Slot Machines and Gambling Persistence
A slot is a narrow notch, groove, or opening, as a keyway in a piece of machinery or a slit for a coin in a vending machine. The word is also used for a position in a group, series, sequence, or list. For example, the phrase “an opening for a headline slot” means a position that is available to a performer.
Researchers have long speculated that near miss outcomes, where feedback for a loss approximates that of a win, reinforce gambling persistence. A few experimental studies have tested this putative conditional reinforcing function in slot machines and have demonstrated a prolongation of gambling responses in such settings.
However, a number of concerns arise in the context of this finding. First, as the author points out, the experiments in this field generally test a variety of measures, including physiological reactions and response latencies, rather than directly testing the effect of near misses on gambling persistence.
Furthermore, the authors note that a primary concern of state regulators is that casino patrons are often exposed to high levels of noise and a distracting environment that can lead to increased gambling losses and problems with attention and concentration. Finally, the authors point out that it is likely that a large portion of the apparent reinforcing effects are due to the fact that slot machine facilities generate considerable revenues for the states where they operate. This revenue can be used for things like reimbursing players for gambling losses and improving the conditions in casinos.