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RTP101-Tim's picture
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12 November 2010 - 1:21pm

Can an online program to self-manage overspending on slots be effective?

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I am a Research Associate at the University of New Brunswick, Canada.
I am testing the effectiveness of an on-line program that users can see the probable playing costs based on their playing style.
The program aim is to give the player control over their own Return-To-Player with the RTP101 program.
Players can vary:
1) how many days a week they play;
2) how many hours a day they play;
3) how fast do they play (how many spins a minute); and last but not least,
4) how much is usually bet on each spin.
It is proposed that while sometimes a player can take home some big winnings, in the long run, the player is losing money. In the end, the more one plays the more one pays.
I am testing is the RTP101 Program. This program is on the website www.rtp101.org.
300 participants in this study have a free chance in a draw for 6 cash prizes. Grand prize is for $500, the other 5 prizes are for $50 each.

CL-Ed's picture
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13 November 2010 - 6:54am

Interesting study. I have to say that judging by the content of your posts here and in the other threads which I have tried to point to this one, you seem to have some preconceived notions about the reasons people gamble and/or the knowledge of those gambling.

It is dangerous to assume that people who gamble don't know that the house edge is against them. Or to discount the entertainment factor that people derive from gambling, which for many may be an alternative to watching a movie, or reading a book, or going out to dinner, or any number of other things that all cost money.

And of course just like the vast majority of people who drink are not alcoholics, the vast majority of gamblers are not addicted, and they know to play with money that they can afford. For example this study which we reported on yesterday points to a problem gambler rate of 1.3% in Quebec.

I took a look at your site and I found the proposed screens which tried to explain to players the independence of spins interesting. I don't know how successful they would be, considering the prevalence of the gambler's fallacy even today. You can explain that one to people and even then they still won't believe you.

I have always thought mandatory display of the payout rate of a slot machine, along with the odds of winning the top prize on the machine would be useful. For example:

This machine has a RTP of 95%.
The odds of winning the top prize on this machine are 1 in 800,000.
The odds of spinning the same number in roulette 3 times in a row are 1 in 50,000.
The odds of winning the powerball lottery are 1 in 46,000,000.

These are just made-up numbers, not meant to be real - but the point is showing the odds of hitting the jackpot then comparing it against other things familiar to gamblers (both more and less likely) would help put things in perspective.

Other ideas including displaying a relative scale of the machine's volatility and the implications for the player's expected playtime and chance of winning big.

The main point I am trying to make is to give people effective and useful information and rely on them, as adults, to make informed choices. Not trying to babysit people and tell them what is good for them.

Always play it safe! Consult our list of rogue casinos and warnings before depositing.
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RTP101-Tim's picture
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13 November 2010 - 2:54pm

Thanks for this forum.
You make very good points. Yes, it is very true that by far, the majority of players know about the "house edge" which is against them. It is also true that the majority of people play slots for entertainment. The concern of this study is for the small % of players that believe that they can defeat the "house edge", that they can find a "hot machine", that they are due for a "winning stark" and/or they have the skills to outsmart the slot machine. Even if this is 1% of the players, and there are more than a million players, that would mean that there are 10,000 players that need help being more responsible to themselves.
The entertainment factor is very true. Any item of entertainment (for some people) can start consuming them. Some people are ruining their lives playing World of Warcraft, some others are ruining it by staying active on Facebook, still others are hurting themselves with chocolate.
Also, it is very true that in regards to gambler's fallacy, that "You can explain that one to people and even then they still won't believe you." If these screens, (or ones similar to them) and/or this program get on to all slot machines, then possibly it would reach some of these players. Probably the players it would be most effective with are the players that are trying to slow down, but keep slipping back to playing more, possibly thinking that they can win back their losses. While these players do not want baby-sitters, they could be helped with reminders. While most of us do know what the speed limit is for driving in the city, it is still good to have the speed limit signs up, and for some of us, getting a speeding ticket will slow us down (at least for awhile).
When there needs to be "signs" for some people, the signs need to go up for everyone, even though they do not need them. We can not put up speed limit signs in school zones just for those that need reminding. These signs are where we all can see them. Signs also need to be simple and direct. A railroad crossing with flashing lights is simple and direct. It does not say stop, unless you think you can get by safely. True, some people do ignore these signs, but we put them up anyway, because we think most people will use them wisely. Many people would say that if they saw a train coming that they would stop, that they do not need flashing lights to tell them how to drive safely. That may be very true. However, for some of us, the flashing lights do help us drive more safely.
This is the intent of the program and of the screens. The aim of the program is to let players know the direction they are going and where they could end up if they keep going that way. If they see they are going over their limit, they can identify what they can pull back on to stay within their limit. Rather than babysitting them, the intent of the program is to give them the tools (like a speedometer or an oil change indicator) to remind them when they are over the limit. The player has to take this information and do something about it themselves. It helps them control their own playing, like a speedometer can help a driver control their speed. And yes, they can ignore it, and increase the chance that they will crash. And yes, many drivers would drive safely, even if there were no speedometers.
Research on tools to help people control their own behaviour is challenging. TV ads promoting not to drink and drive are seen by everyone watching that station, even though many of them do not drink and drive. Research on these TV ads would then measure what effect it has on those that do drink and drive, even though it was not just them that say the TV ad. The research that I am trying to do is similar, in that everyone can use this program, and I want to measure what effect it has one players that are at risk of crashing, (going bankrupt).
Your feedback on the program and on the screens is very helpful. The program and screens will only work if players are open to it. Every bit of information that can make the program and/or screens more attractive will be used.
Again, Thanks for this forum, RTP101-Tim

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