Having passed most of my math courses while in high school, I’m not much of a gambler, but I admit that occasionally I’ll stop at a casino, throw some money into the slot machines and maybe win a quarter or two, at which point I stop playing. If I come out of the endeavor a quarter ahead, I’ve beaten ‘the man” and that’s enough for me.
The thing is: With today’s electronic slot machines, I never know exactly why I won. I only know that a bunch of musical notes sound and some crooked lines that look like a GPS gone bad appear on the screen, and some lights go off. Whee! I might as well have put the quarter in, pushed a button and had someone say “loser” or “winner.”
Here’s a perfect example…
I thought about this situation while reading Tim Nelson’s story about the dawn of electronic pull tabs in Minnesota, the money from which will build a few parts of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
Pull tabs, apparently, were once fairly popular back when people went to bars, pounded down a few drinks, smoked a few cigarettes, and left paper pull tabs on the floor. But people aren’t going to bars as much anymore, you can’t smoke, and paper tabs aren’t a sexy, fun way to gamble, anymore — not when you’ve got bells and whistles and pink lines telling you the what, if not the why.
Here’s Tim’s video demonstration of the solution (sorry, iPeople, it’s in Flash)
I get five yellow bananas in a row, but other than that, it’s just a guy pushing buttons, some beeps and an indication whether you won or lost.
Here’s the important question: Is that going to lure enough people into playing in order to pay off the mortgage on a $1 billion stadium?
This new era of video gambling, it seems to me, is PacMan in a World of Warcraft world. Granted, there’s never been any strategy in most video gambling — video poker might be an exception — but what’s the attraction here that will get people playing electronic pulltabs who aren’t playing the game now?
If it comes down to a battle of beeps and lights, don’t the slot machines at the casino still hold sway? And if it’s the instant gratification, doesn’t a lottery scratch-off do the same thing?
Discussion point: Will you be playing the electronic pulltabs?