Why slots?  Let Grande Vegas explain.

When Charles Fey created the first slot machine in 1896, it’s almost certain that he wasn’t thinking about psychology. That first slot game was a simple three-reel, three-payline slot that paid out a piece of gum or candy when the person pulling the lever was able to match three identical images on the reels.

Today, slots have evolved into the casino’s biggest attraction. Casinos feature hundreds of slot machines, each with its own itinerary of elements, bonus give-aways and themes. These shiny, whizzing machines dominate today’s casino and are, today, responsible for the biggest percentage of casino revenue.

Regardless of whether you’re playing at a land-based casino or playing Vegas online slots, gamers are drawn to these machines because they answer something in our psyche. We are attracted to the slots because they’re fun and, although one would think otherwise, we like the idea that the results are random and everything is left up to luck.

Slots designers know this and, even though the technology is available to make skill more of an element in the games, they continue to maintain the element of randomness, even while designing new features, new bonuses, and new types of jackpots.

When game designers create new games, how do they meet players’ psychological needs and expectations?

Interactive Controls

People are, in general, uncomfortable with uncertainty. That search for knowledge is the reason that, throughout history, man has always searched for the answers to life’s big questions. We do acknowledge that much of life is uncertain. Slot machines are inherently uncertain but, in a funny way, they play into this human desire to gain control.

According to studies, pushing buttons helps people to feel in control. When you push a button and it results in a pre-programmed, visually appealing outcome, it creates a sense of satisfaction. By pushing down on “Spin” you are, in a sense, taking control, in a way that your brain views as positive.

The visual whirlwind of shapes and colors releases dopamine in your brain which creates a sense of satisfaction and completion. Regardless of how many times you press “Spin”, the same thing happens. The reels of the machine will spin and boost your feelings of control.

Slots enthusiasts are willing to ignore the uncertainty of how the symbols will line up on the reels in favor of the certainty of seeing the game repeat itself over and over again.

An Experience

Slot games offer you the chance to win money but you could achieve similar wins from playing scratch card or keno lottery games. Slots, on the other hand, offers you a complete gaming experience that engages all of your senses.

So, say you win $50 playing a lottery game. The entire experience takes you 3 minutes and other than walking away with your money, you haven’t really had much of an event.

A slots game, on the other hand, involves visual and auditory stimuli that turn that $50 win into an adventure. It creates a memory that stays in your mind for hours, even days, to come.

The lights flash, the symbols roll down the reels and there’s always a merry tune playing when you score your win. It may seem a bit juvenile but those kind of prompts motivate you to come back for more.

An additional aspect of today’s slots involves the game themes. There are slot games with storylines about any particular interest or fantasy so you can play slot machines that line up with subjects that are of significance to you.

You can find slot machines that explore themes of whimsy, magic, folklore, suspense, science fiction, mystery, sports, mysticism, history, adventure, animals, mythology, comedy, animals, travel, romance, intrigue, magic, sports and more.

In addition, when you open a slot machine, it’s always a bit of a surprise regarding exactly what kind of slot machine you have. Each slot machine is unique so you can find yourself playing a bonus slot, a 243 Ways to Win slot, a mega-spin slot, a fruit machine, a progressive slot, a multi-payline slot or any of the other types of today’s casino slots.


While some casino gamers are drawn to games where skill is rewarded, slot players tend to prefer the unpredictability of the slot machine. Researchers say that this preference is due, in part, to the chemical dopamine, a neurotransmitter which is associated with pleasure and reward.

The unpredictability of gambling outcomes, i.e. near-misses, leads to the release of dopamine and that increases the player’s motivation to continue the gameplay.

As time goes by, tolerance to dopamine builds up and that encourages players to take more risks – including placing higher bets -- to achieve that same sense of satisfaction.

That’s one of the reasons that today’s slot machines are designed to become more engaging as the gameplay proceeds. After you spin the reels a number of times, the free spins and other bonus games start, with jackpots usually awarded towards the game’s end.

Beyond the mechanical intricacies and flashing displays of slot machines lie a psychological foundation that fuels their irresistible charm. The fascinating interplay between human psychology and slot machines explains slot machines’ design and behavioral mechanisms.

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