Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas

By Natasha Dow Schüll | Go to book overview

4
MATCHING THE MARKET:
Innovation, Intensification, Habituation

AS MOLLIE AND I sat at the window of her complimentary room at the Main Street Station in 1998, she reviewed the progression of her gambling. It had started in the mid-1980s, when her husband showed her how to play video poker on a handheld machine. “I honed my skills on that amazing little machine, skills like knowing which formulas to use to make decisions, like whether it’s better to keep the king or the queen if you’ve got two fours. I became hooked, really hooked.” From there she graduated to actual video poker machines, then to a version called Deuces Wild, then Double Bonus, and most recently, to Triple Play—a version that allows her to play out the same hand on three separate rows, simultaneously. She explained to me: “Three rows, three possible outcomes— it’s a kind of tolerance, like with drinking. I keep needing more intensity, and the machines keep matching me.”

The next time I heard the word “tolerance” used in association with gambling machines was at the annual industry meeting in 1999, where a panel of industry experts had gathered from around the country to speculate on “The Video Future.” “Technology is extending to every area of society,” said one panelist. “People are attuned to what’s around them, and it’s becoming the norm for them to use these sorts of devices—in fact, they’re coming to expect it. There’s a growing tolerance for technology.”1 In contrast with Mollie’s use of the word to signal her dependency in the

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