Slot Machines In Casinos: Why Do They Camouflage A Loss As A Win?

January 13, 2013 3:36 am

For those of us who have tried slot machines in casinos (and that would mean all of us) – we are used to seeing all the lights flashing, the sounds made when you win money, and in general, the ‘it is happening’ feel provided by all the new electronic slot machines. But here is what we missed in the chaos: most of the times, the way the machines react, it makes it difficult for you to understand that you have actually lost money. We spotted this in a NYTimes article today:

“In a typical multi-line slot setup, a player can bet on up to 20 different pay lines in a single game. If a player wins on 9 of the 20 lines, resulting in a net loss, the machine still celebrates the occasion with sound and video effects.

“It’s brilliant,” Professor Harrigan says. “I’m not a gambler myself, but I was playing ‘Money Storm’ in our lab and ‘won’ — nine lines were flashing — and it was cognitively difficult to appreciate that I had actually lost.”


The article mentions that in Australia, it is now illegal to flash a congratulatory message when the player has actually lost. That law should be universal.

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