Skill With Prizes

Quiz machines are known in the »trade as SWTS, which stands for 'Skill with Prizes'. Fruit machines are known as AVVPS, 'Amusement with Prizes'. Under the current gaming laws, you are allowed to win a maximum of £6 in tokens (£4.80 cash) on an AWP. On an SWP, you can win up to £20 in cash, hence their attraction for professional players.

1 have looked into the grey area of 'winning systems' for fruit machines. As far as I can tell, the only advantage to be had is knowing when a machine has recently paid out and satisfied its legal requirements. You can do this by checking the jackpot and bank displays. The recent celebrated case of two teenagers making their fortune on fruit machines owed more to an electronic, highly illegal device for notching up credits without putting in any money. These days, all fruit machines use sophisticated random-number generators that are impossible to predict.

The first quiz machine to appear in Britain was Quizmaster in 1985, closely followed by Give Us A Break in October 1986, and Barquest and Ten Quid Grid in 1987. For a while, they became a national obsession. A whole wave of new machines started to appear, many of them based on tv and radio quiz shows. A Question of Sport, Every Second Counts, Strike it Lucky, and Treble Top all became market leaders.

Most of them were paying out a top prize of £10. Each machine contained about 1,000 multiple-choice questions; there were three or four answers to choose from, and if you got it wrong, the correct answer was usually given.

The manufacturers were alarmed to discover that syvps generated considerably less revenue than awps. On some sites, they were even losing money, particularly when the prize money went up to £20. It became apparent that they were being targeted by professional players - people who had learnt all the answers.

New editions were hastily brought out, each one containing around 1,000 questions. (At the last count, there were thirty-three editions of Give Us a Brea/d) The professionals learnt them as fast as they appeared. (It was a boom time for the firms that thought up the questions.)

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