Finding Something to Trust in a Distrustful WorldBy Ken Adams, CDC Gaming ReportsJanuary 12, 2018 at 4:24 pmThe times we are living in are times of distrust. We do not trust the news, but we do believe in false news and we suspect all media of fostering it upon us. Conspiracy theories abound and many people are willing to accept the idea that there is a conspiracy behind every event. It is a toxic atmosphere and one that is particularly challenging for the casino industry. It is extremely difficult for casinos to establish a positive reputations and images under these circumstances. Most casinos are good citizens, they contribute to good causes and stand ready to make their facilities available during disasters. In the freezing weather in the Dakotas, the fires in California or during floods and hurricanes casinos have offered shelter and help. In October, Twin Pine Casino in Middletown, California was an evacuation center for the third time in two years. Graton Casino opened its hotel to refugees from the fires in Northern California and donated $1 million to assist fire victims. And yet, the belief that casinos are greedy, corrupt and deceitful persists.Recently I saw a column written by an industry expert that caused me to think about the issue once again. The writer was answering a question from a casino customer. The customer wanted to know if casinos use shills to fool customers into thinking they can win. In the question, the customer said while walking through a casino, two casino players loaded down with buckets of dollars recommended a slot machine. They said it was paying out generously, but they had to leave and could no longer take advantage of the opportunity. The questioner played the machine and lost and then wrote to ask the expert if he had been tricked.All-in-all, the columnist attempted to be fair and objective. He discussed the historical use of shills. In regards to this specific incident, he said he could not say the winning players were shills, but he could not discount the possibility entirely. The incident itself is from the 1990s; bucket loads of dollar tokens are as rare in a 21st century casino as green eye shades, three reel slot machines and cheap buffets. I think shills are also one of those no longer existing species, even in places where it is still legal to use them. Shills originally were used to get a poker or blackjack game started, once there were enough players in the game the shill moved on to another less popular table. Where it is legal, the practice may still be in use in poker rooms, but I don’t believe it is ever employed with slot machines. I would as easily believe that Walmart, Safeway, Trader Joe’s or Kroger used shills. Have you ever wondered if one of the shoppers with baskets overflowing were being paid by the store to encourage you to buy more food? I think not. So why is it so easy to imagine that casinos would use false winners to entice others to play?There is a simple reason, the math. People probably mistrust casinos because in the long run, the casino wins. It is simply the mathematics of the games. However, in the current atmosphere of distrust, it is even worse. Today it is common to distrust professionals, the media, big business and politicians. Even without false shoppers grocery stories are not trusted. Many customers believe specials are used to trick the shoppers and prices are inherently unfair. Common wisdom says there is trickery or a conspiracy in everything, even natural major catastrophes. In that world view, there is a conspiracy behind every event from a mass shooting in Las Vegas to hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. It those things can be the result of a deception perpetrated by hidden actors, why not jackpots or lottery tickets?That perception is significant to the casino industry. Casinos can only exist in an atmosphere of trust. The players have to believe the games are honest and fairly dealt. Casinos depend on people trusting them and coming back over and over to play the games. Without that basic belief casinos could not exist. Casinos and slot manufacturers know that. They know that players have to believe they have the possibility of winning. Slot machines are designed to pay back much more than they keep. In Nevada the win is generally less than five percent of the total wagered. That is the way casinos and slot machine use shills, they send out winners, real winners.