Slot-machine science How casinos get you to Invest more Cash

Posted by Omar Refsgaard on February 22nd, 2021

Next time you find yourself in a casino, then pause for a second to love the architecture. Casinos set an immense amount of thought into their layouts. The design of the tables, the patterns on the carpet, the light they're all explicitly designed to make gaming more seductive and get you to spend more money. One unexpected example are the curving hallways across the house. Many casinos attempt to avoid making you ever have to turn in a 90° angle. Since Natasha Dow Schüll clarifies in her fascinating book, Addiction By Design: Machine Gaming at Las Vegas, a right-angle turn forces people to call upon the conclusion pieces of their mind -- to stop and reflect on what they're doing. "Casinos don't need that," Schüll informed me. "They want to curve you lightly to where they want you to proceed." However, as Schüll found, nearly nothing at all a modern day casino is more carefully engineered compared to its slot machines. Slot machines and video gambling proved once marginal to the success of casinos -- but today they account for up to 85 percent of the gaming sector's profits.And casinos have invented a broad variety of approaches to create these machines as addictive as you can, from the elaborate calculations under the hood into the job of the armrests. Schüll, a cultural anthropologist at MIT, spent 15 years at Las Vegas monitoring the growth of slot machines, exploring how and why they've become addictive. We spoke by telephone about how betting has shifted radically over time and how the gaming industry has attracted on emotional insights to produce its games more addictive -- often with tragic consequences. Slot Machines on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship MS Independence of the Seas (Raging Wire/Flickr) When people think of casinos, they frequently think of games such as blackjack or blackjack -- high-stakes bouts of chance in which fortunes can be won or lost in seconds. But that image is obsolete. ONE GAMBLING OFFICIAL ESTIMATED THAT SLOT MACHINES ACCOUNT FOR 85% OF INDUSTRY PROFITS "Slot machines have this reputation for being these arcade apparatus only played by little old ladies," Schüll says. "But these devices are currently driving the gaming business and bringing in the vast majority of profits" She quotes one gambling official estimating that the machines account for as much as 85 percent of business profits. How did slots become so prevalent? During the downturn in the early 1990s, state legislatures began looking to increase revenue without increasing taxes -- and many of them settled on invoices to permit machine gambling. "It was a lot easier to push through laws [expanding the access to slot machines] than matters that took a weightier vice picture, such as table gambling or poker," Schüll states. The latest recession saw another significant bulge. Illinois started stocking slot machines in bars in 2011. This past February, Massachusetts only accepted its first slot parlor -- at a racetrack outside Boston. All toldthere are currently 39 states that legalize some form of digital gambling in casinos, racetracks, or even bars and restaurants. But the crucial advance has been technological. In the old days, slot machines have been all-or-nothing affairs: you pulled the lever and either all the the lucky 7s lined up and you won some money -- or you have nothing. That sort of game was only mildly rewarding, and had limited appeal to players. "The computerization of slot machines offered casinos such precise control over chances that they might offer higher jackpots and more exciting games while controlling percentage payback and the odds," Schüll says. And that is when slot machines really took off. Today's slot machines are designed to hold your attention for as long as possible The gambling industry has recognized the largest gains come from getting people to take a seat at slot machines play for hours and hours on end. (Schüll says the industry refers to this as the"Costco model" of gambling.) Therefore, slot machines have been designed to maximize"time on device." Computerized slots also have made this possible. In the previous times, you pulled the lever and either won or you lost -- and when people dropped, they'd walk off. Now's multi-line slot machines tend to be a lot more elaborate. Instead of a single line, a player can bet on up to 200 lines at one time on the video screen -- up, down, sideways, diagonal -- each having a chance of winning. Therefore someone could wager 70 cents and win on 35 of the traces, getting 35 cents back. This feels like a partial win -- and captivates your attention. "The laboratory research on this demonstrates that individuals experience this in their brains in exactly the same manner as a triumph," Schüll says. (And the economics study indicates that these multi-line machines are far better at separating players out of their money.) That subtle advance, Schüll says, has helped revolutionize the gambling industry. Fewer and fewer people are now going to casinos to have the thrilling chance at a big jackpot. Rather, for lots of the folks Schüll interviewed, these slot machines have become a more"slow drip feed" They play because they like being in the zone and losing themselves in the system. Some players she talked to confessed they really get annoyed if they won a jackpot because it disrupted the flow of playingwith. The design of casinos helps convince individuals to keep gambling ( Nevertheless, it is not just the machine calculations themselves. Casinos have a huge selection of strategies to keep people betting. Modern machines finally have ergonomic seats that don't cut off circulation and make it possible for you sit for hours. Buttons and