Gambling addiction is a serious problem. People who normally responsible get into all sorts of financial, and sometimes, legal trouble when their gambling gets out of control. In recent years, researchers have discovered that gambling addiction is similar to drug addiction in several significant ways. The most important is probably the dopamine produced in the brain when you gamble. It functions in much the same way as, say cocaine. While gambling is already addictive, casinos have learned to maximise profits by refining the addictive features of their operations. Here are some of the tricks they use.
The near win. Say there are two slot machines. They both have the exact same chances of paying out, but one makes a lot more money. Why? It lets you think you almost won. Machines are programed to have a certain probability of winning. If no one ever won, the machine would keep all the money but no one would play it. If people won all the time, plenty of people would play it, but it wouldn’t make much money. The solution is to let people think they almost won. This is the cherry-cherry-lemon scenario. You feel like you were so close, maybe just one more pull will do it. In reality, having ‘almost’ won doesn’t matter at all. It just gets you to spend more money. That’s why they use the elaborate display of spinning wheels. They could much more easily show you a simple ‘winner’ or ‘loser’ but then you wouldn’t know when you ‘almost’ won.
The illusion of control. Why pull a lever at all? It could start up when you put money in or when you press a button. Instead, you have to go through this charade of pulling a lever even though most slot machines are now electronic. The answer is that it gives you something to do. If you feel like you’re actively participating the game, you feel like you might have some influence over the outcome. You don’t, of course, but the feeling you do keeps you playing. The same is true of craps. The throw is random, no matter who blows on the dice.
Calling attention to wins. When someone wins a big jackpot, there are sirens and lights. When someone loses, there’s nothing. In a big room of slot machines, you may frequently hear sirens and get the impression that winning is common, but for every win you hear, there are thousands of losses you don’t hear. This makes you vastly overestimate your odds of winning even when you know rationally the odds are small.
Chips and credits. Casinos know it’s hard to part with cash. That’s why they make you play with chips. Now a lot of casinos use credits for machines. You can just keep pulling that lever without thinking about how your money is steadily disappearing. If you quit before your money is gone, you get a slip of paper showing your balance that you have to cash in. The less real your money feels, the more likely you are to spend it without thinking.
Smarmore Castle Private Clinic in County Louth, near Dublin was founded in 1988 as a residential rehabilitation hospital treating people suffering from drug and alcohol purposes. Smarmore Castle believes in helping patients lead a life of abstinence through 12 Step programmes, detox and medical treatment, psychotherapy, and complementary therapies. For more information, please call 041-214-5111. For those who live out of the country, the international number is 00353-41-214-5111.
Last updated & clinically assessed 26 March, 2021