Players appeared to gain a better understanding of how the machines worked and the odds of winning. However, the labels and the information each contained about the odds stacked against players wasn’t enough to stop most from continuing to gamble.
False wins and near-misses
University of Waterloo professors Kevin Harrigan and Dan Brown started out studying slots. In their findings, the games appeared to hook people by making them think they win more often than they actually do.
These efforts include flashing lights and celebratory sounds when a player wins 80 cents on a $1 bet, and when they have near-misses and close calls.
Harrigan said player reaction to false wins is the same as a real win. Additionally, players almost always overestimate how much they’ve won on a machine with losses disguised as wins.
The near-misses and close calls also make players think they’re getting close to winning. This is despite the fact each spin is actually independent from any other.
Facts Up Front labeling on slot machines
Armed with this information, the pair looked at the success of the Facts Up Front nutrition labeling program in the US, and decided to design something similar for slots.
Facts Up Front stickers sit on the front of food packaging showing the caloric, fat, sodium and sugar content of what’s inside. Ideally, this informs and warns consumers so they ultimately make smart lifestyle choices.
The pair approached the Ontario provincial government casino operator Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. It agreed to test a similar method, but applying it to slot machines and clearly pointing out the following:
- A game’s volatility and frequency of both small and large payouts
- The chance of hitting a bonus round playing the game
- Each game’s return to player rate and house edge