When people think about legalized gambling and casinos, they tend to picture 007 sitting at a high-stakes table playing Texas Hold ‘Em or Baccarat. With apparently millions of dollars in the pot of these no-limit games, surely these must be what really makes the profits in these casinos? In fact, this is not the case. What the real driving force behind the profits and big bucks of the international gaming industry is, in fact, gaming machines.
Why is that? There are tight regulations surrounding these machines, especially here in Australia. Gaming companies require approval if they intend to create a new gaming machine and that takes a lot of time and careful legal maneuvering. With that being the case, how are they still the top earners? A table with willing players to empty their bank accounts to the dealer is surely more lucrative?
- In a Casino, Between 65 and 80% of Income is from Slots
The humble slot machine; the one-armed bandit, the “fruit machine” as they call it in England, is the real star of the casino balance sheet. These deceptively simple machines generate the lion’s share of profits as people churn bucket after bucket of coins or tokens into them all day, every day. Every now and then, the machines pay out and the player seems to win a “jackpot” or something close to that. In fact, the winnings never match the total coins invested one by one.
- Gaming Machines Have a Simple Allure
Card tables with Blackjack, Baccarat and Poker are intimidating to most casino-goers. The tables are often the exclusive nests of habitual and experienced players who don’t always welcome the “noobs” in their ranks. The machines, on the other hand, present a simplified and private alternative to playing in that very public and very visible way.
Another part of their allure is the idea that “they could pay out at any moment.” The fact is that whatever gamers think about their ability to read machines, the house advantage reigns supreme and in the long term they always lose out. Still, it’s fun to play.
- Small but Continuous Individual Stakes
The other factor behind the profitability of gaming machines is their apparently small stakes at each moment of play. The players tend to view each individual attempt at winning more closely rather than taking into account all the other previous attempts at which they lost their admittedly small stake. Each win feels huge because the individual stake was so small.
- Machines are Interactive
Gambling machines like video poker, and even quiz machines that you find in pubs also are great money spinners because they are fun and interactive. Humans love to have buttons and levers to operate! This is a simple pleasure, but players at machines feel very much in control, or “in command” of their situation. The machine outputs lights and signals, and the players answer, and it’s a very satisfying experience.
- They Exist Outside of Casinos
While the cards and craps tables can’t exit the casino, certain gaming machines can where they find their way into pubs and clubs. This means that the market for these machines stretches much further than the windowless confines of the casino floor. They help to bring customers into other licensed premises and add a fun dimension to a night out down the pub. Popular forms include video poker and quiz machines. There are still around 192,000 machines rolled out all over Australia.
So, when you tie together these several factors, it starts to become clear why the gaming machine is still the lifeblood of the industry and could be for a long time to come. Things will always change, though, and in some countries the appeal of gaming machines is diminishing in the face of competition from online alternatives.