Electronic gambling machines (EGMs) emit lights, and sounds create an ambiance that allures a player. When a player is exposed to foot-tapping tunes and sporadic lights, players tend to ignore previous outcomes and take a more reckless decision. When an animal is subjected to these sensory cues such as flashing light and melody coupled with a reward, they take riskier decisions. Classical conditioning has been used for centuries to train dogs and other animals. In this process, a reward like food, tapping, or other pleasurable activities is attached when the animal obeys the command (the Cue). In EGMs like poker, slot machines, rewards, and cue work in tandem.
Two types of conditioning
In gambling addiction, two types of conditioning works; one operant (emphasizing reward) and the second classical (seeking the clues). These two factors work simultaneously, operating the reward center of the brain. Apart from reward and cues, other factors like; environmental, social, and fiscal play a significant role in gambling addiction. When one plays Pok Deng (ป๊อกเด้ง) in a casino amid bright, flashy lights and casino sound, the excitement level escalates significantly. The excitement is seen in the eyes of the player as the pupil dilates. The thought process becomes fogged, information about odds and probabilities decreases. Decision-making becomes perilous, and a reckless decision is closely associated with addiction.
“Losses disguised as a win”
“Losses disguised as a win” is a classic instance of uncertain decisions leading to addiction. This phenomenon somewhat occurs when a player puts bets in multiple paylines. In this situation, the reward is insignificant to staked amount. With a bet of $5, the payout is only $1. The machine will celebrate its own win and loss of the patron with usual chimes and visuals. The light and sound create an air of actual win, which otherwise is not.
In Tasmania and Queensland, Australia, these losses masked as wins are barred on consumer safety ground. No visual or acoustic celebration is permitted when the win is less than the stake amount. Australians lose 20 billion yearly on wagering. A$ 11 billion is lost on poker machines installed in pubs and clubs. Poker machines are present in almost every pub and club. The high intensity, relatively high stakes make these EGMs favorite. Another factor that works in favor of these machines, the upgraded refined audio-visual features that manipulate the brain like cocaine. The sounds and visuals of EGMs structure the brain to relate wins with these flashy lights and jingle. Since the outcome of the game is randomly generated, the association between stimuli and pleasure is much stronger than if the result was predictable.
Poker machines invented in late 19th century was a simple mechanical instrument with three reels with a fixed number of symbols. Modern machines are fully automated, mounted in a retro-designed box. There is an army of software engineers, graphic designers, composers, and engineers to craft sophisticated games and machines. These machines use sophisticated techniques to play Pok Deng (ป๊อกเด้ง) to maximize spending and time on devices per user. Most players, policymakers are not aware of the complex mechanism behind the game.