Would you let your kids gamble? How about buying lottery tickets? How about playing the slots at a casino? Right now, you are thinking, this guy is crazy. Who would introduce gambling to their kids? I thought the same thing until I realized that I have not only condoned gambling but have helped to facilitate it.
Pokemon is big in our house right now. I have to hand it to the creators of that game. They have been able to not just keep that franchise going for 20+ years, but they have been able to capture a new generation of loyal fans and buyers year after year. Think back to when you were kids, while sports cards, pogs and garbage pail kids are technically still around they are nowhere near as popular or successful in terms of revenue as Pokemon.
Somehow my son curated a collection of 50+ cards without ever buying a single card. He got a few for Halloween, and friends who had doubles have given him some. But this weekend he went out to buy his very first pack.
The Value Of A Card
My son has been trying to school me on the various values of the cards. The higher “attack value”, the more valuable the card is for him. Simple enough. So when he bought his first package of cards, low and behold he received mostly low attack value cards. I’m not going to lie, I was really excited about that. No, I’m not just a big meanie. I was excited because it gave me a chance to talk to my son about gambling and the lottery. Yes, I’m a super geek, and yes, when my child bought Pokemon cards, I let my kids gamble.
Here is a bit of the exchange we had after he bought his cards:
Me: Did you get any valuable cards?
Him: Not really, not that valuable.
Me: How did you feel before you opened the pack?
Him: I was excited
Me: Why do you think you were excited?
Him: I was hoping I would get an EX (High attack value card)
Me: Why don’t they put lots of EX’s in the pack?
Him: I think they do it so that you have to buy more packs.
And this my friends, is why Pokemon is a lottery. Lots of little wins to keep you coming back for more, and few big paydays. If your friends have valuable cards, you know it is only a matter of time before you hit it big too. Just like those ‘just image commercials’ you see that show you people just like you can win the big one.
Value and Scarcity
That is why Pokemon has been so successful. They have been able to create value and scarcity with their cards. They have also been able to create that excited high we get when we gamble or play the lottery. Yup, I just let my 7-year-old kid gamble on Pokemon. They have also created a card game that people love to play, and included the communal aspect of trading cards that has been popular for years. But I’m just focusing on the gambling here.
I’m not big on gambling, I know the odds, so I don’t play the lottery or go to casinos. I’m not passing judgment on how anyone else chooses to spend their money, but I am trying to educate my kids. And letting them know how lotteries work is part of that.
Other Games of Chance
The funny thing is, Pokemon cards aren’t the only form of gambling that I have introduced my kids to. At our kids school fun fair, they had a few games of chance. And it was my wife that pointed out that the money that was spent to play the games could have easily bought 2-3x the number of prizes that were won.
She was also wise to point out that he was not paying for the prize he was paying for the experience, which is like some people who gamble. But like all other things regarding money, and especially gambling, it is important that we are aware of what we are doing.
My son now understands that if he buys a pack of Pokemon, most cards will not be valuable, but every now and then, one might be. He knows that they do this on purpose to encourage him to buy more cards. And now, if he chooses to buy more cards, at least he is doing it consciously. So yes, I let my kids gamble, but they are informed because we talked about it. And that is all I can ask for.