Slot Machines: The Big Gamble

Old fashioned slot machines let gamblers pull the handle and hope for three of a kind, but the modern slots are like high tech video games that play music and scenes from TV shows. I became from a nice person, I became a manipulative, deceitful, lying person.”

It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to gamble, you had to travel a long way. You’re not interrupted by anything; you’re not waiting for the horses to run, you’re not waiting for the guy next to you to choose his card to put down; there’s no roulette wheel spinning.

“I found that the machines were wonderful. Today, to shoot craps or play slots, all you have to do is get in your car: there’s probably a casino in your state, or right next door.

There is now casino gambling now in 38 states, which use the revenue from gambling to help solve their bloated budget deficits.

Hall lives only a short drive from thousands of slot machines in Rhode Island and Connecticut. She has interviewed gamblers, casino owners and slot machine designers.

And no machine is better for that than the “penny slot,” the most popular game on the casino floor.

You can play hundreds of lines at once and instead of pulling a handle, you bet by pushing buttons, which means each bet can be completed in as little as three and a half seconds. You drive home, pounding the steering wheel, promising yourself you’re never going to go again, you’re never going to do it again. But with the modern slot machines, there is a greater potential for a dangerous side effect: gambling addiction, as more people are addicted to slots than any other form of gambling.

“Another core aspect of the addictiveness is their continuous nature. But eventually she was playing slots so much, she burned through her retirement funds.

“Do you think that most people would even think that a machine could addict you? That a machine could do the same thing that a drug could?” Stahl asked.

Schull has studied gambling addiction for over 15 years.

We Americans spend more money on slots than on movies, baseball and theme parks combined. It looks like great fun, but it can be dangerously addictive. Married with two daughters, she worked in a bookstore, and used to look at the casinos as an entertaining break. It’s just you and the machine. It’s a continuous flow without interruption,” Schull said.

When Stahl pointed out she sounds like a heroin addict, Hall said, “It takes your soul, it takes your humanity. I loved the excitement. And you know that you’re going down, and you’re going down, and you’re going down. I loved the people, I loved the camaraderie, the high fives when you win. Because the bets are small, you can place hundreds of them at a time.

The main attraction at these gambling halls is now the new slot machines – there are close to 850,000 of them in the United States, twice the number of ATMs.

“My every thought and every being, if I wasn’t at the casino, I was figuring out how I was going to get there, where was I going to get the money,” she remembered.

“What addiction really has to do is with the speed of rewards. And these machines, if they’re packing 1,200 hands per hour into play, you could see that as being exposed to a higher dose,” Schull said.

The Big Gamble

Extra: Slot Machines and “The Zone”

Extra: Slot Addicts’ Burnout

Extra: Can Machines Cause Addiction?

Gamblers Anonymous

National Center for Responsible Gaming

Stop Predatory Gambling

Arnie & Sheila Wexler Associates

“Whether or not it’s their intention, the gambling industry is designing machines that can addict people,” MIT anthropology Professor Natasha Schull told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl.

Playing the Odds

If you’re casino bound, remember, the house always has the upper hand, but there are ways to increase your odds of winning. And ways to avoid becoming a “problem gambler.”

“A higher dose,” says Schull, because all that speed means more bets and that means more excitement. It was just very exciting,” Sandi Hall told Stahl.

Elise Hawkins

Elise Hawkins

Going to horse racing events on Sunday used to be something that only the elite class of society was able to do. It used to be an activity where men would go with their male friends, their wives and sometimes their business associates to enjoy an afternoon of horse racing.
Elise Hawkins

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