Online slot machine games and the behavioral implications

Monday, February 1, 2021

RESEARCH PAPER: Behavioral implications of using an online slot machine game to motivate employees: A cautionary tale


Alan Webb

Khim Kelly, University of Central Florida, Florida 

Deltcho Valtchanov, Games Institute, University of Waterloo

Alan Webb, SAF, University of Waterloo (pictured)


Our study examines whether implementing a novel approach for incentivizing employees to engage in behavior desired by the company is associated with changes in employee behavior. We use proprietary data from a company using an online learning platform where employees could voluntarily participate in daily training. Employees who complete daily training modules and correctly answer quiz questions earn points that can be used to bid on gift cards through an online auction site. The company subsequently activated an option of allowing employees to also use their points to play an online slot machine with the possibility of winning the same gift cards available through the online auction site. Using psychology theory we predict that the arousal and excitement experienced from playing an online slot machine will lead to a positive association between the extent to which employees play the slot machine and the increase in: (1) the number of daily training modules they complete; and (2) the effort they exert to perform well on the related quizzes after the slot machine was introduced. Although the results support both of our predictions, we also find a significant decrease in the number of daily training modules completed by employees who chose not to play the slot machine as well as declines in both interest in playing the slot machine and training activity over time for employees who played. Overall, the effectiveness of implementing an online slot machine game on improving employee behavior seems short-term and limited to a sub-set employees who play, and may even generate negative effects for other employees who do not play. We identify implications for theory and practice.

Read the full research paper online.