This is rapid, fast, continuous spending where people lose track of time and space, and their ability to make decisions shifts over the course of the encounter.” Instead, Schull asks, “Given the nature of this product and this interface, shouldn’t policymakers, state legislatures, be learning a little bit more about how this product affects people?

” She adds: “I think my work is part of an emerging conversation.” Great work !

Odds are that you imagine gamblers as people simply trying to get lucky and win a big payoff.

But when Natasha Schull, an associate professor in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS), began researching the lives of gamblers in Las Vegas, she found a very different motivation at work.

Just provide the addict with an up-to-date video slot machine that costs nothing to play.

There could be treatment centers where these are made available, and a psychologist may be able to program them in a way which gradually weans the person off the addiction.

As one gambling addict told Schull: “I could say that for me the machine is a lover, a friend, a date, but really it’s none of those things; it’s a vacuum cleaner that sucks the life out of me, and sucks me out of life.” Schull thinks this point — that for machine gamblers, it’s not about the money, but the escape into the “zone,” as Mollie and other gamblers call it — has eluded politicians who wrangle over casino openings and expansions throughout the United States, where more than 30 states currently have some form of legalized machine gambling.

“It’s a real stumbling block for policymakers to understand that,” Schull says.Casinos often pay lip service to the concept that compulsive gamblers should be helped; if they are really serious, they could even set up a private room somewhere with these no-pay machines where they could escort people identified as problem gamblers.Finally a researcher who takes the time to really get to know the victims of the highly addictive and destructive EGMs.By the late 1990s, she had moved to Las Vegas to conduct research on compulsive gamblers, talking to a vast number of addicts and industry executives, and even working in a gambling-addiction treatment program.The phenomenon Schull wound up studying is both one that most of us can relate to — we’ve all tuned out the world while online, or playing games — and one that gets carried to extremes in gambling addicts.In some countries, legislators have suggested slowing down the pace of electronic slot machines to stretch out payoffs and water down the intensity of the experience — a technological fix Schull calls “wrongheaded” because it may simply encourage gamblers to play for longer periods using an equal amount of money.