Natasha Dow Schull

Professor Natasha Dow Schüll On How Casinos & Slot Machines Are Designed to Facilitate Gambling Addiction


When it comes to gambling, there's a perception people get addicted because there's always that glimmer of hope they can hit the big jackpot. But according to our podcast guest, Natasha Dow Schüll, many gamblers, and more specifically many slot machine gamblers, get addicted because they're in the "zone" - the feeling players describe when they're completely absorbed in a game. They don't really care about winning; rather they want to escape the world and become subsumed in their game.
Natasha, who appeared on Adam Ruins Vacations, says casinos also facilitate this addiction by designing the most optimal gambling experience which keeps gamblers playing...and playing...and playing. This ranges from the perambulant layout of the casinos themselves to the ergonomic design of the slot machine chairs, to the games' false wins that create an illusion of winning. Casinos are now even taking advantage of big data systems which track users' gambling preferences to incentivize players to stay in their chairs as long as possible. Like most other serious addictions, gambling addiction has dangerous ramifications; it can lead to divorce, bankruptcy, jail time and even suicide, so it's important that these casinos are monitored in some fashion.
Natasha is a cultural anthropologist and associate professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. She is also the author of Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas.

Adam is on Twitter @AdamConover and you can find past episodes and bonus content from the TruTV show at
Produced by Shara Morris for

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