As the city of Davenport lusts after becoming a casino owner/operator to pump more money into city coffers, city leaders (and state legislators) should learn about the latest gambling industry secret to success.
As chronicled in a new book "Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas," author Natasha Dow Schüll exposes one of the newest tools casinos employ to addict patrons to losing money playing slot machines.
The tool is called, innocently enough, the "multi-line slot machine." Unlike the old one-line slot, where a player put in money and hoped for three cherries to line up for a win, the multi-line machine provides up to 20 potential "payoff" combinations with each push of the button.
The beauty is not in improving the chances of winning, but how the multi-line slots can provide a sense of winning when the overall result is actually a net monetary loss for the bettor.
CLICK HERE to view a YouTube video on how it works.
While flashing lights and sound provide a feeling of winning to the gambler, the opposite is true. A true game-changing improvement if you happen to be a casino owner or operator. You give the addict the adrenalin rush of "winning" when the gambler is losing. Call it a win-win for the gambling house, at least until your customer runs out of money.
At local riverboat casinos, like Las Vegas, slot machines are the primary money-maker for the house and slots consume most of the gambling floor space.
In Bettendorf, the Isle of Capri riverboat has 992 slot machines and only 22 table games like roulette, poker and blackjack. Slot machines accounted for $71 million of the casino's $76 million in revenue in the most recent fiscal year.
In Davenport, the Rhythm City riverboat has 932 slot machines and only 14 table games. Slot machines accounted for $49 million of the casino's $51 million in revenue in fiscal 2012.
Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission officials say multi-line slot machines are in use at local casinos, with no special approval necessary. The commission doesn't even track how many multi-line machines are in state casinos, nor has the state commission overseeing gambling in Iowa looked at the impact of the machines on gambling addiction.
So while city leaders in Davenport (and Bettendorf) speak about the wonderful benefits of gambling dollars for city projects and property tax reductions, let's not forget about the source of that public largesse – casino customers pushing those slot machine buttons and losing their money.
And now, thanks to the new improved technology of multi-line slot machines, we can take their money but leave them happy, or at least thinking they won.
Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about being in the gambling (er, I mean gaming) industry.