Reviews | For gambling addicts, Super Bowl betting is no good, it’s clean fun

Casino technologists and designers have become experts in the art of manipulation (which we also see in grocery store fittings). By now most of us know the tricks that casinos use to get people to bet more. No windows, no clocks, a labyrinthine layout that keeps people stuck inside, sitting and playing. Slot machines have irresistible sounds and colors, and some offer wins that aren’t even as big as the bet, but still activate the “I won” part of the brain.

Betting apps, be it sports or casino betting, use all of these tricks and add a whole new set developed to keep people engaged with social media on their phones engaging our desires for instant gratification. There’s “a race to the bottom of the brainstem,” said Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, in a 2017 TED talk. Liraz Margalit, a digital psychologist in Tel Aviv, told me that mobile app makers tone down colors and sounds for newbie gamers so they don’t scare them off. App developers have taken research done to help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and applied it to gamers, she says.

A 2018 item in Gaming Law Review explains that casinos, both physical and virtual, attempt to induce a state of “damped thinking” or “dissociation” by eliminating transactional friction. The ‘bet again’ feature saves a player’s previous bet size and payline choices, while electronic funds transfer allows them to continue playing when their original bet runs out. Anything that can be done to get people out of their trance is then for the best. “One of the most effective policy changes in terms of reducing gambling spending was the introduction of smoking bans that caused players to take a break and leave the gambling venue to smoke,” they said. writes the authors.

I have read transcripts of recent conference calls in which gambling executives were describing their strategies to Wall Street analysts. As you can imagine, finding ways to limit bets was not high on their priority list. Instead, most of the talk has focused on the expensive incentives companies offer to attract new players, hoping to entice them to stick around. The terms of art are TOD and LTV: time spent on the device and lifetime value.

Here are two remarks:

Jason K. Park, CFO of DraftKings: “It’s a product that lends itself a bit to nudging, ribbing, and talking trash with your friends or people in your network. And to have all of that built into your favorite app, I think that will help retention for sure, but also increase levels of play in monetization, introducing new sports, all of that.

Richard Schwartz, CEO of Rush Street Interactive: “When you’re betting on things like sports and casino, you want to be able to access the app and do facial identification really fast. Enter it, play it, have it available on your phone very easily and accessible. He added that there are “limited markets where we have friction that we are very anxious to get rid of”.

There’s nothing illegal about any of this, of course, but gambling executives’ understandable desire to add customers and get them to spend more takes on a different complexion when you consider that some customers have find it hard to say no and can gamble with money they can’t afford to lose.

About Margaret Shaw

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