Maria Verardi threw her hands onto her forehead and let out a cry of joy that caught the attention of a few gamblers playing nearby on the Wheel of Fortune slot machine game at the Showboat Casino Hotel.
By the time the ringing stopped, the 53-year-old Staten Island, N.Y., woman had amassed hundreds of free spins during her time playing the machine last Tuesday. Verardi stood from her seat, dipped her knees and threw a punch in the air like a professional athlete celebrating a win.
“She loves this place,” said Verardi’s daughter, Cristina, 25, who was watching nearby. “If she could come here every week, she would.”
Turns out Verardi, who proceeded to thank nearby gamblers for her luck, has many of the qualities of a typical slot-machine player, according to a newly published national study.
The study in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management found that the typical player is likely to be a woman most motivated either by the excitement that comes with winning a prize, or the opportunity to kill time, reduce boredom and get out of the house.
The most common profile for a slot-machine player is a married woman between 55 and 60 years old with some college education and an annual household income of more than $55,000, according to the study.
Verardi, who returned to playing the bonus games she had received, loves the excitement of the slots, her daughter said.
“She loves the hype of it,” Cristina Verardi said.
Basing its conclusions on surveys of about 1,000 subscribers to Strictly Slots magazine, the study is among the first to look specifically at what motivates people to play slot machines, say researchers, including co-author Sandy Chen, an assistant professor at Oregon State University’s College of Business.
Because the casino industry depends on slot machines, making more money on them than table games, knowing the motivation behind why people play them is important, researchers say. In Atlantic City, slot machines made up 71 percent of total wins in October. In Pennsylvania, it’s 81 percent, according to the latest regulatory filings.
More than 40 percent of those who responded to the survey said they play the traditional reel slot machines, while nearly 60 percent said they most often play video slots, which simulate the spinning of the reel. Most of those surveyed said they spend at least an hour and at most six hours playing their favorite game.
While the study was based on surveys conducted six years ago, researchers said the responses are still valid. Although technology has evolved, the types of games — video and reel slots, blackjack and video poker — have remained largely unchanged.
Four groups of slot machine gamblers were identified in the study. The first is a “utilitarian gambler” who is looking for something to do with his or her time. A second is the “excitement gambler” looking for a buzz — typically from machines that pay off frequently even if the payouts are small.
A third is the “multipurpose gambler” who tends to be younger, with less income and motivated to have fun and win money. The fourth is the “relaxation gambler,” who tends to be the most educated and well-to-do player looking to socialize, have fun and relieve stress.
Men and women were motivated to play for different reasons, according to the study. Women tended to be utilitarian and excitement gamblers, while men tended to be multipurpose and relaxation gamblers.
Antoinette Smith, 42, a resident of Clayton, Gloucester County, who works in Atlantic City, was at Tropicana Casino and Resort playing for a few minutes in between her break from work last Tuesday afternoon.
Smith, who seemed to be part utilitarian and part excitement gambler, said she gets a feeling of adrenaline when playing slots, particularly “Big Ben,” which offers a jackpot, or “Mr. Cashman,” which offers a mystery bonus payout.
“I like how the bonus comes up randomly,” she said of the mystery bonus.
Keefe Gallagher and Samantha Holt, both 21, of Margate, seemed to fall into the category of multipurpose gamblers. Once they turned the legal age to gamble, both signed up for player’s cards, choosing casinos that offered them vouchers for free play with the intent of winning.
Last Tuesday, they were at Tropicana, where after losing money on the “Wizard of Oz” game, Holt won $9 on the “Super Jackpot Party” game.
Anthony Pine, 79, of Barnegat Township, fell more into the utilitarian gambler category, using the casinos as a way to get out of the house once a week for entertainment.
“You can earn free meals. You get comps,” he said. “It ends up being a little more than going to the movies.”
Contact Hoa Nguyen: