How electronic gambling machines work: Structural characteristics

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to provide policy makers, regulators and others with information about key design characteristics of electronic gambling machines (EGMs). These characteristics include auditory and visual cues, “game maths”, and price and prize structure. They also include elements in the games that render them attractive to EGM users, and which appear to be associated with the establishment of persistent game utilisation or addiction. It is hoped that a better understanding of these characteristics will help policy makers and regulators to frame policies and interventions that will reduce harm to gamblers from EGM use.

Key messages:

Electronic gambling machines (EGMs) are computers utilising sophisticated techniques, designed to maximise spending and “time on device” per user.

EGM designs very successfully employ psychological principals to maximise users’ bet sizes and machine usage. These characteristics have the effect of increasing the addictive potential of EGMs.

Users of EGMs, and policy makers as well, are mostly not well informed about the way the machines work, or the complex “game maths” behind them.

Internationally, Australian EGMs are known for their ability to maximise users’ spending and “time on device”, yet Australia has been slow to develop adequate policy responses to reduce harms.

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