Lesser-Known Reasons Why People Obsess Over Slots

By in Casino & Gaming on

Slot machines are easily the most popular games in casinos. They can keep you fully immersed for hours.

Slots can be so mesmerizing that they cause you to become obsessed in some instances. This situation becomes a problem concerning bankroll management.

One of the easiest ways to prevent yourself from becoming overly consumed with slots is to understand what causes this slot obsession. The thrill of gambling and the entertaining game designs are two obvious reasons for becoming infatuated with slots.

But what are some of the lesser-known reasons behind this phenomenon? I’m going to answer this question by covering certain aspects that cause you to keep spinning the reels.


Slot machines are viewed as forms of gambling and entertainment first and foremost. Socializing, on the other hand, is considered a secondary benefit to playing these games.

However, the social aspect of slots has a larger role in your decision to play than you think. You’ll especially find this thought true if you visit land-based casinos with friends.

Playing slot machines is twice as fun with a buddy sitting on the next game. You two can chat about wins, losses, or any other number of topics during sessions.

2 Women Playing Slots While Socializing

This casino atmosphere adds even more to the experience. You’ll hear other players cheering for wins and see people moving around the bustling gambling floor.

I encourage you to enjoy the social side of gaming. But don’t get too carried away and use slot machines just to improve your mood.

Treating every casino trip as a social excursion can have consequences ⁠— especially when free alcohol is involved.

You should definitely have fun with slot machines. If accomplishing this means bringing a friend along, then do it.

However, you also have to know when to draw the line so that you and your buddies aren’t spending too much on these games.


Problem gambling is a disorder that causes people to blow money they don’t have on slots and other games.

Such gamblers are seen as hopeless degenerates who lack self-control. The truth, though, is that they may simply be using slot machines as a means to self-medicate themselves.

They might need to distract themselves from deeper psychological problems that are products of their past. Gambling and losing oneself in slots is an easy way to accomplish this goal.

Of course, the average person can play slot machines without trouble.

These gamblers aren’t using slots to run away from deep-seated problems, but rather just to have a good time.

Other players, though, may struggle to find a balance between entertaining themselves and having a problem. They might initially play slots to make themselves feel better, but end up feeling worse after a bad session.

Dark Flow

The University of Waterloo’s Mike J. Dixon noted a slot phenomenon known as “dark flow” in his 2019 study. The psychology professor describes dark flow as a state where players become fully engrossed in slot machines and forget their surroundings.

His study examined the gambling patterns of 129 players. He came to the conclusion that some of them use slots as a way to escape reality and stave off depression.

Depressed Female Gambler Playing Slots

Dixon also notes that gamblers who experience dark flow have a generally positive vibe during their sessions. They’re so entertained by the games that they feel great when playing ⁠— win or lose.

The downside to dark flow is that it can lead to bigger losses. Slot machines are, after all, negative-expectation games.

The games themselves cause players to fall into the dark flow mindset. Slots are programmed to hold gamblers’ attention via flashing lights, entertaining themes, and exciting sounds.

These same elements are important because they provide amusement. However, they can just as easily lead to negative effects in the form of playing too long.

Losses Disguised As Wins

Modern slot machines feature lots of paylines.

The average game today offers somewhere between 20 and 50 lines.

Another breed of slots has numerous “ways to win.” These games, which offer wins for matching symbols on adjacent reels, can feature between 243 and 117,649 ways to win.

All of these lines and ways make for a thrilling experience. You can look forward to the prospect of having dozens of chances at earning prizes with each spin.

However, the numerous lines in slot machines mask that some of your winning rounds are actually losses. The term “losses disguised as wins” (LDWs) describes this phenomenon.

You may feel like a winner every time you net a payout. The flashing lights and triumphant sound effects help reinforce this notion. The truth, though, is that you can have a winning round and still lose money overall.

Here’s an example:

  • You bet $1 on a spin.
  • You win a $0.35 payout.
  • 1 – 0.35 = 0.65
  • You’ve lost $0.65 overall, despite the win.

These small wins can fill you with false confidence. You might play longer than expected under the assumption that you’re winning.

What Can You Do to Maintain a Healthy Slot Habit?

Most of the lesser-known reasons for why people play slot machines are negative in nature. Self-medication, dark flow, and LDWs embody the addictive side of slots.

The point of slot machines is to have fun and enjoy yourself. Therefore, you don’t want to be influenced into playing longer or betting more money than you’d like.

Instead, you want to maintain a healthy slot routine. The easiest way to do this is by being aware of how long you’re playing and how much you’re winning and losing.

Many players fall into the pattern of self-medication and/or dark flow because they lose track of time. Again, slot machines are designed to hold your attention.

Of course, casino employees aren’t going to tap you on the shoulder when you’ve been playing too long. It’s up to you to keep tabs on how long you’ve been in the casino.

Man Playing Slots With IPhone Alarm Screen

I suggest setting multiple alarms on your phone to serve as reminders.

A simple alarm won’t force you to stop playing. But the shrill sound will, at the very least, draw your attention away from the game momentarily.

For Example:

You could set your smartphone alarm to go off once every hour.

Breaking your concentration is often key to not overindulge in slots. You’ll have a fighting chance of quitting a session within a reasonable timeframe thanks to these reminders.

LDWs lead to overestimating your winnings. Furthermore, they keep you playing under the guise that you’re having a successful session.

The best way to combat LDWs is to fully account for every spin. You want to make a mental note after each round if you win or lose money.

Slot machines are designed for quick play. This aspect feeds into LDWs because the game moves so fast that it becomes hard to account for wins and losses.

That said, you just need to be mindful of what happens in every round. The more aware you are, the better able you are to separate winning and losing spins.


Casinos thrive on people’s lack of awareness when it comes to slot machines. Gamblers who experience dark flow and/or don’t understand LDWs will struggle with bankroll management.

Bad bankroll management leads to betting money you can’t afford to lose. You obviously want to avoid this scenario at all costs.

An excellent place to begin in maintaining a healthy slots habit is understanding the factors behind playing too long. Once you know the triggers for over-playing and over-betting, you’ll have a stronger chance at avoiding these problems.

Dark flow is the biggest cause of gambling too long on slot machines. You want to create reminders for yourself (e.g., smartphone alarm) to snap back into reality every so often.

LDWs can also cause problems in the bankroll department. They disguise the fact that tiny payouts don’t equal overall wins.

You should always take at least a second after every round to decide if you actually win or lose. Don’t let the flashing lights and sound effects on a $0.20 payout convince you otherwise.

From an overall perspective, slot machines shouldn’t be viewed as the devil. They can provide hours of entertainment when used responsibly.

But slot obsession is a real disorder feed by some of these lesser-known reasons. This knowledge will help keep slots fun, rather than a source of agony and lost money.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

View all posts by Michael Stevens
Email the author at: [email protected]
Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry fo ...

View all posts by
Other Posts from the Author
Latest Blog Articles