Would you believe this? Subliminal messages!


Ontario's provincial gambling operator has pulled 87 video slot machines out of service or physically removed them from its casinos after a CBC investigation found what appear to be subliminal messages flashing at players.

Ontario Lottery and Gaming, the recently rebranded Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., is concerned about three games on video slots made by a company called Konami. It shut them down as a precaution on Friday, and is looking into the issue.

Every time this video lottery game is played, it briefly shows a jackpot result.Every time this video lottery game is played, it briefly shows a jackpot result.
(CBC)

The games flash winning jackpot symbols at players for a fifth of a second, long enough for the brain to detect even if the players are not aware of the message, some psychologists told CBC News.

It's not clear if messages are influencing gambler's behaviour. That would take further testing, experts said.

But players who stick to a machine are seeing a winning image every two seconds, the time it takes for one spin, and that concerns Roger Horbay, an electronic gaming specialist who has treated hundreds of problem gamblers.

"I think it's part of them trying to make their games more attractive to the players to keep them at the game longer so their machines are more profitable," he said.

However, Konami, the company behind the games, said the jackpot symbols are a technical problem that it is fixing.

"It is simply a software glitch that our engineers have identified in four game titles, and we have identified [that] three of those titles have been shipped into Canada," said Konami spokesman Steve Sutherland.

"The company is not going to risk its licensing to do this. It is purely a software error that the company is fixing."

The game titles with the symbols are: Most Wanted, Sergeant Fritter and Billionaires. (A fourth called Sticks and Stones has only had limited release in the United States.)

But OLG, similar bodies in other jurisdictions and the Ontario gaming regulator, are all taking the messages seriously.

"Well, we are going to take a look at it further and see if there really is anything that we need to do and we will take the appropriate action," said Sukhi Grewal, head of game testing at the regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

U.S. states consider pulling games

Gaming Laboratories International, the private lab in the U.S. that tests slot machines for most states, is investigating as a direct result of the CBC story, and many U.S. state casino commissions are looking at whether to pull the machines there, president James Maida said.

In Canada, British Columbia followed Ontario's lead last Friday and pulled a handful of the types of machines that flash the winning symbols. But after doing tests to ensure they are still paying out at the normal rates, they're back on the gambling floor.

Quebec has about 150 machines made by Konami, and is checking to see if any of them have the games with the winning jackpot symbols.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces either have no Konami games, or the games on their Konami slots don't have the symbols.

As part of research for this story, CBC News went to several Ontario casinos to videotape about 20 different types of slot machines. There didn't appear to be any symbols flashing — until the video was slowed down. Then it became clear that the three games contained winning jackpot symbols.

While the effects are uncertain, problem gamblers complain that the machines affect how they think, electronic gaming specialist Horbay said. They can't pinpoint the problem, but "this may be part of what they believe is messing up their heads," he said.

OLG pulled 25 Billionaires, 37 Most Wanted and 25 Sergeant Fritter games from Casino slot parlours at race tracks, as well as Casino Rama, Casino Niagara, and Fallsview Casino in Niagara. The province has a total of 1,373 Konami machines.

* Bach's blog
* Add new comment

nothing suprises me bach,as
Submitted by challis on Mon, 2007-02-26 15:40.

nothing suprises me bach,as the gambling monster grows ever bigger,was reading papers that during chinese new year the asians think its a lucky time to go gambling,oh please why dont they say its lucky for the casinos, not the gamblers...for sure the fallout is going to boom as more punters loose there shirts as more gambling casinos thrive,.........apocolpse now...... the horror.......... by the way were s all the posters gone,its so quiet on encognitive,since it moved sites the talks died off