Can slots ‘trick’ you into playing more?

So, you think you have those slot machines all figured out.

According to Kevin Harrigan, a professor at Canada’s University of Waterloo in Ontario, while slot machines reward their players with cash, the outcome is based not on skill, but chance – and chance is heavily weighted against the player.

(OK, there now are some slot machines that are skill-based, but there aren’t many and they haven’t quite achieved the popularity of “regular” slot machines.)

He points out that slot machines are designed to play on the brain’s reward system to keep people engaged.

He’s identified at least two ways slots make you think you’re winning more often than you are:

• Flashing bright lights or celebratory sounds when players win, say, 80 cents, even though they’d gambled a dollar.

• The “near miss” – where the reels spin, two of the three win symbols line up, and the final symbol rolls just above or below the payline. Players think they’re more likely to win on the next spin, even though, mathematically, each spin is independent from the last. (With the new digital machines, manufacturers can program near misses to occur up to 12 times more often than by chance alone.)

To help counter this, and educate players, Harrigan and some colleagues came up with labels – similar to those nutrition labels on food.

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