For example, Roulette on paddypower.com:
<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>
<!DOCTYPE GameResponse SYSTEM "http://www.orbisuk.com/igf/dtd/GameResponse.dtd">
<GameId id="1155" ver="1" channel="I" />
<Account balance="1525.00" held_funds="0.00" ccy_code="GBP" adjusted_free_balance="No" ccy_decimal_separator="." ccy_thousand_separator="," />
<Play stake="600.00" win="1200.00" id="0" >
<BetState drawn="15" total_bets="1">
<Bet name="Outside_Black" stake="600.00" winnings="1200.00" seln=""/>
Personally, I love playing roulette/blackjack in a real (offline) casino - if i just walked to the front desk, handed over the amount of money I was willing to part with and asked them to randomly generate my winnings/losses, I wouldn't ever bother.
And the same applies for online - I'd be far more likely to play an online casino game as time-killing entertainment than as a way to make money.
That said, my use of the word "waste" is not meant to be negative - they've left that feature in the online version of scratch cards for a reason, because they feel people prefer to have that time wasted - and, as I said, if playing online roulette, I would rather waste time seeing a ball roll around than just being told if I had won or lost.
It does say this fairly clearly - although the author is correct in that by determining the outcome on the server side means that even if the game isn't completed, you can still be credited for the win.
There is even an option to bypass scratch card play and get the prize immediately (Reveal Instant Wins outcome automatically.)
There isn't really much skill involved offline (compared to none online). That being said, I wonder how many people don't spot winning prizes when they buy a ticket in the store - if I find a ticket, I might check!
That part is almost certainly to comply with gambling licencing laws. There are different laws if it's a game of chance or luck. That's why many raffles (a game of chance) have a really simple question at the end, to turn it into a game of skill, legally.
This is a sentiment I hear often. Yet whenever one suggests that "stupid" might apply to more than just the lottery and might even be a cause of "poor", one is treated as an evil and unsympathetic person. It's a dichotomy I can't wrap my head around.
A question: do the poor actually live in a precarious situation in the UK? I was under the impression that the UK has extremely generous handouts which made working more or less optional for many people. (This is a genuine question, I don't know how the welfare state works in the UK beyond vague American stereotypes.)
The main benefit you can receive indefinitely if you're poor is a housing allowance, which is equivalent to your full rent (if you have low enough income/assets), capped at the 30th-percentile rate for rents in your area, for an accomodation suitable for your family size. For a single person, that maxes out at $400-600/mo, depending on what part of the UK you live in.
For cash benefits, there is a jobseeker's allowance, which you can receive if you show you're actively seeking work, participate in some mandatory programs to do so, and have a mandatory progress meeting every two weeks (and meet some other miscellaneous requirements that keep getting added). That has a max of about $100/wk for a single person.
Are you serious? Welfare + healthcare + pensions = 7.6 * defence in 2012. People say cut Trident, well Trident is a rounding error. You could pay for it out of the NHS IT budget alone!
Any politician truly interested in transparent government will pay this guy a salary (job description: "same thing you always did, but more"), and maybe even give him a few hacker underlings and a web designer. His sites are ugly but awesome.
From your description, it sounds as if motters' description of "one highly precarious situation to the next" was incorrect.
Also, some parts of the UK are significantly cheaper than others -- i'd argue that you might be successful keeping yourself stable in the north or middle of england, but you'd struggle in london or it's outer reaches.
One more thing- people don't 'opt' to be in this situation usually, so they are quite likely to enter into it with a reasonable chunk of unsecured loans and such that'll suck up the money.
So, sure. You can be a college grad who's not yet got anything but student loans, and happily enter in to benefits to support you whilst you build something interesting... But as soon as you need to go anywhere or spend any money to further your goals, you might find yourself pretty stuck.
Of course there are many areas of the UK which are not poor and have a very high standard of living by international standards, so it's certainly not true that everyone lives like this.
Ok, I think I understand what you mean by "precarious". It sounds as if the poor have a stable level of consumption (or at least a stable minimum level of consumption), but the specific manner in which that consumption is paid for can vary significantly - one week benefits, the next week employment. Also a high risk of crime, due to inadequate police protection. Is that a fair assessment of what you mean by "precarious"?