bill acceptors are placed so that they can be reached with minimal arm movement (and minimal disturbance to play). "The entire architecture," Schüll says, is all about ensconcing you personally in this cozy nook which allows you to get your very own private escape" Advances in charge systems also have been crucial -- players no longer need to feed coins into the machine. Bill acceptors or participant cards with magnetic strips allow people to play longer rather than consider the money they're spending.Many casinos have specialized ATMs with features that allow players to get about their daily withdrawal limitations by advancing money. Additionally, there are more subtle ways to maintain people at machines. If casino officials notice that a player is on a bad streak, they can come over and offer the person free breakfast (This strategy may backfire, however, since it often irritates slot players trying to lose themselves in the stream of the game.) Instead, Schüll found, video machines later on might actually make internal adjustments if they notice a participant is on a losing streak and can be reaching their"pain point." This has to be done carefully -- it's illegal for casinos to alter the oddsin a game once a participant has begun playing. However, she says, some sport manufacturers have researching ways to decrease the volatility of a game in a means that still preserves the overall payback percentage. That is technically still legal. There is a fierce debate about who's responsible for gambling dependency It's hard to talk about gaming without talking about dependence, and Schüll devotes a large section of her book on this issue. THE STEREOTYPICAL GAMBLER IN LAS VEGAS IS NO LONGER AN OLDER MAN PLAYING CARDS -- BUT A 35-YEAR-OLD MOTHER HOOKED ON SLOTS There is a newcomer who sits down in a slot machine in a grocery store on Tuesday and does not depart until Thursday -- maxing out three credit cards all of the while. (Those examples are not arbitrary: Schüll finds that the stereotypical gambler in Las Vegas is no longer an older man betting on cards or the horsetrack but a 35-year-old mother of 2 hooked on slots.) The gaming industry argues that it's only about 1 percent of the population which has a serious addiction problem. Most individuals, meanwhile, can perform without consequence. Indeed, the American Gaming Association asserts that the prevalence of"problem" gambling has not actually risen at all since 1976 -- and the amount wagered per casino visit hasn't increased significantly. * Thus, they argue, these machines do not seem to be fueling a huge increase in addiction. However, Schüll believes the situation is much more complex than that. She cites studies by Brown University psychologist Robert Breen, that finds that video gambling machines are just three to four times more addictive than matches of old. "But by the exact same token, certain technology are more liable to addict. And I believe its important to look at the technology." "These matches are solitary, they're really fast, they're continuous and uninterrupted," she says. "You are playing up to 1,200 spins an hour. And each event is another chance to reinforce behaviour." So it is hardly a surprise that folks quickly become addicted -- losing themselves at the machines for days ahead. Schüll isn't convinced by business arguments that responsibility for problem gaming belongs exclusively on individuals. "The whole modus operandi of the sector is to approach the human being as something that's manipulable. I think it is disingenuous they then turn around and assert that 100 percent of their responsibility for any harm is on the individual." Some states and countries are mulling stricter regulations for machine gambling In her publication, Schüll argues that it is well worth considering stricter regulations on video gaming -- maybe not a ban, but maybe exploring ways to mitigate the worst addictive outcomes. "There's no equivalent of the FDA for all these machines," she told me. SOME PROPOSED INTERVENTIONS MAY EVEN END UP BACKFIRING Still, regulating those machines is easier said than done. Countries like Canada or Australia have experimented with tweaks, such as requiring pop-up messages that alert the player if they have been playing too long. But agen sbobet have discovered that other suggested interventions -- like slowing down the reels -- may actually backfire by lengthening the quantity of time people play. In the United States, meanwhile, Schüll argues that regulations remain lenient. States that are attempting to expand video gaming as a source of revenue have been unwilling to throttle the industry. That is particularly true now that casinos sales are decreasing and several nations aren't receiving the earnings they hoped. Schüll does point to Massachusetts, however, as an illustration of"forward-looking" regulation, with policies that provide regular gamblers incentives to join"pre-commitment" applications -- where they could limit in advance how much money they wish to spend, before they begin playing. (Incidentally, for the opposing view, here is the American Gaming Association's perspective of the regulatory state of play -- they assert that there are already plenty of rules and criteria to prevent deception in these types of machines.) But for the most part, the conversation round the addictive aspects of these machines is still fairly nascent. "I see my job as attempting to open the door to talk of this particular technology," she says,"and to figure out whether some sort of responsibility and regulation of it could be appropriate."

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Omar Refsgaard

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Omar Refsgaard
Joined: February 22nd, 2021
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