CHARLESTON, W.Va. — If you play slot machines, which is more likely to pay out, a “hot” machine that has been paying out all night, or a “cold” machine that hasn’t produced any recent jackpots?
Most people get the answer wrong, because it’s a trick question, said Jennifer Davis-Walton, director of the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia.
“Slot machines actually use random number generators that make it impossible to predict when a jackpot is going to occur. But, ask any gambler, and they’ll tell you they have a system for playing. Most of these systems revolve around myths and misconceptions about gambling. March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and gambling experts are urging players to be conscientious about how much they are spending and to examine their beliefs about how gambling works,” Davis-Walton said.
Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia operates the 1-800-GAMBLER program, and Davis-Walton says gambling addiction affects many people in West Virginia. She says that studies have shown 1 percent of the population has a serious gambling problem and another 2-3 percent show symptoms of the disorder.
Davis-Walton says her group has taken more than 12,000 calls from state residents asking for help with a gambling problem since the program started in 2000. She says that a misunderstanding of how gambling works is common among callers.
“Many people say they were cheated by the casino, not understanding that with the house edge, casinos don’t have to cheat to make money. Some people are convinced their lucky charms or pre-play rituals help them win. Many develop a fixation on one particular location or even a specific machine. We’ve had callers bribing bartenders to keep other people from playing ‘their’ machine,” she said, adding that the counselors who work with problem gamblers spend a lot of time debunking these myths, and some of them even compare it to a deprogramming.
Callers to 1-800-GAMBLER speak with a helpline counselor based in Charleston, and they are referred to one of the network’s 70 plus specially trained gambling addiction counselors. They receive a free two-hour consultation. Funds are available for those who do not have insurance to pay for additional treatment. Follow-up studies with helpline callers show that the majority of callers are able to stop gambling within six months of entering treatment.
More information is available by calling 1-800-GAMBLER or visiting www.1800gambler.net.