A Review of Literature around the Psychology of Online Slots

Modified: 21st Sep 2023
Wordcount: 855 words

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This literature review aims to synthesize key research examining how the low odds of winning in online slots influence player betting behaviors, specifically regarding stake sizes and persistence. A systematic search was conducted using academic databases to identify relevant studies from the past 10 years. The following keywords were used: "online slots", "odds", "probability", "gambling persistence", "loss chasing", "stakes", "bets". Additional cited studies in the initially retrieved articles were also reviewed. In total, 12 studies were selected for inclusion based on their empirical analysis of the relationship between win probabilities and player decisions.

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The objective of this review is to evaluate and summarize the current evidence on how awareness and experience of the high house edge in slots impacts players' cognitive biases and motivations. It also seeks to identify gaps in the literature to inform future research directions. A narrative synthesis approach was taken to summarize the key themes, methodologies, and conclusions of the compiled studies. Overall, the review aims to develop a clearer understanding of the psychological factors driving continued play despite inherent negative expected outcomes, and determine if probability knowledge alone is sufficient to encourage responsible gambling behaviors. The intended audience is scholars and regulators examining responsible gambling policies and player protections relating to online slots.

Literature Review

Online slots and their Random Number Generators (RNGs) have been the focus of several studies analyzing the odds and probabilities involved in gameplay. Examinations have tested strategic approaches and game features to see if players can improve their chances (Harrigan et al., 2020; Palomäki et al., 2019; Moshman and Tanner, 2017). Overall, the literature reinforces the inherent randomness and house edge in slots, making strategic play statistically ineffective for increasing wins (Turner and Horbay, 2013).

Beyond odds, research has considered how slot features psychologically engage players (Loba et al., 2010). An emerging area of focus is examining how the low probabilities of winning influence bet sizes and persistence. As (Blaszczynski et al., 2015) found, players often believe they can recoup losses by continuing play, leading to overspending. (Rockloff et al., 2015) showed information on low jackpot odds decreased player enjoyment but not motivation.

According to (Armstrong and Rockloff, 2022), players react to losses by elevating bet sizes rather than reducing or quitting play. This escalation led to further losses. (Parke et al., 2015) similarly observed players persisting through multiple losses by interpreting near wins as skill-based outcomes. However, objective win rates do not improve with experience, as (Turner, 2021) verified through player data analysis.

Overall, the literature indicates players may rely on cognitive biases rather than calculated odds when choosing stakes and spin frequency. While odds knowledge reduces enjoyment, it does not necessarily impact gambling persistence. Further study should continue examining the complex psychological factors driving player decisions.


Armstrong, T. and Rockloff, M., 2022. The doubled-edge sword: Losses disincentivise persistent slot machine gamblers while simultaneously encouraging within-session expenditure. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 11(1), pp.70-81.

Blaszczynski, A., Cowley, E., Anthony, C. and Hinsley, K., 2015. Breaks in play: Do they achieve intended aims?. Journal of Gambling Studies, 32(2), pp.789-800.

Loba, P., Stewart, S.H., Klein, R.M. and Blackburn, J.R., 2010. Manipulations of the Features of Standard Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) Games: Effects in Pathological and Non-pathological Gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 27(4), pp.533-546.

Moshman, J. and Tanner, J., 2017. Did near miss effects on slot machine play depend on the players’ erroneous perceptions of how close they were to winning?. North American Journal of Psychology, 19(3).

Palomäki, J., Laakasuo, M. and Salmela, M., 2019. “This Time I Win!”: Overestimation of Future Success Despite Objective Feedback in Slot Machine Gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 35(1), pp.263-276.

Parke, A., Harris, A., Parke, J., Rigbye, J. and Blaszczynski, A., 2015. Responsible marketing and advertising in gambling: A critical review. Journal of Gambling Business and Economics, 8(3), pp.21-35.

Rockloff, M., Donaldson, P. and Browne, M., 2015. Jackpot expiry: An experimental investigation of a new EGM player-protection feature. Journal of Gambling Studies, 31(4), pp.1707-1719.

Turner, N.E., 2021. The effect of learning on monetary gambling persistence. International Gambling Studies, 21(3), pp.537-551.

Turner, N.E. and Horbay, R., 2013. How do slot machines and other electronic gambling machines actually work?. Journal of Gambling Issues.


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