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Slot Machines

Electronic gambling machines represent the most extreme form of predatory gambling and its most lucrative. From The Washington Post: “Beware - Machine Zone Ahead” MIT Professor Natasha Schull writes about the design and technology behind electronic gambling machines in an excellent Washington Post Op-Ed piece. Beware -Machine Zone Ahead

Meet Your New Neighbor: How Slot Machines are Secretly Designed to Seduce and Destroy You, and How the Government Is In On It

MUST-READ. Here's what may be the best investigative news story about electronic gambling machines and the partnership between the predatory gambling trade and our government written to date. The reporter was Isaiah Thompson of the Philadelphia City Paper and it appeared in January 2009. Meet Your New Neighbor

Behind Electronic Gambling Machines

Drawing on research conducted in Las Vegas among game developers and gamblers, MIT Professor Natasha Schull provides an in-depth analysis behind the design and technology of electronic gambling machines. Schull Research on Machine Psychology

Graphic of the Design and Technology Behind Slot Machines

Here is an excellent visual of the design and technology behind slot machines that accompanied a March 2009 Boston Globe news story on the topic titled "Glitzy video slots seen as a particular addiction risk." (click on graphic to enlarge)

The Software and Design of Slot Machines

University of Waterloo (Canada) computer game design researcher Kevin Harrigan, whose research has made headlines around the world, recently testified before the New Hampshire Gambling Study Commission to explain the software and design features of slot machines. Through Canada's Freedom of Information Act, Dr. Harrigan obtained slot machine design documents, called PAR Sheets. Slot machine manufacturers commissioned an army of lawyers but failed to block Dr. Harrigan's access to this information. Without losses disguised as wins and frequent near win displays, slot machines would not be profitable. Harrigan presentation to the 2010 NH Gambling Commission

Slot Machines Near Misses Are Perfectly Tuned to Stoke the Addiction

The Discover Magazine blog helps explain the allure of slot machines and the difficulty that some gamblers have in walking away by highlighting that, to a gambler’s brain, a near miss provides almost the same high as a win. Slot Machines Near Misses Are Perfectly Tuned to Stoke the Addiction

Inside a Slot Machine

Learn how a slot machine works by playing this one. The Las Vegas Sun developed this virtual slot machine to work just like one on the casino floor. Examine what goes on inside the machine and begin to understand why slots are the most extreme form of predatory gambling.

The New York Times Magazine Exposes Modern Slot Machines

This must-read New York Times Magazine cover story by Gary Rivlin exposes the slot machine business as predatory and deceptive. 2004 New York Times story on slots by Gary Rivlin

The Design of Slots and the Implications for Problem Gamblers

This research by Prof. Kevin A. Harrigan at the University of Waterloo examines characteristics of Ontario slots and what the implications are for problem gamblers, including analysis of the probability accounting reports (or PAR sheets) to see how the games are designed. One of their key findings include: “Bonus modes are highly salient environments associated with wins that are in the view of the gambler a very good place to be. Because entering these arousing and highly rewarding bonus environments is rare, only those who gamble frequently will become classically conditioned to these environments and experience the combined effects of operant and classical conditioning – a situation that could preferentially target problem gamblers.” PAR Sheets, Probabilities and Slot Machine Play - Implications for Problem and Non-Problem Gambling

Having Multiple Versions of the Same Slot Machine Game May Impact Problem Gambling

In this paper, Harrigan and Dixon examine how the same slot machine games with different payback percentages may affect the player’s behavior. Interestingly, slot machines with higher payback percentages (offering a perceived air of fairness for the player: 98% vs. a lower payback of 85%), were more likely to impose the most risk for ensuing gambling problems. In their findings, they argue for the regulations of lower payback percentages (85%), as the higher ones appear to be far more addictive. Government Sanctioned ‘‘Tight’’ and ‘‘Loose’’ Slot Machines- How Having Multiple Versions of the Same Slot Machine Game May Impact Problem Gambling

Slot Machines: Distorted Player Views of Payback Percentages

This paper by Prof. Kevin A. Harrigan at the University of Waterloo presents a sample three-reel three-coin slot machine game with a bonus for three coins, and a true payback percentage of 85.6% when one or two coins are wagered and 92.5% when three coins are wagered. The player sees the winning or losing combination of three symbols on the payline as well as (a) the physical reels as they scroll by and (b) what is just above and just below the payline at the end of play. Slot Machine Structural Characteristics

Misrepresented Game Outcomes and Problem Gambling

This research by Prof. Kevin A. Harrigan at the University of Waterloo looked at how slot players’ perceptions were influenced by a technique that has been used since 1983 in North America, called “clustering.” By observing the player perceptions (the frustration effect, the perception of early wins, illusion of control, biased evaluation of outcomes, entrapment, and irrational thinking) as well as looking at transcripts from Nevada hearings where proponents were aware of the psychological effect on players from near misses and virtual reels, the researchers raise concerns over the connection with misrepresented game outcomes and problem gambling. Slot Machines - Pursuing Responsible Gaming Practices for Virtual Reels and Near Misses

