3 Ways Slot Machines Trap Gamblers

When a gambler steps into a casino, nearly every element of these buildings is designed to keep the player playing.

If you've spent any time in a casino, you know how absorbing those blinking, candy-colored slot machines can be. On Think, Krys Boyd talked with journalist John Rosengren about how slots are designed to keep visitors gambling. He writes about how casinos enable gambling addicts in The Atlantic magazine.

LISTEN: The KERA Interview

1. Not all reels are equal:

"If you're playing a three-reel machine, it spins and you get cherry, cherry, cherry, win. It's natural it seems to assume that there are equal numbers of cherries on each reel. Well, most of them have more on the first two reels than on the third reel, so you're more likely to hit a cherry on those first couple of reels than you are on the third reel. You're thinking, ‘Oh, geez, I almost got it.' But you didn't come any closer than if you hadn't gotten a cherry on the first couple."

2. The near miss function:

"It'll go cherry, cherry and then the cherry will come down just above the pay line, so you can see it, but it's not quite there. You think, ‘Oh, I almost got it.' No you didn't. You're no closer to winning than if you couldn't see that cherry at all. The machines are programmed to show that near miss more often than the probabilities would indicate. So, if it's like one out of 12 times that near miss would come up in the law of probabilities, they do it five out of 12 times to trick the player."

3. False wins:

"This occurs with what's called multiline betting where you win not only on that payline across, but you can win on a payline diagonally or in another pattern. Some machines are equipped with over 200 multiline possibilities, and so you bet on these different possibilities. You can bet on say five lines or 10 lines or 20 lines, up to 200. Let's say you bet on five lines. You bet $1 on each line and you end up winning on three of those lines. Well, the machine goes crazy with its bells and whistles and saying, ‘Hey, you won. Congratulations.' But in fact, you've lost $2. If you bet five and you win one back on each of three lines, the machine is telling you you've won – but in fact you've lost."

Copyright 2016 KERA-FM. To see more, visit KERA-FM.

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