Now for some reason, the weekly variability of income and the risk of crime causes the poor to value an infinitesimal chance at large sums of money a more strongly than immediate and certain consumption. Assuming the poor are being rational here (rather than simply innumerate), this suggests that the poor assign a very low value to additional consumption, or perhaps a very high value to purely psychological benefits.
I have a suggestion for improving the lot of the poor in the UK: your government should sell more lottery tickets and use the profits to pay for additional policing. Perhaps you should also try to encourage microfinance - in the US, nonviolent microfinance outfits offering "payday loans" have pretty much pushed loansharks out of the market.
The government were given the chance to have the lottery run for free by a group headed by Richard Branson - they chose instead to maintain the current incumbent who take 5% of gross takings ... that could have paid off some tax bills ...
The idea of a "tax on the stupid" comes from the point of view of people living comfortably. If most of your basic needs are met then gambling money on the lottery seems like irrational behavior (throwing your money away when you only have a small income to begin with).
From _delirium's comment, it sounds as the poor do have most/all of their basic needs met, though he doesn't address policing. Piecing together your comment and his, it sounds as if the only basic need the poor have which is not met is adequate police protection. Is this correct?
Your sentence ending in "comes from the point of view of people living comfortably" implies that from the point of view of someone else (presumably a person living in a crime-ridden neighborhood), the lottery is not irrational. Could you explain why, if that is indeed what you meant?
(Note: I actually do live in a crime-ridden neighborhood. But I'm also a 6'6" man who looks like he has nothing worth stealing, and I've only been the victim of a single, unsuccessful, attempt at robbery. So my point of view might be atypical.)
Most people are not "precarious" unless they have a lot of debt or a small debt with a loanshark. Crime makes things bad, not money as such. By the standards of the 50's or even the 70's, basics and luxuries are affordable as long as you don't waste it.
It's all relative. Coming from Ireland (and the Euro) the UK seems cheap. That's mostly the sterling/euro conversion rates in my favour. For example a pint of drink costs about €5 (about £4.50). The difference is so noticable that many people drive to Northern Ireland to do large shopping trips to get cheaper goods.
Ummm yes. If you have no money or no job, you will not be living well. The steryotype is that you'll be living in a grimey 1960s style concrete block of flats with not a lot of money.
Compared the USA, "free healthcare" would be seen as generous, however not in the EU.
No-one in the UK is actually poor.
I go to a petrol station, to buy petrol. Then have to wait in line for 10 minutes while some idiots buy scratch cards and lottery tickets.
I used to work for Victor Chandler  and there's basically a small number of companies who supply the games to all the different gaming sites. NetEnt  and Playtech  are the two which I can remember.
There are hundreds of games available, but they are all basically the same with different skins. The spike in traffic when a new game comes out always surprised me, people wanted to play the new SpiderMan game (or whatever) even though it's exactly the same as all the others, just with a different colour-scheme!
At the point where you start the game, the outcome is already determined, it's just a case of going through the motions until it informs the player. Whether that's scratching numbers off, watching a virtual horse-race etc...
It's heavily regulated though, much like fruit-machines/one-arm-bandits there is a percentage payout which needs to be satisfied, so it's no more a scam in that sense than buying physical scratch cards which they have to ensure a certain percent win each of the prize levels.
 - http://www.victorchandler.com/
 - http://www.netent.com/
 - http://playtech.com/
I routinely see people in my neighborhood spend more than I could imagine spending on any one food item in a month on lottery tickets. It's never the upper middle class people around here that do it but rather it's always the poor. The government even sells $20 cards just to let them part with their money faster and more efficiently.
I don't really have a problem with gambling but given how what I'm describing isn't really new analysis I wonder how those who claim to want to use government to help the poor allow this. It just seems like a naked grab for tax money on the part of the politicians.
If for example, you have a steady job and you earn enough money to pay all your bills and save / spend an amount of money per month, then you will be content to the fact if you save for a few months you can afford that 'thing' you desire.
If however, you are technically poor or your job barely covers the cost of living, then you know that things will not change as they currently are and you will not be able to afford that 'thing' you desire however long you work.
