Study Confirming Near-Misses Fuel Gambling Addiction Highlights Need to Stay Focused on Slot Machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported many times on the dangers of slot machines.  The psychology behind why slot machines are so effective at addicting players has been the subject of many researchers.  A recent study has examined the idea of a “near-miss,” or coming one icon away from a win.  The conclusion of the researchers is that these near-misses fuel gambling addiction.  An online source explains:

Canadian researchers have provided new evidence that gamblers interpret near-misses as frustrating losses rather than near-wins. This frustration stimulates the reward systems in the brain to promote continued gambling that, in turn, may contribute to addictive gambling behavior.

Studies to date have shown that near-misses support persistent gambling and activate brain areas that reinforce certain behaviors. If near-misses are seen as near-wins, then they should be pleasurable. If, however, near-misses are highly frustrating losses, then they should be unpleasant.

The analyses showed that progressively larger wins led to longer pauses between spins and increased arousal levels. Near-misses with jackpot symbols landing on the first two reels led to significantly larger skin responses than regular losses and other types of near-misses. In addition, the gamblers were compelled to repeat the spin as quickly as possible after this type of near miss.

“By activating what we call the appetitive component of the mesolimbic rewards system, these near-misses may help a player develop a hopeful, subjective impression that the next win is imminent,” Dr Dixon said. “This might ultimately contribute to the sensitization of the appetitive system, which plays a key role in addictive behavior.”

This type of research helps to illustrate how people can become addicted to slots.  As elections near, its research like this that demands close attention to the types of gambling that could be exposed to communities.  Natasha Shull, a cultural anthropologist and associate professor in MIT’s Program on Science, Technology and Society, has spent the last 15 years researching and studding the slot machines.  In an MIT article, she explains how slot machines are designed to addict gamblers and create tremendous profits for casinos:

Schull herself is not a gambler, but says she can relate to gamblers when they talk about the repetitive, absorbed relationship they enter into with the technology. “I think many of us understand what it’s like to zone out on machines.

As Schull explains, today’s machines are much different from ones of the past. Visual graphics are now calibrated so the gamblers’ eyes won’t get tired so quickly. Sound is manipulated as well, to reduce the stress of cacophony in cavernous spaces. To facilitate faster play, today’s machines have buttons and touch-screens instead of handles and mechanical reels.

Instead of coins, they accept player credit cards. Instead of a few games per minute, it is now possible to play hundreds. Inside the machines, complicated algorithms control the odds. “Every feature of the machines is geared to keep people playing until they’re broke.”

Natasha Shull had published a new book Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas. Her book and research will be the feature of many articles on Casino Watch Focus and more information on her book can be found here.  As elections near in your communities, please remember that there’s a reason gambling companies spend so much money to influence elections and to expand gambling.  Its not because they plan to make winners of everyone in the neighborhoods, its because they have designed a method of revenue collection for high profits that are fueled by addiction.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

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