A surprisingly easy way to keep people from a gambling addiction

New players can avoid gambling addiction with some learned tricks

Celebratory music, flashing lights and the thrilling feeling that the next try may be the winning one drives slot machine players to push the button again — and again. But sometimes when a slot machine tells you you have won, you have actually lost.

Using a trick known as “losses disguised as wins” (LDWs), modern slot machines make players think they’re winning more than they are by blaring happy tunes and shining lights. It looks and sounds similar to an actual win, but in these cases, the “win” pays less than the person bet.

If people knew about the LDW trick, they’d be less likely to be fooled into thinking they’re winning — and becoming problem gamblers, according to new research from the University of Waterloo in Canada. “Slot machines are designed to capture your attention toward those cool animations and the neat sounds, but that is where they can lead you astray,” said Michael Dixon, a professor and research director in the Gambling Research Lab at Waterloo.

The researchers gave one group of participants an educational video on slot machines, which explained the concept of losses disguised as wins, and another group was shown a video unrelated to gambling. After being shown the videos, all participants played two slot machine games, one with lots of LDWs and one with a few LDWs.

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