Does Music Affect Gambling?

I remember in college learning about the Therac-25 incident. Therac-25 was a computer-controlled radiation therapy machine that was produced in 1982. Six patients died between 1985 and 1987 due to being exposed to lethal doses of radiation.

Every time a patient would die, the company would recall the machine, check all of the hardware components, finding nothing wrong with the machine, and put the machine back into production. The theory at that time was that hardware breaks. The software doesn’t. So if there were any problems, it must be with the hardware.

Actually, the problem had to do with when the user used the up arrow key to change the radiation level from a data entry field that had already been processed, even though the screen showed the new proper radiation level, inside of the program, the software was still reading the lethal levels of radiation. It was due to this software bug that six people died.

This created a whole field in software development called ergonomics. How does a person interact with software? We are all unique people. In fact, there are 7 distinct areas of intelligence: linguistics, logic, kinaesthetic, spatial, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. But depending on what your strengths and weaknesses are in different areas of intelligence will affect how you interact with software.

So how does all of this relate to music and online gambling software and free spins on a jackpot machine?

Psychology of gambling and music

Studies have shown that different types of music can have different types of effects on listeners. Two effects music can have may be to heighten psychological arousal or to relax. This may have an effect on behavior in commercial situations such as shopping or gambling.

A number of authors argue that the sound effects (including music) can be gambling inducers. Constant noise and sound in a gambling environment (such as the sound of money falling into payout trays) gives the impression of a noisy, fun, and exciting environment, and that winning is more common than losing (as you cannot hear the sound of losing). But these are general background sounds, not sounds specifically related to music.

The following are the results of an observational study that was intended to observe, not to prove or disprove a hypothesis.

Arcades and gambling houses usually have background music that appeals to their demographic customer. In this observational study, one set of slot machines is tagged as low tech slot machines, the traditional reel machines. The second set of slot machines is tagged as high tech, which online slot machines could be classified as.

As would be expected, the high tech machines tended to attract males between the ages of 18 to 30 years. In these areas, dance and rock music is often played. The reel order (lo-tech) machines, in contrast, attract a different group of gamblers, primarily women over the age of 45. These areas of the arcades tend to play the music that is pop-based radio music or music that was first released in the 1980s.

Arcades that attract kids below the age of 18 (video games, not gambling games) play pop music or they have a jukebox to cater to these tastes and to earn additional income for the arcade.

The second arcade had two levels. The first level housed both high tech and low tech slot machines, and the second level housed video games. Three different genres of music were used by management:

  • Easy listening music (local radio station, country music) was played in the first level in the morning to cater to the majority of older players, many of whom were female.

  • Rock and dance music was played at the first level in the afternoon and evening to cater to the younger males usually playing the high-tech fruit machines.

  • Pop and dance music was played at the second level to cater to older teenagers playing video games.

In this particular arcade, playing the music that customers requested was encouraged. According to management, “playing requests kept the customers happy. When they are happy, they are spending money.”

Music used in slot machine gambling

Music used in slot machines is associated with:

  1. Quality of the machine – quality machines have quality sound.

  2. Familiarity – why does a person pick one machine over a different machine when two are essentially the same?

  3. Distinctiveness – similar to advertising slogans. The sound sticks in your brain.

  4. Sound of winning – the winning sound, special music that is played for the winner, provides feedback to the winner and those around them that somebody has won. This positive reinforcement leads to increased play. Successful slot machines will minimize music that signals losses.

Absence of music in gambling environments

There are some environments where it is considered inappropriate to play music. This has the following effects on the customer:

  • Limits arousal

  • Increases focus on the gambler. No music heightens the loss feeling.

  • Lowers the gambler’s concentration levels


Based on the observations in this study, slot machines can be more appealing depending on the music in the background or from the machine itself. Therefore, it can be speculated that gambling may also increase in these areas where music is a critical factor.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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