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Beneath the spinning wheels and flashing lights is a frighteningly effective money-maker. Tim Harford examines what slot machines reveal about the business of addiction.

First developed by a toy company in the 1890s, slot machines have become one of the most profitable tools of the gambling trade - but many who play them say winning isn't the point. So why can't people pull themselves away? Tim Harford looks under the spinning wheels and flashing lights to see what these devices reveal about the business of addiction.

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10 minutes

Sources

Natasha Dow Schüll Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas Princeton University Press: Woodstock 2012

Natasha Dow Schüll Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas Princeton University Press: Woodstock 2012

No-armed Bandit” 99 Percent Invisible Episode 78 30 April 2013

University of Waterloo Gambling Research Lab video, “Losses Disguised as Wins

Graydon, C., Dixon, M. J., Stange, M., and Fugelsang, J. A. ( 2019) Gambling despite financial loss—the role of losses disguised as wins in multi‐line slots. Addiction, 114: 119– 124.

March Cooper “Sit and Spin: How slot machines give gamblers the business” The Atlantic December 2005

Lauren Slater Opening Skinner’s Box London: Bloomsbury 2004

Breen, R.B., Zimmerman, M. Rapid Onset of Pathological Gambling in Machine Gamblers. J Gambl Stud 18, 31–43 (2002) doi:10.1023/A:1014580112648

Nathan Lawrence “The Troubling Psychology of Pay-to-Loot Systems” IGN 24 Apr 2017

Jackson Lears Something for Nothing New York: Viking 2003

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