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How casinos bring gaming addiction to visitors

Фото: Depositphotos

Фото: Depositphotos

Casinos and manufacturers of slot machines use a number of tricks with which they increase profits and contribute to the development of gaming addiction among visitors.

Edition The Atlantic investigated this process and revealed some tricks; the translation of the material was prepared by the portal

The operating director of investment company steel mogul Luis Berkman Scott Stevens shot himself 13 August 2012 of the year. Before that, he last visited the casino Mountaineer in West Virginia, where he spent about $ 10 thousand in the hope of recouping, but to no avail.

Prior to that, Stevens lost several million dollars, including company money, which he had been writing off for years from her accounts. In addition, he spent almost all the family savings and retirement savings, and also took a loan in a Las Vegas casino Bellagio.

A few hours before he pulled the trigger, he wrote a farewell letter to his wife, Stacy, and instructed how to avoid financial responsibility for his debts. She needed to transfer thousands of $ 4 remaining on his account from check to deposit and open a new bank account, refuse to pay debts on loans (they were only in his name), get a tax deduction and contact the social care authorities for the benefit of the breadwinner .

“I cry and I can't stop. I love you and our daughters very much. Our family had only one choice left. I let you down and I don't want it to get any worse. I'm sorry that because of me you have to go through all this, ”- wrote Stevens in a letter.

Stevens worked in the Berkman investment fund 14 for years, until the company found out that he was playing for corporate funds at the casino. He had been unemployed for half a year and shortly before the events described, he received a notice that, starting from the fall semester, the company would no longer pay for his daughters' education.

In 16: 01, Stevens sent messages to the wife and three daughters with the text "I love you." When the 4 SMS left, he got out of the car parked in the parking lot near the youth football club. Jefferson kiwanis, called the brigade 911, loaded the shotgun and put it to his throat.

How did Scott Stevens addiction

For most of his life, Stevens was not a gambler, he was very meticulous in terms of finances - both personal and corporate. Thanks to his diligence and attention, Stevens became one of the first persons of the investment company Berkman, he received an 6-digit salary, was a member of two country clubs.

For the first time, Stevens became interested in gambling in 2006, during a business trip to Las Vegas, when he won the jackpot in the slot machine. Soon he began to regularly visit Las Vegas with his wife. While he was playing, she went shopping, sunbathing by the pool, or playing with him.

Фото: Depositphotos

Фото: Depositphotos

Over time, Stevens began to play at home in the nearest casino. Mountaineer. Over the years 6 his hobby has become a dependency. Despite the fact that he occasionally broke the jackpot, comparable to his annual salary, he lost much more. In one year, he lost about $ 4,8 million.

Stevens carefully concealed his addiction from his wife. He completely controlled the family budget, used several bank accounts, and used a working mailing address for all correspondence related to gambling.

Stevens had access to corporate finance. When he ran out of money in the casino, he went out, wrote off the amount from one of the accounts and continued the game. Sometimes he did so 3-4 once a day. By the time the company discovered the loss of funds, he managed to steal about $ 4 million.

30 January 2012, he was fired. He told his wife that this happened as a result of embezzlement of corporate funds, but he did not say how much he stole. Even after being fired, he continued to play, visiting the casino on 5-6 once a week.

His wife noticed that he had become more irritable than usual, and sometimes he fell on his daughters. But she blamed everything on the consequences of dismissal. Every time he went to the casino, Stevens told her that he was going to his psychotherapist.

When Stevens was able to win, he blamed it on the income from online trading. While the family lived on his wife's savings, Stevens secretly spent all his pension savings - $ 150 thousand, wrote off $ 50 thousand from his wife’s and daughters' electronic bills, reached the credit card limit and took a loan of $ 110 thousand in PNC bank. All this his wife found out after the death of her husband.

She began to read about gambling addiction and how casinos and manufacturers of slot machines lure customers and profit from their addiction. In 2014, she filed a lawsuit against the casino Mountaineer and manufacturer of slot machines International Game Technology.

In June 2016, the West Virginia Court of Appeal put an end to the Stacey Stevens case: “According to existing state law, casino equipment manufacturers or gambling organizations themselves are not obliged to protect the interests of users and protect them from gambling addiction,” the court decided.

