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Exploring machine player behaviour

A qualitative exploration

Published: December 2013


We explored how players interacted with a range of machine features during ‘real time’ play at a high street amusement arcade and a bingo hall.

Download the full report and the methods review.


We identified a number of factors that can either restrain a person to set limits on their play or encourage people to gamble more than they intended.

Factors included the level of stakes and prizes or the lights and sounds of the machine. Different people engaged with these features in different ways. 

We identified three types of  machine players:

More controlled 

These players had very specific pre-play intentions and maintained these intentions as play progressed and ended. 

They used a range of strategies to support this, from choosing particular types of machines to only coming to the venue with the money they were willing to spend.

Less controlled 

These players also had specific pre-play intentions but did not maintain these as play progressed and typically spent more money and/or time than planned.

They appeared to be more influenced by the characteristics of the machine they were playing.

This group should be a particular focus for interventions, either by offering technological aids to help them restrain their play or by providing further advice and support.

Not controlled 

These players had no pre-play intentions and their session of play seemed to be guided more by their interaction with the machine.

This group typically chose more complex machines with a greater range of features to play and did not appear to have any personal strategies in place to help them limit their play. 


We carried out observations of machine play sessions using a video recorder, which was then used as a prompt in depth interviews.

A methodological review about the strengths and weaknesses of using video-recording in qualitative research can be found below, along with the full report.

Full report

Methods review