Putting Bills Into a Machine

I had a conversation with a strong player, and he posed a series of ethical questions. He estimated that if I asked this question in a crowd of people, at least 75% of players would claim they would do the right thing in each situation. But if nobody else were around, less than 50% would actually do the right thing.

I’m not sure about his percentages, but they sound approximately right, more or less. So, let’s look at the questions.

CASE 1:  George starts by buying ten $1,000 TITO tickets because he will be playing $5 video poker at a bar during a promotion, and he doesn’t want to waste time inserting hundred-dollar bills into the acceptor. He’s playing a game where he gets a taxable for every quad, straight flush, or royal. After a half hour of play or so, he hits one of these jackpots. Since he expects the service will be slow because of the number of players playing the promotion, he moves to an adjacent machine where the same game is available.

This is when he notices that this new machine has $200 in credits left over from a previous player. The player left at least a half hour ago because nobody has been there while he was playing.

He inserts a $1,000 ticket into the machine (giving it $1,200 in credits) and begins to play. By the time his jackpot has been paid off and he’s signed the W-2G, his credits are down to $975. He cashes out these credits, puts the new TITO into his pocket, and resumes playing on his original machine.

About 15 minutes later, George hears somebody approach the machine and say to somebody else, “It shows $975 was cashed out.” He assumes this was the person who left the money in the machine in the first place. He continues to play without saying a word and the people go away. He didn’t even look at the person. Not knowing who he “ripped off” was easier to deal with than putting a face on the victim.

Would you have acted the same as George? Returned the money immediately when you discovered it on the machine? Or when you found out who the money belonged to, forked it over?

CASE 2:  Same as before, but now the amount left on the machine is $900. George has the money to play a $5 game, and for that, $200 is basically pocket change. But also on these machines is $1 blackjack and $900 is a lot of money to most people. The scene plays out as before.

Does the amount of money make a difference in your actions?

CASE 3:  Same as before, but now George is behind $2,500 when he finds the abandoned credits.

Does being behind today make you more likely to keep quiet?

CASE 4:  Same as CASE 1, except an hour or so later, the slot supervisor comes up and says, “Somebody reported they left $200 on the machine next to you. We looked at the camera feed and we saw you inserted a $1,000 ticket and kept playing. Technically, we cannot force you to return the money because it was abandoned. But I think it would be a nice thing if you gave the $200 back.”

What would you do now?

I think most of us will agree that “doing the right thing” means not keeping the money in any of these cases. Believing that to be true in general and actually doing that when the opportunity presents itself are very different things.

Part of this depends on your moral beliefs. Part of this depends on your circumstances. When I started in Vegas 30 years ago and was struggling to support myself, I almost certainly would have kept the money. Today, since I am not struggling financially and am more concerned with casinos letting me play rather than running out of bankroll, the only thing to think about is whether to give the $200 to the bartender or the floor person.

The thing is, while I’m interested in what the rest of you think about this, any claims of “I’d definitely return the money no questions asked!” will be met by a certain degree of skepticism. Many of you will be telling the truth; others not so much.  And since I don’t know most of you, I don’t know which of you are which. People in general profess to a much higher level of moral rectitude than they actually live by.


Source link


Random Posts