In the second situation, the opportunity or hope that comes from gambling seems an adequate risk to achieve the money they want to buy the 'thing'. After all, occasionally their gamble will actually pay off and solve their problem temporarily.
Unfortunately, the downside / reality is that often is the case, the poor get poorer by wasting money on things like scratch cards.
For example, U(I) = sqrt(I/$15k), i < $15k, U(I) = 1, $15k < I < $100k, and then U(I) = 2, $100k < I. (I is income. The discontinuity at $100k is not necessary, but the flatness on [$15k, $BIGNUM] is.)
I.e., consider a poor person making $15k/year. If they spend $100/year on lotto (assume 1 in 1 million chance of winning), with virtually no chance of success, that suggests that 1e6 x Utility(big 'thing') > Utility($100 worth of goods/services). In particular, this suggests that the poor person assigns a very low value to an extra $100 worth of goods and services. If this is the case, then the lottery is actually a very efficient tax! It only deprives people of something they barely care about at all.
If correct, this theory would also explain why poor in the US work so little - they don't value the things that the extra money could buy.
 Like PaulJoslin, I am implicitly assuming that lottery ticket buyers are rational and inferring their utility function from their choices. It's also possible that lotto buyers simply don't understand probability, in which case all this speculation is irrelevant.
Now say i=20,010 before playing. Expected utility without playing the game is trivially 20,010. Expected utility with playing is [(20k)*(10^6-1)+(100k+2^20k)]/10^6. This is a stupidly high number, in the 4x10^6020 neighborhood.
It should be possible to produce a more natural form that does this, without going piecewise.
- If I never win, there is no practical loss (total spent sum too low)
- If I win the jackpot, it's life changing
- If I never play, life never changes (or at least there is not such a chance).
- Most of the spent money goes to charity anyway
I never buy lottery tickets or scratch cards (though I love sports betting and casinos), however my father does buy a lottery ticket every week.
He's retired, and has enough money to live fine - he owns the flat he lives in, he has enough money to pay for his £100/month TV/internet package, to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and to buy whatever food he fancies without thinking about what's cheaper to eat.
He has a choice of living like that and accepting that's how the rest of his life will remain, or spending a tiny amount each week and having a dream of becomming a millionaire. He's not an idiot, he knows the odds are against him, but his buying lottery tickets doesn't have any impact on his lifestyle, and it lets him imagine that one day he might win big.
He wouldn't notice any difference in his financial situation if he stopped buying the tickets, so really the only downside is that, if he keeps buying them over a twenty year period, the inheritance that comes to myself and my two siblings when he dies will be a bit less. But if you think that way, his quitting the lottery would make a far smaller difference than if he didn't subscribe to extremely expensive sports channels, if he didnt spend £40/week on cigarettes, and so on. I'd far rather see him enjoy his money than save it for my sake - I'll get by fine either way.
Sure, for some people the amount they spend on lottery tickets does take away from money they could spend on other stuff, but there are people who are well off enough to be able to afford the cost, without being so well off that winning the lottery isn't a dream they enjoy having.
I consider that the Pascal's Wager :) Everything to gain, nothing to lose.
Nothing to lose, man.
If a reputable organisation held a one-off lottery, in which you stand a very slim chance of winning £5M, for a £1 stake, then (morals and poverty notwithstanding) then the default position is to enter. £1 doesn't really buy you anything much.
If, on the other hand, the stake were £52, then you'd think twice. £52 is a fairly significant sum it could buy a decent meal out for two, or the latest game with enough change for a couple of beers on the way home.
Playing every week for a year is the same as that second scenario.
If you care about morals why let people gamble so easily?
I have no issue with any of the above, and wouldn't want to live in a country where any of them are illegal.
If you care why do you let people drink, smoke and eat fatty foods so easily? Many people don't want nor need a nursing state because the government has a habit of getting it wrong. I live in a country where online gambling is illegal and I'm not even allowed to play a friendly game of poker online.
The laughable thing with this is that they have a whole array of games, which each require the user to do different meaningless activities, which serve no purpose other than waste time.
I guess the 'average Joe' may feel cheated, if they paid £1 and instantly got a message saying 'You lose' - with no form of 'entertainment' or interaction.
