Demystifying slot machines and their impact in the United States

Abstract

Largely in response to the demand for more slots and greater variety in gaming experiences, today there are more than 800,000 electronic gaming machines in commercial and tribal gaming locations in the United States. The slot machine's share of the gaming floor at American casinos has grown from about 40 percent in the 1970s to almost 70 percent today, however, the average amount wagered per casino visit, when adjusted for inflation, hardly has changed at all. Slot manufacturers need to build devices for a society with a decreasing attention span and an increasing demand for exciting, fast-paced entertainment, all in a marketplace overflowing with competing entertainment options. Few industries are as heavily regulated as the gaming industry. Each state has its own regulations and regulators, but all are committed to ensuring that the machines offered are reliable and fair. Regulations also prevent customers from being deceived. There are critics of slot machines. Some blame slots for creating masses of new pathological gamblers and the problems that accompany an addiction. Here are the facts: The prevalence of pathological gambling – approximately 1 percent of the adult population – is no higher today than it was in 1976, when Nevada was the only state with legal slot machines. And, despite the popularity of slot machines and the decades of innovation surrounding them, when adjusted for inflation, there has not been a significant increase in the amount spent by customers on slot machine gambling during an average casino visit.

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