Congratulations, You’ve Lost! How Slot Machines Disguise Losses as Wins

Photo: firepile

Casinos are designed for a single purpose: to separate you from your money. And they’re good at it. Commercial casinos in the U.S.  made nearly $35 billion in revenue last year, up a percent from 2009.

While they represent just a fraction of that revenue, slot machines are the casino gateway drug for the least savvy gamblers. It’s why they’re by the door. More than any other casino game, slots condition people to keep playing through positive reinforcement (bells and whistles). And the odds have gotten worse as technology has improved.

Though today’s sophisticated multi-line machines have a higher “win-rate,” the amount won is negligible, and often less than what was originally gambled. A recent study by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, finds that these multi-line machines are more effective than their single-line predecessors at taking money from the gambler by disguising losses as wins.

Casino slots today are dominated by multi-line machines, which allow you to bet on a multitude of combinations: up, down, diagonal, rather than just hoping for the three 7′s to line up across the middle on an old-school single-line machine. While that may seem like an advantage, it’s harder for the average person to accurately calculate the odds of multi-line machines.

The table below shows how losses are disguised as wins based on the number of lines the user has bet on:

Though you may win more, the pay out is often lower than what you’ve already put into the machine to begin with. So you get the bells and whistles, but it’s really just a fancy loss.

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  1. dan knudson says:

    The fast buck is part of the ‘ American Dream’ , that is, until it became a one-sided hustle. A sign should be posted prominently at the entry to casinos. Welcome sucker ! Our prosperity is based on mathematically challenged people . Have fun sucker. Welcome to the new American dream – officially sanctioned theft. What was at one time considered a carnival mentality has gone mainstream to the inner sanctums of government, corporations, Wall Street…step right up folks and win your little lady a teddy bear. There really is not that much difference between granny spending her social security check on a slot machine, or war profiteers fleecing the American taxpayers under the guise of patriotism. Hustlers have learned that the US treasury is where the real swag is to be made.

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  2. Hh says:

    The main problem I have with slots is the pays are not balanced enough and not enough payouts.I lost way to much in a few yrs.someone I knOw has apparently LosT over 1/4 million in 6-8 yrs. On slots.everytime I watched him he was winning under 10$ and a good win was 500$ which rarely happened.RARELY anything higher.Everytime he leaves casino he has NO MONEY.It’s very difficult to stop if you don’t have other interests in life.I know.

    I had to lose all my money to realize the casinos do not give fair payouts or the 92% they claim to pay.yes there is entertainment with it but a huge pricetag for it.

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