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May 09, 2004

Fleecing Grandma

Now for an evil of a different kind.

Slot machines.

Forget Hollywood. Forget computer games. Even forget porn. This is the real cash cow of American entertainment

All told, North American casinos took in $30 billion from slots in 2003 -- an amount that dwarfs the $9 billion in tickets sold in North American movie theaters that year. Pornography, the country's second most lucrative form of adult entertainment, doesn't come close, either: experts estimate that Americans spend at most $10 billion a year on live sex shows, phone sex and porn in various media from cable to DVD to video and the Internet.
And if you wonder why the US technology edge is slipping, it's because some of our best minds are devoted to pysching out slot machine patrons:
''The slot machine is brilliantly designed from a behavioral psychology perspective,'' says Nancy Petry, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. ''The people who are making these machines are using all the behavioral techniques to increase the probability that the behavior of gambling will reoccur.'' She refers to intermittent reward and ''second-order conditioning'' -- the lights and sounds that go off when a player wins, for example, or the two cherries in a row that convinces people they're getting closer.

''No other form of gambling manipulates the human mind as beautifully as these machines,'' concludes Petry, who has studied gambling treatments since 1998...

Anti-gambling activists refer to slots as ''the crack cocaine of gambling.''...Where social workers once found that the woes of a typical problem gambler tended to mount gradually -- with a period of 20 or more years commonly passing between a first wager and a bottoming-out event like bankruptcy, divorce or even suicide -- addiction cycles of a few years are, if not typical, commonplace among slots players.

And the damn things are spreading state by state.

The Bush administration banned over-the-counter use of the "Day After" pill for fear people wouldn't use it correctly, yet governments directly profit from this guaranteed form of self-abuse every day.

What a weird country.

Posted by Nathan at May 9, 2004 10:55 AM