About once a week, one of my out-of-town friends will call me and say they have a hankering to do some gambling. No, I don't run a cockfighting ring out of my apartment, I live in a college town where one's entertainment options consist of either beer pong or the Soaring Eagle Casino. As a person who visits the casino frequently, all of the blinking lights and noisy slot machines don't really do too much for me any more, yet I still find myself mindlessly pulling a lever about once a week, hoping in vain that I'll win that ever elusive jackpot and be able to pay off my student loans with enough spare cash to treat myself to a Fillet-of-Fish.
After a recent stretch of especially bad luck, I decided to do some introspection regarding why I keep engaging in such an unfulfilling activity. Almost anyone knows that the odds of winning at a casino are about as good as finding an intellectually stimulating Sylvester Stallone film, but no matter the day of the week, several hundred chain-smoking retirees can be found feeding money to slot machines. I begun to hypothesize that there must be some other motivation besides the promise of a jackpot that "keeps the good times rollin'" at the Soaring Eagle.
I theorized that people don't view winning money as their primary motivation for visiting the casino, because the people who have actually gained a lifetime profit from their winnings would constitute a minority, but rather they visit the casino to fulfill other needs. This hypothesis is related to the Chicago School's theory of symbolic interaction, which, according to the text, deals with "people acting toward things because of the meaning things have for them (Sociology, 16)." Also, Berger and Luckmann's principle of the social construction of reality is closely related to this experiment, because people associate casinos with wealth just based on the subjective definition that society places on a casino, even though most people don't know anyone who has amassed a fortune from gambling (Sociology, 109).
For the purpose of this case study, I am asking people to assign meaning to their urge to gamble. As I previously stated, people are well aware that the odds are not in their favor at the casino, but they still go, and this is much like the example provided in the text about people smoking, even with knowing the health risks, because they associate smoking with being cool and glamorous (Sociology, 17). I theorized that perhaps a casino is symbolic to many people as the promise of wealth and slotoff.com
To test my hypothesis, I decided to do a direct observation in a survey format. I created a questionnaire with the following six questions: (1) Please estimate your total lifetime casino winnings. (2) Please estimate your total lifetime casino losses. (3) Do you plan to gamble in the future? (4) Putting money aside, what are some other aspects that draw you to the casino. (5) Do you typically gamble alone or with other people? (6) Are you aware of the odds of winning when you gamble?
After creating the questionnaire, I came up with a list of six people whom I knew had previous gambling experience and telephoned each person individually. Before I delve into the answers I received
from my test subjects, I will divulge my own answers to the questionnaire to function as the control in this experiment. I estimate my total casino winnings to be around $200; however, I've lost closer to $350. I plan to keep gambling, basically because it's an activity that fills up a void in my Sunday nights.
My roommate and I go to the casino together, so I view it as a social experience, plus I enjoy the allure and mystique of winning. The odds of winning really don't cross my mind when I'm gambling. I'd have to say that gambling makes me feel like I'm attempting to provide myself with financial stability along with functioning as a symbol for living dangerously, which excites me on some level. Now that you know a little more about me, we'll move on to the experimental group. The first person I interviewed, my roommate, is a twenty-one year old college student at Central Michigan University.
He estimated his lifetime winnings to be around $80, but his losses to total around $90. Since we always go to the casino together, he plans to keep gambling, and he said that he enjoys the bright lights and excitement, along with the complimentary soft drinks. Odds do cross his mind when gambling, he claims, but only in the capacity of influencing him when to quit.