A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR
The bells, whistles and soothing sounds of slots help make the pain of losing more delightful
By Frank Scoblete
If you like the original movie version of Mary Poppins, you are certainly familiar with its great song “A Spoonful of Sugar.” The song lauds the salutary eﬀects of some sugar placed in some horrible medicine some poor kids had to take when they were under the weather.
Sugar made whatever awful concoction the poor kids would have to swallow somewhat easier to swallow. That was the thesis anyway. In short, something bad was coming but it could be presented in not such a bad way.
Now in the world of the slot machines, we can clearly see the sugar being spooned out to make the reality of what really happens when you play the machines over any real length of time not so medicine- like.
Take a look at the world of the slots in the casinos. The machines are colorful, with ﬂashing lights of diﬀerent hues, and music of every type. Add to these the amazing sound eﬀects with which machines have been orchestrated, including the sound of coins entering the machines that no longer actually bother with coins.
Yes, all of these are additions to what is, really, a machine that could be as non-descript looking as most of the other machines on earth. And these machines have one aim in their design and programming— to take the players’ money. Simple as that!
[Please note: Would slot machines lure in players if they weren’t coated in “sugar”? The lights, sounds, music and energy seemingly spewing from these machines is the mating call of a device looking to squeeze the money from its suitors. The whole activity can be boiled down to this: Mate with this machine and maybe, just maybe, you will reproduce more money than you had before. Then again…]
Slot players have to know that they are playing a game that has a house edge. They know that slot play is a losing proposition. They must know this because only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of players have actually beaten the machines. That segment of slot play will include players who hit monstrous jackpots or players who played once or twice, won, and quit right then and there, never to play again.
And what of all the other slot players? Why do they keep playing? Can’t they see the danger in the game?
THE LURE OF THE SLOT MACHINES
Look at the slot areas of the casinos—aisles after aisles of those impressively colorful, musical, beautiful machines oﬀering you a chance to win some money or a lot of money. Slot areas are welcoming to the players. They are not threatening at all.
I doubt players would ﬂock to those machines if all their lights were removed, all their fun sounds silenced, all whatever beauty attached to the machines stripped away, so that you now had just a metal and plastic contraption.
What if you added to this contraption a sign that showed how much money it took from players over recent history. “I won ‘X’ amount of money from players since last July!”
What if every machine had this information in big letters?
What if every machine explained in the simplest terms how the house edge will grind away at you?
What if pictures of the countless losing players were displayed showing their total losses for their careers?
What if giant billboards announced to the world how much money the big losers lost? “Here’s Mary Kate, who was wiped out on February 14, 2022.”
Okay, you now have an area of truth, you might say. The sugar-coating of the machines, those lights, sounds, construction designs, no longer exist. What a player now sees is the real medicine of the machines—it is not a comforting sight, is it? There’s no spoonful of sugar sweetening anything in this new world of featureless machines, just the reality of what they do and how they do it.
The casino slot world would shrivel up and perhaps it would even disappear. No one would want what happened to Mary Kate to happen to them. Big billboards should show happy people, not desperate-appearing losers.
Of course, my above sugarless-spoon of a slot world would never happen. Casino managers are fully aware that they must make their slot kingdoms pleasant and comfortable worlds in which slot players play. No modern casinos can survive if the slots are stripped of their charm.
THE REAL MEDICINE OF THE SLOT WORLD
The real medicine of the real slot world comes down to two words: house edge.
Yes, machines can be made pretty and appealing. They can sound like so much fun. The whole slot area of a casino can be comfortable and so, so lovely.
Still, the house edge is the full truth of the matter.
All of the eﬀorts of the casino are done to distract from how the machines really operate. No sign will state what a machine is really doing. The casinos have helped make the slot machines the favorite of players over every game in the house. Slots rule!
Mary Poppins would have made a great casino owner. All the best in and out of the casinos!