In this article we’re going to briefly explore the impact slot games have on land-based casinos and on internet gambling today, but first some history that led to the rise of slot machines. Table games in particular Craps and Blackjack, for decades were the mainstay of casino revenues. In turn, gambling constituted the main source of income for casino resorts and complexes.
In the modern world, the goal posts are shifting continually. Firstly, casino resorts are making half their money from their hotel, conference and catering operations. Secondly, their main gaming revenues accrue not from traditional table games, but from the vast banks of slot machines which most large land-based casinos now boast.
Originally, slot machines were introduced as a way to keep the ladies happy while the men folk did battle at the tables. The stakes were low and the house edge modest. The ladies could lose a bit of money in a safe gambling environment and feel that the casino was, in some way also geared toward their needs. Even today, a large proportion of slots players are women.
Slots have major advantages over table games: they require very few staff; the games themselves are virtually impossible to cheat; players generally demand fewer perks; percentage holds on slot machines can be extremely high; and last but not least, they flash that hypnotic welcome to players 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
However, slots players have begun to demand more value for their money and Slots Clubs and loyalty cards abound, now offer complimentary benefits even to modest players. The casinos can well afford these generous benefits, since the machines have such a high house edge which translates into more profits for the casino.
At times we do find slot machines problematic. It’s not that we don’t enjoy playing them ourselves occasionally, we fully understand the pleasure of immersing oneself in the all-consuming world of spinning reels, electronic poker and multi-reel and multi-payout action. It is an escape from the weight of the world on one’s shoulders. But, there is something massively anti-social and intrinsically lonely about slots play in general, it undermines mingling with fellow punters at a casino.
We also believe that slots addiction is the most serious form of gambling addiction not only because of the speed you part ways with your money, but there is rarely another human being around to help you realize your errors. This lack of human contact, of someone able to say to you: “Hang on a second; take a break for a short while…” can lead to isolation and an inability to face up to a gambling problem. To give an example in Cape Town, South Africa, one of the large casinos just out of town suffered a major power outage when the country was hit by power cuts and the casino’s own generator broke down.
The Salon Prive was plunged into semi-darkness. Slot players who have seen each other on a daily basis who never spoke to each other before started chatting. After about 20 minutes, there was a hubbub, as players sat with drinks and snacks waiting for the machines to sputter back to life. Pretty silent folks suddenly seemed so sociable and friendly. An hour later the machines came back on; within 20 seconds, no one was talking anymore-everyone was back to their station, in their own worlds, recommencing the lonely battle with the machines.
Slots manufacturers and the casinos which hire or purchase are fully aware of the need to attract punters to put in their coins (or notes, or credit cards). Lights are scientifically programmed to flash in a hypnotic, attention-seeking pattern; noises are designed to feed the desire to hear a certain combination of notes. In years gone by, via the air conditioning system, casino have even pumped into slots areas different additives such as more oxygen for prolonged playing, pheromones to attract and retain players, soothing or stimulating scents and so forth. This is where the problem of addictive gambling really kicks in. Slots players generally spend more time in front of the slot machines, out comes the wallet and purses and the casino cage hands out more money. Debts mount with frightening ease and no pain-until it’s too late.
For all these reasons, governments should take the moral high ground and limit the stakes for slot machines. They should ban the use of credit cards at casinos, and they should effectively regulate internet gambling. Unfortunately a misplaced debate of civil liberties inevitably begins, and money talks: the tax revenues are just far too great for a legislative body to show any moral backbone whatsoever.
The good news is that there are ways to beat the machines. To do so require a little time and effort, some study, and lots of discipline and self-control, it can be done and right now some sensible players are winning big time. In summary, the same rules that apply to playing slot machines at land-based casinos also apply to internet casinos. Always wager responsibly, remember it’s your hard earned cash and not the casino’s. Good luck and have fun!