Jackpot structural features: Rollover effect and goal-gradient effect in EGM gambling

Abstract

Relatively little research has been undertaken on the influence of jackpot structural features on electronic gaming machine (EGM) gambling behavior. This study considered two common features of EGM jackpots: progressive (i.e., the jackpot incrementally growing in value as players make additional bets), and deterministic (i.e., a guaranteed jackpot after a fixed number of bets, which is determined in advance and at random). Their joint influences on player betting behavior and the moderating role of jackpot size were investigated in a crossed-design experiment. Using real money, players gambled on a computer simulated EGM with real jackpot prizes of either $500 (i.e., small jackpot) or $25,000 (i.e., large jackpot). The results revealed three important findings. Firstly, players placed the largest bets (20.3 % higher than the average) on large jackpot EGMs that were represented to be deterministic and non-progressive. This finding was supportive of a hypothesized ‘goal-gradient effect’, whereby players might have felt subjectively close to an inevitable payoff for a high-value prize. Secondly, large jackpots that were non-deterministic and progressive also promoted high bet sizes (17.8 % higher than the average), resembling the ‘rollover effect’ demonstrated in lottery betting, whereby players might imagine that their large bets could be later recouped through a big win. Lastly, neither the hypothesized goal-gradient effect nor the rollover effect was evident among players betting on small jackpot machines. These findings suggest that certain high-value jackpot configurations may have intensifying effects on player behavior.

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