Either way, it appeared to me as quite a horrendous scam and scandalous for such a reputable company as Camelot. What would be interesting, is to know how many times it pays out the jackpot amount of that card (if ever).
There is a 1 in 4.49 overall chance of winning a Prize on each Play of the Game. The Expected Prize Payout Percentage for this game is 64.08%.
It was questioning how often it would pay out the jackpot of the challenge.
A pub fruit machine for instance has stamped on it, 'this machine will pay out 78% of all money taken' - that is the reality, it will return a proportion back in winnings and take 22% as profit. However, it does not disclose how this will be returned to the user or over what time frame.
In the scenario with these online scratch cards, if you play them for a while you will end up down on your money (as you would expect for a 1 in 4.49 chance) - but occasionally get a small win which regains a proportion of the money you have spent.
- The question is, how often and what are the chances that if I play the game long enough I will win that advertised £100,000 prize? - That information afaik is not disclosed.
To the extent that the lottery appears to be disproportionately played by those who seem to be below the lottery's intelligence line, it is arguably a scam. And I do mean arguably, not that I have a proof. But I would say that if your response is that people know what they are getting into, I would submit that A: no, they don't necessarily really get it and B: would you be so blase if you were scammed by something a bit more sophisticated? It's easy to be unempathetic and be unable to imagine being fooled by the lottery's statistical games, but clearly it does in fact happen.
Is this proof of immorality or proof it should be shut down or anything else? No, I'm deliberately constraining myself to just the point above. Drawing it out further would take more logic and would itself be controversial. I just want to make the point that there is a plausible way to look at this situation and call it a scam without too much damage to the term.
Um excuse me? Reputable? Given the way they conned the public out of a non-profit lottery, I don't agree they're reputable.
Isn't that the real purpose of gambling (besides dreaming about what to do with the money if you win)?
The same could be said about watching TV series or any other form of entertainment.
However, the sole entertainment value that comes from these on line scratch games is so limited, that you would have to have a seriously dull life to find them enjoyable.
At least in most forms of gambling you feel you have an element of control (despite the odds). Whether it's choosing to bluff in poker, choose a team in sports or 'collect' early on a fruit machine.
The difference with the online scratch card is that it shows a fake level of interaction to the user, which makes them believe they could have effected the result by scratching a different panel.
Combining this with the 'near miss' psychological effect, it will probably leave the typical demographic playing it coming back for more.
What's kind of interesting is games like Pachinko, which in real life rely on the random fall of steel balls over metal pins. A game like at http://games.ladbrokes.com/en/games/arcade/pachinko actually sends you the number of wins and losses when you place your bet, then you get to watch all the balls fall into their predetermined slots at the bottom of the board. You even get to pick the power of the shot for each ball so it's very deceptive.
Could you have a purpose built browser that receives the packets up to
<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8' ?>
<outcome prizeTier="14" amount="0
and buffers them all, possibly while returning a fail code, and then only returns the acknowledgements that the packets are received if that last figure is positive?
Presumably they handle this sort of thing, curious how they do it? Is it simply that if they can't send the page you still have to pay - could they then be successfully sued if your connection is down or theirs doesn't actually deliver the packets but you're still charged?
This last scenario would appear to fit into the sale of goods act in that you've paid for a service (a scratchcard game) but the game wasn't delivered ...
Clearly if I was a black-hatter I'd just try it out ...
A tax on poor maths skills.
EDIT: To expand, there is a cognitive dissonance here: although this is still fair, you still have a chance at winning, we feel instinctively that playing the game is futile.
This raises deep questions of philosophy. What if this same thinking is applied to everyday life? If you believe that we live in a deterministic universe, then we are all just futile scratchcard junkies, forever diligently scratching the silver stuff off the face of the universe, innocent of our predetermined (and probably crappy) destinies... If you believe in determinism and don't want to kill yourself, you have nothing to say to scratchcard/online gamblers :)
And don't get me started on Deal or No Deal.
However, the fact that the 'randomness' has already taken place when you receive your card (vs. happening while you scratch), makes no difference concerning your chances to win or loose.
If you can get information from the ticket, you might be able to identify which tickets are winners, but this won't turn a loser into a winner.