Most of the analyses about Stephen Paddock’s Las Vegas massacre have focused on a political or social motive. Was he an anti-government racist? Did he hate conservatives? Was he in fact, as ISIS keeps claiming, a Muslim jihadi? These arguments, and more, are plausible, but the hunt for motive obscures what seems more likely to be the real reason Paddock shot hundreds of people: that he did it for fun.
Paddock’s life for the last decade or so, as much as it can be reconstructed, appears to have been based in and around casinos. Having made a few million dollars through buying and selling rental properties, and having no children or significant family ties, he lived a low-key life of affluence. Paddock owned several houses in exurban luxury communities, where he could park his meager belongings and rest up between jaunts to the casinos—his real home. He was a consistent gambler at high-stakes slot and video-poker machines, betting about $10,000 a day—“the small end of the big fish,” as his brother describes him.
It may emerge, as has been rumored, that he had enormous debts, the strain of which “made him crack,” but it seems more likely that Paddock, the accountant who carefully made himself and his brother rich through property management, was a “comps” player, enjoying the perks and freebies that casinos offer their regular customers. Like airlines do with frequent-flyer programs, casinos monitor how much their guests spend and offer their most dedicated consumers carefully calibrated rewards, ranging from free drinks to meals to lodging.
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