.”
“She sat there nervously for a hand, then got up and left. When the man returned, the dealer mentioned his wife had tried to play with his chips on his behalf. The man looked confused and said, ‘I don’t have a wife.’”