The Secrets of a Slot Machine

Dennis Bailey, the Executive Director of Maine's Casinos No!, wrote the piece below which details how slot machines are heavily weighted in the casino's favor. The Secrets of a Slot Machine

New Facts About Video Poker Machines

Some states either have already legalized video poker machines in bars and restaurants or are pushing hard to do so. Here is some excellent information compiled by ILCAAP in Illinois about these highly predatory and addictive machines. New Facts About Video Poker

Instant Racing Machines Are Just Slots By Another Name

To circumvent existing state gambling laws, gambling interests are pushing “Instant Racing Machines” or what are also called “Historic Racing Machines.” They are simply just slots by another name. The short brief below includes an excerpt from a recent Wyoming Supreme Court decision opposing the machines. Instant Racing Machines

By Misleading Players, Slot Machine Design Spurs Problem Gambling

This article explains how reel electronic gambling machines (EGMs) have been designed to mislead players and have directly contributed to the high rate of problem gambling: “Unbalanced reel design must be a major factor, if not the major factor, in the maintenance of problem gambling principally because the gambler unconsciously believes he or she cannot lose.” Unlike table games, EGMs offer widely different odds of winning, which the authors compare to loaded dice or rigged carnival games. “The fact that the players do not know the rules makes the reel gambling machine unique amongst gaming devices. Not only are the players ignorant of the rules but the rules vary from machine to machine and neither the gaming industry nor the regulators disclose them. As far as transparency is concerned, the standards applicable to reel gaming machines are totally out of step with all other forms of gaming.” The authors make a strong case for establishing uniform standards, banning biased, “virtually-mapped” reels on EGMs and providing more transparency regarding the player’s chances of winning. Unbalanced Reel Gambling Machines

The Effects of Video Poker in South Carolina

In 1997, Dr. Quinn founded the South Carolina Center for Gambling Studies and directed a statewide study of Video Poker's impact on South Carolina. This study outlined the pattern of devastation Video Poker was having on average citizens and demonstrated the uniquely addictive nature of electronic gambling. Dr. Quinn's study and a follow-up study with Dr. William Thompson of UNLV focusing on the economic impact of Video Poker in South Carolina, contributed greatly to demise of Video Poker in South Carolina. Here are some key findings from the research: 1. The combination of electronic gambling and convenience venues is extremely addictive and destructive. 2. Minorities and women in particular appear disproportionately vulnerable to video poker. 3. People often gamble more often and/or longer when they are induced. 4. Sometimes people gamble and develop pathology because they have the opportunity. 5. The pathology associated with video poker, unlike other forms of gambling, may prove to be largely non-transferable. 6. The long term economic and social costs associated with gambling are often ignored by political processes obsessed with short term and visible financial gain. Report of The Quinn-Pike Video Gaming Study An Economic Analysis of Machine Gambling in South Carolina

Casinos Make Their Money From Slot Machines

Why do predatory gambling operators push slot machines over other forms of gambling? According to Casino Operations Management, a textbook written by Jim Kilby, Jim Fox and Anthony Lucas, a typical large casino receives 60-70% of their profits from slots and 15-20% from table games.

Slot Machine Profits Jump 70% In a Decade

According to Nevada Gaming Control Board statistics, there were about 197,000 slot machines in that state that won roughly $4.8 billion from gamblers in 1997. By 2007, the number of slot machines increased just 2.5 percent to 202,000, but the amount they won from gamblers jumped 72.9 percent to about $8.3 billion. Back to School, Major in Slots

Near Misses Are Like Winning to Problem Gamblers

The brains of problem gamblers react more intensely to near misses than casual gamblers, new research from the University of Cambridge has found. The results help explain what keeps problem gamblers betting even though they keep losing. Near Misses are like Winning to Problem Gamblers

University research outlines the dangers of slot machines

The Carleton University Gambling Laboratory, a think-tank deciphering what makes gamblers keep coming back, says slot machines are nearly four times more addictive than regular card tables. Head researcher, Prof. Michael Wohl, said that's because players can sit for long periods of time in a relatively low-stress situation and can cash in their winnings without leaving their seats. It's also due to grave misconceptions about how slot machines work. "A lot of people think that every time you spin a slot machine you're getting closer and closer to a win," Dr. Wohl explains. But that's simply not the case. He describes them as a mixed bag of marbles. Within it, there's one "jackpot" marble combined with hundreds of losses. When you play a machine, one of those losses falls out of the bag.. But what many people don't understand is before your very next spin, that dud marble goes right back into the bag. The odds of winning or losing are always exactly the same.According to the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, 80% of problem gamblers in Ontario cite slot machines as their problem. The largest percentage are seniors and low-income earners University research outlines the dangers of slot machines 

How a magic carpet ride became a slot machine game

Chicago-based WMS have created a slot machine that provides a ride-like experience for users. The idea behind this new wave of slot machine was that once you experience it, you will keep playing, reaching into your pocket, and putting in money to try to win this ride. Aladdin, being magical, was a seemingly perfect fit for the empty but enticing nature of slots. How a magic carpet ride became a slot machine game

