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From: Glenn Petersen7/6/2023 8:27:01 PM
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How to Make Money by Losing $300,000 a Year on Slot Machines

Millions of people tune in to see others tackle the casino mainstay. ‘It’s fun to watch somebody else play with their money while you’re sitting on your couch drinking a beer.’

By Katherine Sayre
Wall Street Journal
July 5, 2023 7:05 am ET

PALM SPRINGS—Brian Christopher lost $300,000 gambling on slot machines in casinos last year. Hundreds of thousands of people cheered him on, from the comfort of their own homes.

Several times a week, Christopher takes a seat at the slots and livestreams his play on YouTube and Facebook. With a phone pointed at the animated screen in front of him, he pushes buttons to a soundtrack of chimes, bells and cheery tunes.

“Line it up, buttercup,” he’ll often say as he tests his luck.

A new class of niche celebrities have turned the once-solitary experience of gambling at casino slot machines into a spectator sport with millions of viewers and fan camaraderie. Using monopods or videographers to film the action, the players spend hours talking audiences through the highs and lows of jackpots and losses.

“It’s fun to watch somebody else play with their money while you’re sitting on your couch drinking a beer,” said Wayne Deck, a 60-year-old in Fairfax, Va., who watches Christopher online and visits casinos in-real-life.

Sue Leahy tunes into Christopher’s broadcasts from her home in Latitude Margaritaville, a Jimmy Buffett -themed retirement village in Daytona Beach, Fla. Leahy said she grew tired of losing during her own play, so she started copying Christopher. She noted the kinds of machines he used, and how much he bet, and has hunted them down during her casino visits. “Ever since then, I’ve been winning,” Leahy said, while noting that no one wins all the time.



Slot-machine aficionado Brian Christopher with fan Sue Leahy. / PHOTO: SUE LEAHY
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Some who livestream their play are high-rollers who bet $100 or $300 per spin. Others provide practical tips on how to avoid overspending during gambling and remind viewers that the house always wins.

Pat Cudd, a retired English teacher in Gruver, Texas, started playing slots in the early 1990s, and she and two of her sisters have traveled to the Gulf Coast and Las Vegas to enjoy the hobby together.

\At home, in the town of about 1,100 people, she soaks up online slots as a bystander. “Some people like to buy scratch-offs at their local 7-Eleven. I’d rather watch them play slots on YouTube,” she said.

Nongamblers, and some who have given up the pastime, also are among Christopher’s audience of 612,000 YouTube subscribers and 707,000 Facebook followers. “They get their fix by watching someone else play,” he said.



Brian Christopher filming with Executive Assistant Raymond Alvarado and Videographer Apurva Raj. / PHOTO: HILLARY MCAFEE/BC VENTURES
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Christopher has built his particular brand of stardom into a full-time business with 10 employees—including his husband and Senior Vice President of Operations Marco Bianchi—who pack merchandise, such as T-shirts and shot glasses, manage social-media interactions and help secure enough deals and partnerships to fund the enterprise. Christopher declined to provide his total revenue, but said he makes enough to turn a profit after paying his staff and the $300,000 in gambling losses.

He offers cruise trips through a partnership with Carnival cruise lines, with as many as 650 fans joining him at sea each trip, and gambling together in the onboard casinos. Next year, he has eight cruises with fans lined up that depart from the Texas Gulf Coast, Miami, Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia.

Casinos long banned patrons from filming to avoid distractions and to protect the privacy of other customers. They have warmed to the idea in recent years, influencers say, and often give special permission for filming, or make promotional deals with the social-media stars.

An assistant and a videographer help Christopher film and produce videos, and he posts daily edited snippets in addition to going live three days a week. Some days, he plays online games from his desk in Palm Springs.

The key is to always include the audience at home, he said. When he first started posting videos, Christopher heard from viewers that they didn’t want to hear him curse. Now, when he loses a spin, he declares “how rude.” (His official fan club has 4,000 members who call themselves the “Rudies.”)

“Make them feel like they’re sitting there beside you,” he said. “It’s not, ‘I won a jackpot.’ It’s, ‘we just won a jackpot.’”

Some celebrity slots players disclose their losses as a badge of honor—a signal they’re being honest about the odds. Francine Maric, a full-time high-roller known as Lady Luck HQ, posts her win-loss statements from casinos. She said she lost $320,000 last year, but still made a profit thanks to advertising revenue and sponsorships.



Francine Maric, known as Lady Luck HQ online, posts her win-loss statements. / PHOTO: FRANCINE MARIC
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“Some people like to golf,” Maric said. “Some people like to watch sports. Some people like to collect things. I like to gamble.”

Maric, who lives in the Atlanta area, travels with her husband to casinos once or twice a month to record her playing. Back home, she edits the footage into videos she gradually releases over the following few months.

She remembers organizing her first meet-and-greet with fans at the Blue Chip casino in Michigan City, Ind., on a frigid January day. She said she was shocked when 300 people showed up to take photos with her. Fans have brought her good-luck gifts such as a wooden elephant and an angel to keep bad spirits away.

Heather Deurr, who lives in West Virginia, said watching her favorite slot players online is relaxing, like turning on reruns of a favorite TV show. While she enjoys tuning in, though, she dismisses the idea that there is any strategy to be learned.

“Sometimes you could sit down on a machine and have really good luck, and go back the next time and sit down and not win a dime,” Deurr said.

Write to Katherine Sayre at katherine.sayre@wsj.com

How to Make Money by Losing $300,000 a Year on Slot Machines - WSJ (archive.ph)
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