A slit or narrow opening, esp. one for receiving something, as a coin or a letter. Also called slot, aperture, slit, vacancy, hole, pierce, and opening. The term is also used for a position in an organization or in a game, such as a time slot on the track or trail of a deer. (From the American Heritage(r) Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.)
In the world of casino gambling, slots are uniquely engineered to appeal to gamblers by combining engineering acumen, mathematical know-how and psychological deceit in a machine that looks like a simple toy while being a complex beast. To do so requires the sleight of hand of an illusionist, and casinos are especially careful to guard against raising prices too quickly because they know that players can detect concealed price increases just by playing a slot.
The first criterion is to make the game fun. Slots fulfill this requirement by giving out small amounts of money at frequent intervals. This frequency of payouts, known as “taste,” keeps players seated and betting. In addition, the machines rely on basic psychological principles uncovered by B.F. Skinner’s famous experiment with pigeons: When the pigeons pressed a lever and received a pellet of food, they continued pressing it until it stopped, even though they weren’t likely to get the next pellet.
Another criterion is to create excitement and tension. Slots achieve this by using a combination of mathematics, psychology and computer technology. They feature random number generators to produce combinations of numbers that correspond to symbols on spinning reels, and they are programmed to pay out certain percentages of the total amount bet. They are also equipped with sensors that monitor the position of a machine’s door switch, reel motor and other components to ensure they function properly.