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The Internet Slot Machine

22 July 2000

John Robison has just completed a fascinating history of the slot machine for the New Chance & Circumstance magazine. For anyone with even a passing interest in the subject this is an invaluable reference, and I hope John will publish it formally at some point. (Editor's note: My history of the slot machine will appear in my book The Truth about Slots from Huntington Press next year.)

Given the evolution of the basic mechanical slot machine into today's multi-coin electronic mega-jackpot monsters, it's fun to speculate on the next step. The next step is, in fact, already with us. You can now play slots on the internet. It's been the case since the first personal computers were developed that you could play slot machine simulations. But this was always for virtual, "fantasy" money. Now, by handing over your credit card details you can play for real money online.

Now, at the moment playing slots online is a pretty joyless affair. Even a dyed-in-the-wool advantage-play purist like me can appreciate the benefits of the real-life slot fix. The spinning of the wheels, the lights, the rattle of coins in the tray--a satisfying, though impoverishing process. A million little old ladies can't be wrong.

But internet slots, well, you get delays, broken connections, primitive graphics, and, to top it all, generally worse odds than real-world casino slots. Given how bad the odds are with most real-world casino slots, this is very bad indeed.

Nevertheless, things are improving all the time. Give it a few years. Competition amongst software developers is frenzied right now. It seems like every few days a new internet casino with some technical edge over the opposition starts up.

There is one vital development which I believe will have a really serious effect not just on internet slots, or on internet gambling, or even on gambling itself, but on the whole character of the internet. And it's coming, believe me.

Currently, internet slot machines are restricted exclusively to cyberspace casinos. But there is really no reason why they should be. After all, in the real world, slot machines are everywhere they legally can be, in convenience stores, bars, etc.

Already on the internet you find many websites that will allow you to use part of their site on your own. This adds interests to your site and means more people will use their site also. For example, you can put information about stock prices or today's headlines on your web page courtesy of one of the large internet companies.

Slot machines are just the next step. In the future you'll be able to spin the reels while browsing the bestsellers at Amazon, or sifting through weird miscellaneous junk on e-bay.

It's true you would have to hand over your credit card details to play, but obviously a lot of these companies will have your details already if you have purchased items there before, so they don't need to ask you again. The slot software could detect whether or not your financial details were registered, and if they are, you could play straight away.

The arrangement will be the same as it is with land-based slot machines. An internet slot developer would offer the use of their software for a percentage of the profits or a fixed rate.

John May
John May is one of the most feared gamblers in the world. He has developed "advantage play" techniques for many games that are considered unbeatable.

Books by John May:

> More Books By John May

John May
John May is one of the most feared gamblers in the world. He has developed "advantage play" techniques for many games that are considered unbeatable.

Books by John May:

> More Books By John May