A slot is a container for dynamic items that are filled in a page with content dictated by either an action or a renderer. The word is derived from the fact that electromechanical slot machines had “tilt switches” that would make or break a circuit, depending on whether a machine was tilted in or out of alignment with its frame, triggering an alarm. Modern slot machines no longer use such switches, but any kind of mechanical fault or technical problem is still called a “tilt.”

Slot machines became popular at saloons and other gambling establishments after World War II, as governments were drawn to the prospect of tax revenue. They are the dominant form of gambling in casinos today, although video poker machines have gained in popularity as a result of technological advancements.

Schull’s research indicated that most people play slots to zone out and escape thought, rather than for a chance at winning big money. In other words, she says, they are “numbingly boring.”

Casino managers are under tremendous pressure to maximize their all-important slot revenue, but they do not want to kill the golden goose by raising the price of their product too much. They fear that players will become aware of hidden price increases and simply choose another gaming venue. That is why they resist increasing house advantages for their slot products. They also want to avoid the stigma attached to slots as being high-priced. To keep their customers, casinos are experimenting with new technology to enhance the visual appeal of their slots. They have even adopted a pop culture persona to attract younger gamblers.