One armed bandits, slot machines, fruit machines – call them what you will, but over the past decades, they have not always enjoyed the best of reputations when it comes to the psychological wellbeing of players. Yet recent psychological research suggests that the flow state players enter into can improve concentration as well as creating feelings of wellbeing.
Is the negativity surrounding slots based more on puritanical attitudes to gambling than scientific fact? Let’s find out.
The view from Norway
Scandinavia has plenty of things going for it – low crime rate, great standard of living and beautiful natural scenery to name but a few. However, due to its short winter days, it also has a huge problem with seasonal affective disorder. Norway is also a country in which slot machines, or spilleautomater, are enormously popular. At least, they were, until they were outlawed in 2009.
The online casino age, however, has changed all that. Norway is turning into something of a hotspot, and games like magic stars have thousands of devoted players. And the evidence suggests that they are bringing relief to the vast percentage of Norwegians who suffer from the winter blues.
Gambling and pleasure
Let’s get one thing straight from the start – this has nothing to do with gambling addiction. Any pleasurable activity, from eating to drinking to shopping to engaging in dangerous liaisons with the opposite sex can be addictive. Playing slot machines can too, as can betting on horse races.
It is important to get past that point and understand what a slot machine is, as much as what it isn’t. Playing a slot machine, whether physical or online, is a game. In that respect, it could be compared with ten pin bowling. It is an enjoyable pastime, an opportunity to relax, and to spend an evening doing so will cost some money.
So far, so good. A night at the bowling club might cost you $20. A night at the casino in which you put $100 into a machine that has a payout percentage of 85 percent will cost you on average $15, so there is little difference cost wise.
In both activities, players experience the euphoric feeling of victory with a win, as the brain releases endorphins and also leptin. Essentially, the higher your leptin levels, the more satisfied you will feel.
Quitting while you’re ahead
Leptin can also play another important role in helping slots players feel even happier, and this concerns a fundamental difference between slot machines and bowling. In the latter, you know you will definitely spend a certain amount of money. With slots, we can work to an average cost on the basis of the payout percentage, but your spend might be higher. You could, on the other hand, get a big win, and actually come out with more money than you started with.
Gamblers who produce higher levels of leptin are shown to be more likely to “quit while they’re ahead” and walk away with their win, because they will feel more satisfied about it. Leptin acts as a chemical moderator and helps control urges, essentially reducing the likelihood of addictive behavior.
There is little doubt that a half hour or so on the slot machines can result in feelings of wellbeing and relaxation, especially if you come out slightly ahead.
Of course, some might say that the same applies to any casino game – play poker or blackjack and you have a similarly entertaining game that has the added incentive of a possible win. This is absolutely true, and the health benefits of other games of chance have been discussed at length.
However, not everyone wants to spend hours studying blackjack strategy, or to risk coming up against an expert hustler in a game of poker. Slot machines are straightforward to learn, and it is just you and the machine. There are no other players to worry about, and first time players don’t have that stressful feeling that they are being watched and critiqued as they try to get to grips with the rules.
Despite their simplicity, they are also hugely varied, with different bonus events and side games. Whether you are into horror, cartoons or sport, there is a slots game you will be able to enjoy.
Risk free fun
Last but not least, there is one benefit that is certain to raise a smile and improve your psychological wellbeing in the online era. This is the fact that so many online casinos are now offering free spins and no deposit bonuses that essentially equate to risk-free gambling.
Even the puritan naysayers will struggle to find a downside to those, so give them a try and see if they help you cast away the winter blues and help summer to come around just a little bit sooner.