Study: Many slot players more interested in killing time than winning big

Casey Condrom plays the Aladdin video slot machine in the WMS Gaming booth during the first day of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) convention at the Sands Expo Center Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011.

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For people who play slot machines, time is more important than money.

Instead of focusing on hitting a big jackpot, they spin the reels to relieve stress, entertain themselves or kill time.

That’s according to a new study from Oregon State University.

The results are important because they help gaming executives understand — and market to — the slot players who provide the most profit to casinos.

“Casinos can cater to different types of gamblers,” said Sandy Chen, an assistant professor of hospitality management at Oregon State University-Cascades and one of the study’s authors. “Instead of having a long line of slot machines, for example, they can be arranged in a circle to maximize socialization for those who are motivated by that aspect. Socialization may be a major reason for people to continue going to casinos instead of choosing online gambling options."

About three-quarters of casino revenue comes from slot play. Between 70 percent and 90 percent of American gamblers say they prefer to play slot machines rather than table games.

Additionally, more than 60 percent of slot players say they'd rather win small, frequent payouts than large, sporadic jackpots. Only 33 percent of gamblers surveyed said they prefer progressive machines, which tend to offer the biggest jackpots.

Chen said slot players typically aren't in a lower-income bracket and looking for big wins. Rather, they are more affluent and seeking entertainment.

Players most likely to be found at slots are women ages 55 to 60 who are homeowners with some college education and a household income of more than $55,000.

Chen said her study showed that women tend to play slots for the experience while men hope to make money.

“Women are more into functional motives — the social experience, the excitement and the fun," Chen said.

Slot players typically fall into four groups: bored people looking for something to do, players seeking a buzz, people who want to have fun and people looking to relieve stress. The last group, the “relaxation gamblers,” tends to be the most educated and affluent. Those players make up the majority of gamblers in the United States, according to surveys by slot manufacturers.

As for specific games, almost three-quarters of progressive players said their favorite game is "Wheel of Fortune." "Jacks or Better" was by far the most popular video poker game.

Relatively unpopular — contrary to information reported by manufacturers — are slot machines with complex story lines and colorful characters. Fewer than 1 in 5 players sought those types of games, Chen said.

Co-authors of the study included Stowe Shoemaker and Dina Zemke, from the Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV.

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  1. Boy, that's my wife & I in a nutshell. She couldn't care less if she wins or loses as long as she gets lots of "play time." Me? If I hit a 4-of-a-kind on my first play, I'm outta there. I want to win and couldn't care less how long it takes or doesn't take and, lately, I've noticed just getting a 3-of-a-kind is like pulling teeth on the video poker machines. I play less than ever before. I hate to lose.

  2. Mr. Sun,

    Please convince the gaming community to allow me to conduct the next study. I promise to do it at half the expense. Duh.


  3. Well, people would play more if they thought they COULD win something, at least a little bit. The last few years I've heard more and more stories of (formerly) faithful players dropping thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars in slots on a trip and winning nothing. Ab... solutely... nothing.

    You put hard-earned money into a machine, and a few minutes later, it's gone, and you're sitting there thinking what a nice white-tablecloth steak dinner you could have bought for that same money that just dribbled through your fingers like sand in a couple of minutes.

    Gone are the fun days of handfuls of coins - money! - clattering into the tray, and the clinking of those silver dollars that told you you were in... VEGAS! Modern slots, even with the new gee-whiz graphics, are about as exciting as watching paint dry. The only thing that's more tragic than the state of contemporary slots is the utter, total inability of casino owners to see what's happening. What's already happened, rather.

    And so it goes with me, as well. The only slots I mess with any more are just penny slots. When I need a break, I'll get a good drink, sit down at a penny slot and drop in a $10 bill. Then I'll sit there for a couple of hours playing 1 cent per spin ($10 = 1,000 spins), sipping a drink, talking to whoever I'm with, and watching whatever's going on around me. It's a good way to, uh... kill time.

    And that's about all slots are good for any more. The "fun" of slots, like so many other things in Vegas, is gone; there's no more "fun" in modern slot playing than there is snow in the Mojave Desert.

    Sad. Sad, indeed.