Slot Machines and Gambling Addiction
Slot is a game in which players place coins into a slot, or narrow opening in a machine, to make it work. The coin falls through a slot into a mechanism that rotates the reels and determines if symbols match. The game is one of the most popular types of casino games. People often play slot machines for hours, or even days at a time. Some even spend more money than they can afford to lose.
Schull, a cultural anthropologist at MIT, spent 15 years in Las Vegas tracking how slot machines evolved. He says advances in computer technology made them more addictive, giving casinos precise control over the odds and percentage payback. In addition, advances in payment systems, such as bill acceptors and player cards, allow people to play for longer and not think about how much they’re spending.
In experiments, the use of a win line on a slot machine is a great way to encourage people to keep playing, and even more so when those wins are frequent. But the best way to prevent a gambling addiction is to play for small amounts of money that you can afford to lose.
A few experimental studies are frequently cited as evidence that near misses have a reinforcing function on gambler persistence. However, these studies are flawed in several ways that invalidate the claims they make. One problem is that the winning streaks in these studies are much more frequent than in typical slot machines. Moreover, the results of these experiments are likely to have been affected by conditional reinforcement.