“The slot machines in the casino of West Virginia are set to provide economic benefits for the state and its political divisions in the form of increased public revenues, employment opportunities and additional benefits from the development of the local economy,” the court said.

How the addiction is formed

Now in 40 states of America more than 1000 casinos are open. Every year, visitors leave there more than $ 37 billion. This is more than Americans spending on attending sporting events ($ 17,8 billion), movie theaters ($ 10,7 billion) and buying music carriers ($ 6,8 billion) combined.

The most popular gambling in the USA is poker and slot machines, the number of which exceeds 1 million units throughout the country. The machines are designed to immerse players in a state resembling a trance.

However, the American Gaming Association denies this. According to her report published in 2010, “the percentage of players with a pathological gambling attraction does not exceed the 1976 of the year when gaming machines were allowed only in Nevada. Despite their improvement and distribution, the average check from a one-time casino visit, adjusted for the current rate of inflation, grew slightly. ”

But according to estimates of the National Center for Responsible Gaming, established by representatives of the gambling business, from 3 to 4, millions of Americans suffer from a craving for gambling. In addition, from 5 to 8, millions of people fall under some criteria of dependence developed by the American Psychotherapeutic Association, but their condition has not yet progressed to pathology.

Addicted people cannot stop, regardless of the consequences.

The propensity to gamble is not a drug addiction, but former players point out the same effect as on drugs. In addition, they suffered from withdrawal syndrome, which manifested itself in the form of panic attacks, irritation, insomnia, heart palpitations and migraines.

According to neuroscientists, there are violations of the dopaminergic system and the prefrontal cortex, which are responsible for pleasure and self-control, in the brain suffering from gambling addiction.

Predisposition to gambling can be inherited, but the corresponding genetic markers have not yet been found.

Scott Stevens story is not anomalous. Debt, guilt, and shame immerse a person in deep despair. According to the estimates of the National Council on gambling addiction, every fifth gambler with pathological dependence tried to commit suicide - these are the highest rates among all the types of addiction.

Casino industry

Фото: Depositphotos

Фото: Depositphotos

Dependent gamblers bring casino core revenue. According to independent research by 9, dependent players generate 30% to 60% casino revenue. And institutions know who exactly are the sources of their income and try to target them.

Modern casinos can collect detailed data to calculate the most attractive customers. 70% of visitors now use loyalty cards, which allows casino operators to find out how often and for how long they play slot machines, how many win and how much they lose, what time of day they come to the institution, and so on.

Some companies install ATMs in casinos that allow customers to withdraw their own cash or take them on credit. Data from all sources helps casinos target those who are prone to high spending - they often turn out to be people with gambling addiction.

Casinos attract them with free bonuses (drinks, dinners, limousine trips, souvenirs) and entertainment for their spouses. In some cases, the casinos are willing to pay for flights and overnight stays in 5-star hotels for their most valuable players. In addition, each player is assigned a special person who makes a friendship with the player and offers special conditions so that he stays longer or comes more often.

Casinos have formulas for calculating the lifetime value for each specific customer. The player is assigned a rank based on the amount of money spent. Those who lose the most are called “whales”. It is them that the casino seeks to attract again and again, it is they who offer the most bonuses and treat them like VIPs.

Slot machines

Poker and slot machines generate up to 70% casino profits, which is 25% more than 4 decades ago.

Modern slot machines differ from the classic mechanical one-armed bandits. The old machines had 3 reels, where icons and empty spaces alternate - 22 slots in total. This gives 10648 possible combinations in total. If a player collected 3 identical symbols in one row, then he won the jackpot. Its size depends on the “value” of the pictogram. A person could easily calculate his capabilities.

However, in 1982, virtual mapping technology, and now the values ​​of the drums began to depend not on the physical impact of the lever, but on the values ​​generated on the embedded computer chips. This makes it possible to manipulate the result - forcing the reels to show more empty slots, or fewer symbols for large jackpots. As a result, a person can win big money only in one case of 137 millions.

