Is there a case for a class action lawsuit against casinos/slot machine makers?

In the New York Times Magazine section this week there is an article about the slot machine industry. One of the machines offers a Wheel of Fortune-type round where different dollar amounts are each represented by a “slice.” Someone not well versed in the realities of the casino might easily assume that each “slice” had an equal chance of being hit–but that’s not the case. Each slice has odds associated with it, and to make matters worse, they put the longest odds right next to the shortest odds, making people believe they were “close.” The article cites one unconscionable little prick of a slot machine developer as studying addiction in an effort to increase “sales.” The article also cites gambling as one addiction with one of the most preciptious roads to the bottom. Sure Casinos have always done lot’s of things to encourage gambling, but isn’t this Wheel-of-Fortune game outright fraudulent? Given that and the fact that the designers study addiction to understand how to better get customers hooked, wouldn’t a ruined slot player have a case against the casino?

Probably not - volenti non fit injuria and all that.

Since the cigarette industry has been nailed, lawyers are starting to run out of companies to sue. If there was a way to take out the casinos, it would have been done long ago.

Not that it wouldn’t be nice to see, but I’m a bit biased when it comes to casinos. They can all burn to the ground as far as I’m concerned.

What’s fraudulent? The odds are usually posted (though it may take some looking) and the wheel pays off according to those posted odds. It’s not the casino’s fault if people don’t understand probability.

Yep, that’s my take on it.

‘The Lottery - A tax on people bad at math!’

if the odds are in writing, who cares about the proximity?

The whole “lets study gambling addiction so we know how to get our customers hooked” thing sounds an awful lot like the cigarette companies “let’s add extra nicotine to our tobacco” thing that got them in a lot of trouble. The risk of addiction is already there, but nobody likes companies deliberately increasing that risk. Remember, cigarettes had a health warning on them for decades before the big lawsuits, the fact that casinos post the odds doesn’t necessarily protect them, juries can be funny that way.

In a wheel of fortune setting, proximity makes a difference. Place the big payoff ‘pie’ next to the high odds ‘pie’ and every few spins the customer jumps up and down “I was THIS close! Let me try again!” If the big payout was all the way on the other side of the wheel, they wouldn’t get as excited. Yes, it’s exactly how I would set it up too, but there should be no question that location matters.

It’s the similarity to cigarette companies that most makes me believe there is a case.
Studying addiction to increase profits, while definitely a smart business move, seems entirely too proactive to not raise the ire of a jury. I also agree that posting the odds doesn’t necessarily absolve them of responsiblity.

In the article they quoted players as continuing to play because they thought they were “so close” to that $1000 pay off because the wheel “landed” next to it. They just don’t realize that it’s not just a simple wheel. If casinos weren’t already controversial I might say this didn’t matter, but they are controversial.

Also, does anyone know if the “Bet with your head, not over it” is a government mandated campaign or just an attempt at goodwill?

Gee. What if I make the disclaimers on back of your airline ticket so miniscule, it’d be impossible to read? Not my fault, right? It was there, afterall.

IANAL, but I’ve been around the courts to have heard of such cases. Here, the fact that the game plays upon the well-known “Wheel of Fortune” TV show is pitching the user towards a certain image, by default. Now, you (the slot machine and/or casino itself) are going to slant the odds away from an even, statistical chance…and hide it in the process of attempting to satisfy the law requiring disclosure of the odds.

The fact is, there is a BIG difference between disclosure and deception. This game is highly deceptive, as described by the OP. The odds are posted, but not in a straight-handed manner. It is clear this is intentionally done to conceal evidence. If challenged in court, I would bet a judge would agree that such a casino game did not meet the letter of the law regarding proper disclosure of the odds. Then, there’d be an issue about the intent of the manufacturer to deceive.

  • Jinx

So, winning would be…a tax break? :wink:

  • Jinx

The grocery store where I shop studies my buying habits via the use of a discount card system. They then give me coupons that they think I am likely to use.

If I overspend on grocery purchases should I sue?

IGT, the maker of the aforementioned Wheel of Fortune machines has this to say on it’s web site here

Not all that relevant, but two of my family members (father in law and wife’s uncle through marriage) have both won the progressive jackpot on these Wheel of Fortune machines.

Do I really need to explain the difference?

This is getting dangerously close to GD, but I don’t think a slawsuit like that would stand a chance. IIRC, several have been filed over the years, and they have all been thrown out, generally on the basis of “You walked in the door of your own free will.” If anybody knows the specifics of these cases, please inform us. But suing a game-maker or casino, in Nevada, for making and using a fair game is not going to work. No jury would find for the plaintiff…not in Nevada.

