GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS….In my continuing seach for dumb but entertaining ways to abuse arithmetic (and waste neurons in the process), I’m going to try to answer a question that Justene Adamec asked in comments below: is it really possible that Bill Bennett lost \$8 million playing slots over the course of ten years? Let’s try to find out:

• He plays the \$500 slots, apparently for 3-4 hours at a crack.

• Let’s say that a serious gambler can feed the machine ten times a minute. That amounts to about 2,000 pulls, or \$1 million.

• The article says he visits casinos for “two or three days at a time,” so figure he can bet \$3 million per visit.

• If he does this once a month, that’s \$36 million per year.

• Over ten years, this amounts to \$360 million in total bets.

• If the machines pay off at 98%, he would have lost about 2% of \$360 million, or \$7.2 million.

I don’t know if my guesses are right, especially the part about feeding a slot machine ten times a minute (Vegas junkies are invited to comment on this), but it shows that at least the order of magnitude is plausible.

Of course, the article also says that he’s lost as much as \$500,000 in a single visit. The same arithmetic I used above indicates that this would require about 40 hours of gambling, and I’m not sure what this means. Does he play multiple machines at once? Do some casinos have slots even bigger than \$500? Does he play for longer periods than the article says?

More investigation is needed! Somebody get cracking out there!