Slot Machines – Gambling’s Secret Weapon
15 October, 2019
Islington is a long way off being described as the Las Vegas of London but inside the borough’s betting shops and back walls of nearby casinos, there is a story to be told about the British gambling industry.
That story is of the flashing, buzzing electronic machines responsible for the continuing growth of a £14.5 billion industry. In this article, we take a look at the phenomenal impact that slot machines are having on the British gambling industry, and hypothesise as to why they are so popular in Islington and beyond.
What Is A Slot Machine?
A fruity, slotty or puggy, if you’re Scottish, is the staple of every casino and betting shop in the land. It is an electronic machine that produces a game of chance for players based on the early design of mechanical slot machines that were based on spinning reels.
These games are no longer confined to dingy betting shops or glamorous casinos, they can now be found in abundance on the internet. Online slots by Wizard Slots is just one example of a company using the popularity of these games to drive customers to their site and boost business.
There are tens of thousands of companies similar to Wizard Slots that specialise in the online version of the classic slot machine.
When Were Slots Invented?
When you think of gambling your mind probably conjures up images of Las Vegas looming large on the Nevada horizon. America is of course, synonymous with gambling, and that is where we must go to chart the history of the slot machine.
In 1891 Sittman & Pitt of New York developed the world’s first-ever slot machine, which featured 50 cards and was based on poker. Using a mechanical lever, players would draw cards to form hands in the hopes of striking out a winning combination.
The stakes were low at first, with players only spending a nickel to play and the prizes usually taking the form of a free drink or bar food. As Las Vegas began to grow in the 1930s and 1940s, slot machines began to be incorporated into early casinos.
Over the coming decades, their popularity led to more and more investment, culminating in electronic, video slot machines that we regularly play today. Around 10 years ago, slot machines migrated to the internet, with an explosion in popularity occurring in recent years, making them the most played games by online gamblers in the UK.
Why Are Slots Popular?
Are you familiar with 5 basic poker strategies? Do you know the two worst cards to be dealt in blackjack? What are the house odds in roulette? Don’t worry if you can’t answer these questions, most people can’t either.
Whilst we may think that we’re familiar with table games such as poker, blackjack and roulette, most of us are not. It takes a surprising level of knowledge and dedication to be able to successfully play any of those games, which unsurprisingly puts many off trying.
For most people, visiting a casino is not a regular occurrence, therefore, most people prefer to play simple, easy games that are fun and engaging without being too complicated. Slot machines fit those criteria perfectly, providing the perfect balance between fun, relaxation and that thrilling winning feeling.
What’s more is that most slot machines have been specifically designed to reward players with small, but constant wins. Rather than rewarding a small cross-section of players with phenomenal wins, slots are designed to regularly drip-feed small amounts of money and bonuses to their players.
This helps to keep people engaged and playing for longer, whilst also stimulating the reward centre of players brains. It’s a crafty tactic designed to appeal to casual gamblers, and if the figures are to be believed, it works.
Slot Machine Profits
Another factor that helps to boost the popularity of slot machines is the relatively small house edge. In traditional games such as blackjack and poker, the house always has a clear and distinct edge that is often very apparent to players.
However, slot machines have a slightly smaller house edge and it is presented to players in a different way. Instead of being referred to as an edge, it is represented as a Return To Player (RTP) figure, usually upwards of 90%.
For example, a popular slot game in your local betting shop may have a 95%. Simply put that means for every £100 spent on average on that slot machine, the player can expect to lose just £5.
On an individual basis, that may not seem hugely profitable for the providers, considering it may take an hour or even two to spend £100 on a slot machine. However, casinos make their slot machine profits through a war of attrition.
Take these three Las Vegas casinos as an example;
The Venetian – 1,000 Slot Machines
The Bellagio – 2,300 Slot Machines
The Wynn – 1,9000 Slot Machines
All of these casinos prioritise slot machines over every other form of casino game, as they take up less space than traditional table games, cost less money to run and upkeep and therefore make the biggest profits.
The Future Of Slots
If you’re reading this and wondering why Islington isn’t gearing up for a brand new super casino, or why there aren’t many more betting shops in the borough, the answer is the internet.
The future of gambling lies online, with traditional land-based casinos seeing their revenues and profits drop on a yearly basis. The online gambling sector in Britain is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, bringing in annual revenues of £4.5 billion last year.
Online slot machines were responsible for 37% of this figure, and forecasters predict they will continue to drive online gambling for some time. Gambling and slot machines may not have a physical impact on your local area in the future, but you will be able to access more and more casino games and slot machines from the comfort of your own home in the coming months and years.