The slot machines of today bear little resemblance to the one-armed bandits of yesterday.
There is no more sticking in a quarter, pulling a lever and watching the mechanical wheels spin. The new, high-tech versions use digital technology for breakneck speed and to create an immersive – and some researchers say – an addictive effect.
A larger number of smaller winnings mask overall losses. The use of card readers has eliminated the pile of quarters, which only served to slow down the flow of play and mask the visual of disappearing money. The readers also allow casinos to collect valuable data on players and playing habits.
“The particular addictiveness of modern slots has to do with the solitary, continuous, rapid wagering they enable,’’ wrote Natasha Dow Schüll, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the New York Times. “It is possible to complete a game every three to four seconds, with no delay between one game and the next. Some machine gamblers become so caught up in the rhythm of play that it dampens their awareness of space, time and monetary value.’’
Gambling addiction, which goes up significantly in the vicinity of casinos, leads to a whole host of social ills including divorce, bankruptcy and crime.
The social arguments against slots casinos are strong enough to reject them. This is an industry that creates problem gamblers and then derives a disproportionate share of its revenues from them.
Too often, however, the focus on social issues detracts from equally valid economic arguments against casinos. And that leaves the other side free to continue making long discredited claims about economic development and increased tax revenues from legalized gambling.
In our last post we quoted information from two sources – the Spectrum Gaming Report and the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research that counters the myth that gambling helps the economy. They do not create more jobs. They simply reallocate how existing dollars are spent.
Gambling is sold to desperate communities. We are not desperate.
We encourage Florida’s elected leaders at all levels to focus on creating the kind of development that will bring a more diversified, higher-wage economy, not chase get-rich-quick schemes sold by casino owners.