The Bells & Whistles On Casino Slot Machines Don’t Mean You’re Actually Winning Anything

The screen is flashing and blinking as brightly colored whozits and whatzits galore stream across the screen, all while dings, beeps, kachings and other exciting noises blare out at you from the casino slot machine. With all that hullabaloo, you  must be winning, right? Well, no. Not really.

The sound of winning doesn’t equate into actual riches, say researchers out of Canada (via the Pacific Standard), but you might not realize it until you’ve run out of money and have to wander away dejectedly with your pockets inside out, kicking at invisible clods of dirt like some kind of sad Charlie Brown.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo say those happy sounds ramp up players’ emotional arousal, encouraging them to “significantly overestimate the number of times they won.”

Now that slot machines are mostly computerized, there are many lines to choose from on which to wager. Score on even one of those, no matter the amount, and players will be greeted with an ecstatic whoop, bleep, cash register chime or some other kind of winning sound.

During the study on gambling, researchers found that the group of gamblers playing in silence didn’t have as much fun as those plunged into the world of winning sounds, but they were able to judge better how they were actually doing at the game.

So for example, you could win on one line but overall lose a bunch of money after your bets on all the others fail. Still, the noise will sound for that one little victory, something researchers call “losses disguised as wins.”

The bottom line? Keep an eye on your actual total winnings because no slot machine is going to pull out the tiny violins when you biff yet another bet.

Why You Keep Losing at Slot Machines [Pacific Standard]