Anybody who believes that they have better odds than the casino is a sucker, and deserves to be fleeced.

Ignorance of statistics is a fundamental part of why gambling makes as much money as it does. There are millions of idiots that think dice have a memory.

I gamble, but I don’t play praying for that million dollar payout. I am usually more than content to treat it like any other form of entertainment, with the bonus of maybe being one of the fortunate few that walk away with more than they came with. Plenty of people blow hundreds of dollars for the “experience” of good seats at concerts, broadway shows, sporting events, etc. So whats the big deal. Its just another form of entertainment, when you allow yourself to lose sight of that, you get to be the sucker that every casino lives on.

I do too have a memory!

And watch your subject-verb agreement.

I am all for taxing the stupid and ignorant, but

an understanding of statistics does not make one immune from gambling addiction*.

Many gamblers understand how they are being ripped off, however they are hooked on thrill of the possibility of winning. This may be related to some sort of chemical imbalance.

Same thing with smokers. Many smokers realise that inhaling smoke increases the risk of a whole range of maladies and that it is addisctive, yet they smoke enough to become addicted. Now, since the tobacco manufacturers have been forced to make those warnings prominent, it would be difficult to argue ignorance.

I cannot see why gambling should be treated differently from smoking.

*this bit is the fact - avoiding a GD type post

This is stupid. Ciggerates kill people. Gambling only makes them broke.

Everyone knows they have a chance as losing when they gamble (some people just believe the odds are with them). Ciggerate companies purposely deceited people on the health affects, they killed unsuspecting people that trusted them.

Gambling posts its odds, and people are aware of that, and no one dies by over-gambling. Is that really a valid comparison?

Hi, my name is AmbushBug and I manufacture slot machines for a living (programmer - I get the math and specs and graphics and I turn them into the game). I don’t work for IGT (I work for one of their competition; IGT is a fine company and the industry leader in the U.S.).

One factor nobody has put forth (except to allude to difficulty in getting a Nevada judge to slam the gaming industry) is that various jurisdictional gaming boards carefully certify and approve each and every game on the casino floor, whether the game is in a Vegas casino, in Atlantic City, on a Mississippi riverboat, or a Mississippi indian reservation (different gaming boards!).

Take Nevada for instance. The Nevada Gaming Control Board has published regulations which spell out what is and isn’t cool. Regulation 14 (non-technical) is the one to check out:

and, the focus of this discussion:

What this says to me, is that if I program a pair of dice on the screen that I make “roll” to an outcome, is that I have to make them fair dice, as fair as the separately approved pseudo-random number generator can make it.

I have no special knowledge on Wheel of Fortune, but based on my observations and experience, I would hazard a guess that the Board felt the wheel in this discussion was not representative of a live gambling game.

Given the publicly available regulations above, you may have total confidence that the casino will be paying out at least 75% of what it takes in on the machine you’ll be playing. In Nevada, anyway - if you’re in New Jersey it’s 83%.

If there’s something about a machine that looks deceptive to you, it’s highly likely it was noticed but deemed non-deceptive by the board’s review process.

Perhaps what one person sees as “studying addiction to increase profits” could be seen by another as “designing the most enjoyable game possible, so that casinos are happy to buy them, as they give their players exactly what they, the players, want.”

This is a good time to insert a disclaimer: I don’t speak for my company, these are my opinions only, etc. etc.

Now, that said, I don’t gamble. At all. (Now find someone at a tobacco company who tells you he doesn’t smoke :wink: ).

I think it is valid as a comparison. They’re not the same, but that doesn’t make comparison worthless. I’m sort of getting into GD territory here, but I’m not sure there is a straight GQ answer to this…

Gambling - Odds are posted (for a few games, at least) people know the risk
Smoking - Each pack since the late 60’s? says “The Surgeon General has determined that smoking is hazardous to your health.”, thus people know the risk.

Gambling - Fully legal and highly regulated industry, customers are age restricted
Smoking - Legal and highly regulated/taxed product, customers are age restricted

Gambling - Addictive behavior, some games accused of being made more addictive by design
Smoking - Addictive substance, some cigarettes accused of being made more addictive with addition of more nicotine.

Gambling - Addicts go broke
Smoking - Addicts get sick and die earlier than normal

The tobacco companies have been sued successfully, thus I think it is at least possible that a suit can be brought against a gambling concern.