Study Shows Slot Machines Are Built to Deceive

According to this Washington Post story, a new report reveals that slot machines are maufactured to trick players. The machines often use positive reinforcement, in the form of celebratory sounds, to convince gamblers they have won when they are actually losing their money. 2013 Slot machine sounds can manipulate players, researchers say

80 years of slot machine trickery

This article, dated December of 1932, over 80 years ago, explains how slot machines are built to make players lose, and it still remains true today.  It not only goes into detail as to how these machines mathematically cheat players out of their hard-earned cash, but it serves to show that these machines have been swindling players out of their money for generations. Machines that Pick Your Pocket

The rise of penny slots

The name "penny slot" implies that these machines are essentially harmless- after all, what use is there for one penny? However, these machines, which are rapidly growing in popularity, garner huge profits for casinos at the expense of players. These machines attract mainly lower-income players, lured by the idea that one penny can net them some extra cash. Most "penny slots" actually require you pay more than 1 cent per play, with some requiring 25 or 50 cents, and others requiring bets of over $1. Players put more than $500 million into penny slots in January alone, and given the high profits they give to casino owners, casinos are starting to install more and more of them. This article, from the Press of Atlantic City shows how one penny can cost gamblers a lot more than you might think. 2014 Penny slots are popular, flexible and profitable

Music and sound effects contribute to why you keep losing at slot machines

A research team at the University of Waterloo has done extensive studies of the psychology of gambling.  Music and sound effects create a false positive for slot players.  Modern slot machines with several lines produce music and sound effects associated with a win, even if you've lost!  Indeed, there are few things more enticing than the sound of winning money...even when it's an illusion. 2013 Why You Keep Losing at Slot Machines

How Casinos Get You to Spend the Most Money

How casinos are layed out, from the positioning of the tables, down to the lighting and carpet patterns, is no accident.  But nothing is more directly related to end-of-the day profits than the strategy of the carefully placed slot machine. With slot revenue now accounting for 85% of profits, the slot machines of today are continuous and uninterrupted, allowing for minimal effort on the players part resulting in maximum financial loss. 2014 Slot-machine science How casinos get you to spend more money

Skill Based Slots

The next wave of slots will have an element of skill involved, which will slightly increase the player’s chance of winning. The goal is to entice younger players who largely shun regular slot machines.   The difficulty is to provide for the skilled player while still having odds that favor the house. Such games are currently under development by some smaller slot manufacturers.   Small sections of the casino floor will be devoted to the machines. One thing that will slow adoption is that where a regular slot machine plays every five seconds, the skill games take about 20 to 60 seconds per play. The casinos hope that capturing more young players will help make up for the roughly 17% drop in slots play since 2007, whereas table games have dropped only 3%. While some executives are content to wait for women to grow into 51 year old slots players, others are looking for different answers. It took casinos ten years to adopt tickets or credit card play at the slots, and it is expected that it will take 10 years or more to adopt smart slots. Casino owners also worry that the new machines will cannibalize older slots, and reduce the 77% average that casinos receive from slot machines.   Casino owners hope that addicted players will be drawn to the skill machines and lose their money more slowly, but that is also a gamble. May the woes of casinos grow.   Alexandra Berzon, “Are Slot Machines About to Get Smart?” The Wall Street Journal, June 15,2016.

The Casino Trap for the Elderly

There is no doubt that casinos target the elderly. Seniors have access to money until they run out. They respond positively to attention they do not get at home. They come during the day which is often a slack time at casinos. They enjoy small perks, free plays, free lunches and once they are addicted a free room will keep them at the casinos longer. The seniors play until they lose their retirement savings, cash in their insurance policies, mortgage their home, and run up cash advances on multiple credit cards. Many are forced to declare bankruptcy. Many of the elderly are seeking to escape loneliness, recover from the loss of a spouse, or other source of grief. This makes them especially vulnerable to the friendliness of the casino. The casinos supply free shuttles for senior centers on the day Social Security checks arrive. The casinos also provide walkers, wheelchairs, and extra handicapped parking. Some casinos stock restrooms with senior diapers and disposal receptacles for diabetic insulin needles. One casino even ran a pharmacy for a time where credits could cover the cost of the copay. An older 2005 study at the University of Pennsylvania found that one of every eleven seniors lost more than they could afford in the previous year. Estimates are that more than four million of those over 65 have a gambling problem. Slots are addictive by design, with features to maximize time on machine until you have lost all you can access. Dementia especially keeps the sufferer pushing the button as long as the casino lets them play, The casinos send seniors birthday cards, other cards, free tickets to programs, and of course weekly free plays. For a senior high roller the casino lavishes attention from hostesses, who are often the best friend the patron has. Hostess bonuses are based on how much their client spends. Casino mouthpieces say they are providing needed entertainment for a neglected portion of the population. This may be true but it is at great expense, and exposes the neglect we devote to our seniors. Invitations to put their name on an exclusion list seldom overcome the enticements of the freebies. It takes family support to quit gambling which is often not there. The tragedy of senior addicts is one of the strongest indictments of our selfish society.   John Rosengren, AARP Bulletin, October 2016. patrons.html

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