Buffett on gambling industry

Q: Your opinion of the gambling industry?

I don’t know about which stocks to recommend, but, as long as we’re talking about the legal ones, gambling companies will have a perfectly good future. The desire of people to gamble is very high, including in stocks. Day trading comes very close to gambling. People like to gamble. If there’s a football game, especially if it’s boring, you’ll enjoy it more if you bet a few bucks. The human propensity to gamble is huge.

When it was only legal in Nevada, you had to travel or break laws to gamble, but now states are legalizing it. The easier it is, the more people who will gamble. I bought a slot machine a long time ago and put it on the 3rd floor of my house. I could then give my children any allowance they wanted, as long as it was in dimes, and I’d have it all back by nightfall. I wanted to teach them a good lesson. My slot machine had a terrible payout ratio, by the way. [Laughter]

People will always want to gamble. I’m not a prude about it, but to quite an extent, gambling is a tax on ignorance. You just put it in and guys like me don’t pay the taxes – it relieves taxes on those who don’t gamble. I find it socially revolting when a government preys on its citizens rather than serving them. A government shouldn’t make it easy for people to take their social security checks and [waste them pulling] a handle. It’s not government at its best. I think other [negative social] things flow from [gambling] over time.

Munger: I would argue that casinos use clever psychological tricks [to get people to gamble], some of which are harmless, but a lot of grievous injury has been done. You won’t find a lot of gambling companies in Berkshire’s portfolio. [Applause]

Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2007 Tilson Notes