Leaving (your money in) Las Vegas

I learn the most about personal finance when spending time with families. Single folks usually can hide their personal finance problems, but families tend to talk about them more openly — even if it’s just to argue about how to spend money for the day. It’s valuable to listen to people in their 30s and 40s to learn about PF issues before you encounter them.

This weekend, I got a schooling in how gambling — and more importantly, financial honesty — effects a marriage. My aunt and uncle are both fairly well off, yet own an expensive home and live in a very pricey area with two kids, so for them — even making approx $400k a year, every cent counts.

Both of them look at bills after meals and with a gasp exclaim that the meal was pricey. They offer to pay for my meals, on occasion, but you can tell in the way they offer they really want me to pick up my portion of the tab (which is fine, I just wish they’d come out and say it.)

However, the most uncomfortable part of my weekend with my aunt and uncle in Vegas was when my aunt inquired about my uncle’s gambling. Now, he wasn’t high rolling or anything… he just played a few hundred bucks in video poker. But he didn’t seem to want to tell my aunt. What made the situation worse was that he would gamble a twenty here and a ten there in front of his children, then get upset at them when they brought this up in front of their mother.

If you’re in Vegas there’s nothing wrong with gambling a little bit, but you have to set limits and more importantly, if you’re married, you have to be open with your partner about how much you’re going to spend. I don’t understand how the same couple constantly worried about every penny can function with gambling involved.

All in all, my trip to Las Vegas was depressing, especially from a personal finance point of view. Watching all of these people… rich, poor, tourists, locals, everyone – just giving away their money in hopes to win big, is almost too surreal to believe. My grandmother, for instance, plays video poker non stop. She puts in $100 and goes through it in about five minutes, only to go to the atm, pay another $5 fee, take out $100 more and go through that. She says she comes out ahead but I can’t really believe her. She does have a strategy which seems to help her “hit” on occasion, but I can’t imagine anyone who is a gambling addict could actually come out ahead always. Granted, she’s alone and her boyfriend of five years recently passed away, and she has nothing except the video poker machine to keep her company. She doesn’t travel, she doesn’t go out to fancy restaurants or shows, she just gambles. That’s her life. That’s a lot of people’s lives in Las Vegas and in the state of Nevada. It’s a sad, sad place.

At least when you are visiting the state there is a beginning and end to your gambling, but when you live there, it easily turns into an addiction. I spent about $50 on video poker, more to bond with my Grandma (who constantly screamed in my ear that i’m doing it all wrong and that I shouldn’t gamble but instead play the game the way it wants to be played) than to get rich quick (though of course in the back of my mind I was still hoping…)

I don’t understand Vegas. It would make more sense in the old school sense with cheap buffets and entertainment, all to get people to come and spend their money on roulette. But these days everything there is just so expensive. The shows, the rides, the hotels, the spas, the food… who has money left over to gamble after paying for your vacation?

If anything good comes out of my grandmother’s gambling addiction, it’s her thousands of “comps” which basically provide free room and board for her visitors a few times a year. I didn’t feel so bad wasting $50 on video poker when my entire stay was otherwise free. I can’t imagine ever going to Vegas and actually paying just to be there. It might be fun to go with a group of friends and party the night away — if you’re super rich — but otherwise, how is what happens in Vegas ever worth the price?

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3 comments

  1. Slinky says:

    My fiance and I go to Vegas, but we don't generally gamble. We'd much rather have some fun than be bored silly at the slots. :)Total price for my last 5 night stay in Vegas: ~$1500.Includes:5 nights @ Luxor (split cost with fiance)Round trip air fare from midwestRented car (split cost with fiance)Trip to Hoover DamFront row center seat to Phantom of the Opera3rd row center seat to KA (front is too close, can't see!)All food and beverage, including several pricey dinners and drinksA $200+ corset and other misc shoppingOther misc entertainmentTotal gambling: $20 in penny slots to kill time until the rather excellent Chinese restaurant opened.I thought we did pretty good for a 5 night vacation somewhere. I always thought Vegas was pretty cheap for a vacation destination, but maybe it's not when you gamble. *shrug* Someday we'll even find time to check out the pool!

  2. investingnewbie says:

    BF recently went to Atlantic City and actually played at the tables. He lost $250 in a matter of minutes! But what struck him the most was the amount of "homeless-looking" people that were there. I'm guessing after they begged for money, they would go to the slots or tables to try to hit it big.So I totally can see how living near a place like that could foster an addiction. But is it an addiction when it becomes your way of life?

  3. Ann says:

    It's like they say, the house always wins in Vegas. You may be up at some point but if you keep playing they'll get their money back plus some! I learned that from Ocean's 11 – but I believe it! Casinos are such opulent and they didn't get that way from giving away fee money!

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