, Salem, MA


February 1, 2014

Casino slot machines are highly addictive


Studies have shown that it is the machine design, not character defects in individuals, that is responsible for slots addictions. Problem gamblers comprise 20 to 40 percent of all slots players, and not surprisingly, slot machines produce 65 to 80 percent of total casino revenues.

Casinos love to publicize how much money is “paid out” in winnings to slots players. They also love to explain how slot machines are programmed to deliver 80 to 95 percent “payout rates.” But most gamblers go home with much less money than they walked in with, and the rare jackpots are comprised of everybody else’s losses. The reality is, the longer you play, the more you will lose.

There are roughly 250,000 problem gamblers in Massachusetts today. After the state permits three casinos and one slots parlor, that number is likely to grow to 400,000 and more. Staggering numbers of slot machines will be in these proposed facilities – 4500 in either Revere or Everett, 4500 in Springfield, 4500 in a third location, and 1250 in the slots parlor. Despite the claims of the casino developers that these facilities will be grand, destination “resorts,” most of the patrons will be day-trippers who will come from within a 50-mile radius of the gambling hall. The patrons will be the residents of our communities.

If we can understand the nature of contemporary slot machines, and understand that they prey on our neural circuitry, we will be less likely to view them as harmless entertainment.

Brian T. Watson is a Salem News columnist. Contact him at

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