CBC media reports from Canada that Ottawa researchers
are using virtual reality to establish why slot machines
are so addictive.
Matthew Young, a Carleton
University professor who works at the university's
gambling lab said: "You can lose a lot - it's so quick,
the next roll, the next roll, next roll… and so
Melissa Stewart, another researcher
in the lab, said gambling problems arise up to four
times more quickly among people who play slots than
among those who play other casino games. She did not
discriminate between online and offline gamblers.
The Ottawa researchers' study involves volunteer
subjects, who don virtual-reality visors and enter a
virtual casino. They can walk past banks of slot
machines and hear the clunk and chime of other people
playing. And they can sit down and play themselves,
spinning three reels of lemons, cherries and lucky
sevens at the push of a button.
symbols are just for show - the machine knows whether
you've won or lost the instant you pull the lever, say
the researchers. Using the virtual machines, they can
see how players react to outcomes such as a near miss,
where the symbols almost line up, but not quite.
"The symbols on the reel are arranged such that near
misses occur frequently," said Stewart. "You don't
actually win but you feel like you are almost winning,
so you keep playing."
The researchers are trying
to find out why people start gambling and why many
continue, even when they face negative consequences.
Young said almost all gamblers are motivated by the
thrill of winning, but those with gambling problems are
more likely to use gambling as an escape.
crave the buzz or the excitement that comes from
gambling, but they'll also crave the relief from
depression," he asserted.
The use of casino
cards, which allow electronic payment in lieu of cash,
has boosted the rate at which people can lose money,
Young said, because players can use the cards to make
larger bets. If they win, they no longer have to wait
for their coins to pour into a bucket before playing
again as they once did, Young added.
results, the researchers plan to develop strategies for
making slot machines less addictive.