By Buddy Blouin
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, there are over 3,000 slot machines operated on American military bases overseas. Many of these machines are located in more remote military installations where entertainment may otherwise be hard to come by. This idea of having a place to kick back and enjoy some downtime may seem like a great idea to boost morale. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has specific MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) groups within each military branch that operate the slot machine games aimed at such. But with easy access to gaming, and gaming addiction being a serious problem in the American Armed Forces, the prospect of such game rooms raises serious questions on the morality of it all.

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Who Owns the Slot Machine on Military Bases?

The DoD owns the slot machines found throughout military bases overseas, and they rake in a whopping $100 million per year in doing so. In many cases, military members as young as 18 years of age can partake, rather than the minimum age of 21 found here in the United States. A large majority of the slot machines are operated by the U.S. Army.

An Odd Gaming History

This is far from the first time that slot machine ethics has come into question. With a combination of changing views, Congress’s renewed interest in the subject, differing opinions, and a lack of research on the effects of gaming on military bases, it’s easy to see how there've been different approaches throughout the years. In the 1950s, Congress banned slot machines from military bases on domestic soil. A couple of decades later, both the Army and Air Force would remove slots from foreign bases; however, they returned once again in the 1980s. There's an idea that having slot machines on the U.S. military bases will help troops spend less and avoid potential trouble that may otherwise come about when traveling off base. Some also argue that without the revenue brought in by slot machines, MWR groups would lack the funding necessary for many popular military amenities, including other recreational, communal, and entertainment options. Congress once again got involved in 2018 with the belief that those serving with gambling problems could pose a threat to national security, but the legislation was never passed. The efforts would fall by the wayside, but there are still many who believe more can, and should, be done. This includes the relinquishment of the machines to be operated by a health institution or regulatory body for gaming. The goal is to help limit the downsides of gaming, which can be seen in the addiction faced by troops that may lead to financial ruin, derailed careers, and even suicide.

The VA and Gambling Addiction

There have been measures taken by the government to address the issue, such as through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which administers a program in Brecksville, Ohio, for Veterans and active-duty military personnel with problem gambling. There are also annual personal health assessments for active-duty military members with specific questions that work to find gambling addictions in troops. The DoD has stated that "extensive controls (are) in place to minimize potential abuse by limiting hours of operation, limiting access to machines, limiting the number of machines in locations, limiting (the) amount of money played, and limiting the potential winnings." But the debate rages on. The money raised from slot machines by the DoD and its MWR groups may provide funding, but the methods continue to be an important topic. Some military members have reported that while the DoD insists that measures are in place to ensure troops aren’t overplaying, it’s not enough. "I found myself in there 7 days a week,” said Dave Yeager, an Army Veteran who served in South Korea. “The draw of those rooms and how easy it is to get to them is a lot of what led to my addiction developing. There were literally days that I would go in there when the slot room opened on a Saturday morning and leave when it closed. Nobody came up to me and said, 'You've been here too long.' Nobody. Nothing," he continued. Today, Yeager spends his time helping active-duty military members overcome issues with gambling and points to the fact that not much has changed since his time serving. Playing a slot machine can be a great way to blow off some steam, but the military has a responsibility to ensure the wellness of its members. This includes managing mental health issues such as gambling addiction.

How To Win on Slot Machines

Since being invented in 1894, gamers, con artists, and wishful thinkers have been working on ways to win on slot machines. Everything from lucky charms, looking for tells, rituals, using the same machine every time, and outright cheating/tampering have been attempted. But while many players may have their own methods and secrets, we’ve figured out a sure-fire way to win on slot machines. If you’re of legal gaming age and want to win, here’s how to make it happen:

Step 1:

Be the house.

Step 2:

That’s it. Casinos aren’t a charity. They're an entertainment cash cow that brings in billions of dollars each year for a reason: the house always wins. You can’t beat it. You won’t beat it. But there are helpful tips players can remember to ensure that their venture ends responsibly:
  • Go into slots expecting to lose. Everything else is a bonus.
  • It’s important to view slots as entertainment rather than a potential financial windfall. Remember, the house always wins.
  • Create a budget and stick to it.
  • If you find yourself having trouble walking away, it’s important to ask for help. Safe gambling for military and Veterans means having access to trained professionals who can help you manage your gaming.


    is also available for anyone to call.
Again, passing time on a slot machine isn’t worth your mental health or financial security. Talk to your Commanding Officer (CO) or visit Military OneSource to gain access to resources that can help you overcome such issues.

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