Gambling With My Kids’ Money

IMAG0120We learned about gambling at this year’s vacation.

The resort gave us three $10 vouchers to double any $10 bet we placed at the roulette or card tables.

With the kids waiting in the lobby, I placed a two-for-one bet and won on red.

I came back to announce I had won $20.

What should we do with the winnings? I asked them: We can walk away now with $20 or we can have Mom place a $10 bet with our winnings, leaving us with $10 in winnings.

“Bet it,” they said, recognizing we were playing with money with didn’t have moments earlier.

We returned quickly and shared the bad news. “Mom lost. We have two $5 chips left.”

“I’ll tell you what,” I challenged. “You can each have $5 of our winnings. You can keep the $5 and we can leave right now or you can join together and have me bet your $10.”

It was interesting and fun watching them debate what to do with their money. First eight-year-old Lucas, who badgered me all week about how gambling was “stupid” once I shared my slanted description of the pastime, decided he would keep his $5. 10-year-old Zachary hemmed and hawed and finally decided to have me bet his $5.

When he learned “if Zachary wins, he will keep all the winnings,” Lucas decided to bet his $5 as well. We let them choose which color to bet on, so they would take full responsibility for the outcome.

Zachary put out two hands and asked Lucas to pick one. Lucas chose Zach’s left hand and Zach announced, “Bet on red!”

So Mom and Dad went back to the roulette table and did as we were instructed.

The kids were jumping out of their seats as we approached them. “Did you win?!?!”

Thumbs down. No, we lost, and you could see them deflate. Now we won nothing and lost nothing. I had four $5 chips left. This was the money Beth and I started with. I pushed the lesson further.

“Would you like me to make another bet for you? This would be with your own money. I will lend you $5 and you will pay me back no matter what happens. If you win, you keep everything.”



This time Lucas would not take the bait. He held $5 and saw it go away. Zach “felt bad” about losing the money and wanted a chance to win it back. He took the bet – and when it paid off – he was deliriously jumping around. “I’m so happy!” he danced about his new fortune.

“I could bet it again and you could make even more money,” I taunted Zach.

“NO! NO! No more bets!”

The Next Day
The next day I asked both what they thought of gambling.

“Not a good idea,” said Lucas, now $5 poorer, “because you can lose your money, all the money that you bet. You can win money, and you do another gamble, and then you lose the amount of dollars that you won.”

Zachary said, “I can see how gambling can be addicting for other people because they see they are winning money but then they forget they are losing money too. They might say, ‘I just won! Maybe I can do it the next time!’ And casinos basically make it impossible for you to do any actually winning unless you win in the beginning and you quickly leave. Very few people win big in the casino.”

He concluded, “It’s hard to predict my future but probably, no, I won’t be addicted to gambling because now I’ve learned younger not to play the ‘Cheese Caper’ slot machines.”

Your kids
How have you broached the subject with your kids? Any wisdom to share here?

:: Joe Hage is chief storyteller for Medical Marcom, a medical devices marketing consultancy helping medical companies become more approachable and engaging. ::

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