You probably shouldn't gamble. Odds are, you'll lose. You might even get hooked. I say again -- don't gamble.
Now, assuming you ignore my advice, let's talk about where to gamble. And why.
The one place you don't want to place any serious bets is at your corner convenience store. Our state lottery is absolutely the worst wager you could possibly make -- bar none. Essentially it's a tax on stupidity. The government compounds its monopoly rip-off by making fraudulent statements about annuity payouts that would get a private company's executives locked away in prison.
Private gambling (gambling among individuals) may offer the best odds, but may also be less honest games and -- oh yeah -- is illegal. And as far as I know, organized crime no longer offers gambling.
That leaves casinos. And in California, that means Indian casinos.
But here's the part that too many gamblers are not aware of. There are significant differences in your chances of winning -- depending on which casino you choose to visit.
How do I know this? I have too many degenerate friends who have visited too many casinos too often. And yes, I occasional go gaming as well.
The general rule of thumb is that the fewer casinos in the area, the worse the payout odds are on the table games and slots.
The Chumash casino outside Santa Barbara is an infamous example. It's the only casino for maybe 100 miles, giving them a de facto geographic monopoly. The odds on their games are quite inhospitable. In addition, the staff is too often deemed surly by patrons.
To a lesser extent, the same is true for Pechanga, which services Orange County and much of L.A. They are one of the few options for the area, so they needn't offer attractive games and slots.
In contrast, San Diego County is perhaps the gambling capital of California. Nine casinos vie for your business. And it's here that we see the advantage of competition.
Not that all of our local casinos offer good odds to gamblers. It varies dramatically. But a couple of casinos go out of their way to offer slots and table games that give the players the maximum bang for their buck.
Pala Casino offers some good table games, and the staff is quite pleasant. And while Valley View Casino has average gambling payouts, it deserves special mention for providing a separate, completely smoke-free casino option.
But the queen of California casinos clearly is Barona. It's the only casino in the state to offer "single zero" roulette, which literally can halve the odds against the player.
Barona offers quite favorable blackjack rules. According to the Michael Shackleford, who is frequently featured on the travel channel as a gaming expert, Barona's blackjack ranks as one the best games in the world.
Barona's slot payout is also highly rated. Furthermore, floor personnel are both professional and friendly. This casino is highly ranked by prominent organizations such as JD Power and Associates.
When it comes to "bang for the buck," Barona clearly is the Walmart of California casinos -- except its casino personnel are top flight as well.
The lesson is clear. Competition increases choice. And choice can drive vendors to provide a better, more valuable product.
But ultimately, it's up to the customers to decide what is best. Do you go to the closest vendor, or is it worth it to seek out the best deal?
To each his own.
Rider is chairman of the San Diego Tax Fighters.