This allows the casino to deliberately create "almost win": when a player has 2 identical patterns and an empty slot, but the appropriate pattern is just above or below the required line, and the person has the feeling that he has almost won. Some slot machines are programmed to generate near-winnings more often. This is a very powerful psychological effect. The person thinks, “I almost won. Next time I'll be lucky. "

The “near-win” effect affects people with gambling addiction the most.

In Australia and New Zealand, electronic slot machines with virtual mapping technology are banned due to “inevitable harm to players,” but the technology has a government patent in the US.

In 90-e years, players have the opportunity to choose the line relative to which the records are kept pictograms. Instead of focusing on the middle line, people could put on several lines - up to 200 in some machines. Theoretically, this gives more opportunities for victory, but often it is not. For example, you can bet $ 1 on 5 lines and win $ 3. For the machine you are the winner: the lights come on, the sound of falling coins will be heard, and so on. But you actually lost $ 2.

“Regardless of what you think, thanks to the light, graphics, the music of an automaton, the brain counts defeat for victory. In an hour, you can get anywhere from 150 to 200 of these false victories. For many people, this gives powerful positive reinforcement. ”

The purpose of a casino is to increase the amount of time a person spends inside. This is critical, because in the long run, the institution always benefits. According to local restrictions, machines must take only 5-15% of the money, and return the rest to the player. That is, for every $ 100 that the player inserts into the machine, the machine will take from $ 5 to $ 15. Therefore, gradually a person loses all the money.

The main element of modern slot machines is speed. One game takes 3-4 seconds. Some machines allow you to instantly get extra money, reducing the time between the desire and the capabilities of a person. This reduces the likelihood that he will try to comprehend his actions or stop in the event of a long pause.

Therefore, people fall into a state of suspended animation, which professional players call the “zone”. For many players, being in the “zone” becomes more important than winning. This is an escape from life's difficulties, disappointments and thoughts of debt that accumulate with each press of the machine button.

Some people spend playing the game on 14-16 hours. They are so passionate about the process that they can forget about the children who were left in the car, about the feeling of hunger, and not even notice that they wet themselves.

The casino employees are very closely watching the players' pain points - that is, the moments when they are ready to give up. In this they are helped by user data that they receive in real time: for example, information about a major loss or that a person has not had winnings for a long time and his finances are running out.

Also, the staff monitors the behavior of people: if someone in a rage hits or shakes the machine, they can offer him a voucher for a free drink or dinner in a restaurant at the expense of the establishment. The main thing is to calm down the person and return to the machine. In addition, employees like to encourage players: “Don't worry, you will still play”.

According to University of Illinois professor John Kindt, casinos should not provide additional loans to bankrupt gamblers, because they contribute to the emergence of addiction: “Every gambler who takes a loan automatically falls under several criteria for the diagnosis of addiction of the American Psychiatric Association. That is, virtually every casino that provides loans knows that it is funding people at risk. ”

In the United States, if a bartender sells an alcoholic drink to a drunk person, and he harms another, then the victim has the right to demand compensation from the bartender. “This rule is called“ bar law ”. Accordingly, if a casino issues loans to bankrupt players in excess of a certain limit, then it is necessary to assign them full responsibility for further consequences, ”Rosengren is sure.

Фото: Depositphotos

Фото: Depositphotos

Casino and power

Decades after the casino went beyond Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the federal government appointed a special commission to study the consequences of such a proliferation. In 1999, she found out that the 50 radius around the casino lives in 2 more times than gaming addicts, so the commission recommended stopping the spread of gaming establishments in order to evaluate the visible effects of the existence of the casino.

However, despite the warning, the states were unable to stop the growth of casinos, as many of them cooperate with the authorities.

In many states, local political leaders guarantee casinos regional monopolies in exchange for a portion of the profits that can reach 30-40%.

When local governments encourage the construction of casinos, they promise new jobs, new schools, and improved local economies. However, Baylor University economics professor Earl Greenols estimates that for every dollar of casino profits, the state has to pay $ 3 of imputed costs: “These are unaccounted costs that arise from worsening crime, reduced productivity, or increased spending on unemployment benefits. Casinos have a negative impact on society and the economy. ”

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