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A Panorama of Statistics by Peter Petocz, Eric Sowey

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12 Hidden risks for gamblers

Gambling, a passion for many people, has been around for as long as recorded history, and it shows no sign of fading away.

All gambling relates to an activity with an uncertain outcome, and with performance rules specified in advance. The activity is conventionally called a ‘game’, and ‘gaming’ is often used as a synonym (and, indeed, a euphemism) for gambling. The chief characteristic of all the games we shall look at in this chapter is that money is bet on the outcome of the game. To bet, the gambler advances a sum of money – called a ‘stake’ – which is the entry fee for participation in the gamble, on pre‐agreed terms regarding winning and losing. After the game is played and the outcome is known, the gambler either loses the stake or regains it, together with some additional winnings. (In a few games, there is also a third possibility – see QUESTION 12.1.)

The earliest such games needed no more than the simplest equipment – bones, dice or playing cards. Making use of bleached sheep bones, the game of knucklebones (or ‘jacks’) was supposedly invented by a Greek soldier during the Trojan War in the 12th century BC. The oldest known dice, in use 5000 years ago, were found as part of a backgammon set at an archaeological site in Mesopotamia. Playing cards were invented in Ancient China, with early examples dating from the Tang Dynasty in the 9th century.

Today, the most commonly seen gambling devices are electronic gaming machines (called ...

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