Las Vegas Rehab Center Uses Video Poker Machines for Motor Skills Therapy

A Las Vegas rehab center is using 2 video poker machines to help stroke patients and those with other maladies regain their muscle motor skills. The patients using the video poker machines include those with Parkinson’s Disease, amputees, and any other medical issue which affects motor ability.

The HealthSouth Rehab hospital decided to get creative with its rehab program. Surrounded by the tens of thousands of gaming machines in Sin City, the therapists at HealthSouth Rehab decided to see if video poker would help stimulate the patients.

Gambling Stimulates the Prefrontal Cortex

Sarah Tempest, a speech pathologist at HealthSouth, told a Fox News reporter, “What we know about gambling is that it stimulates the prefrontal cortex and that’s an area of the brain that can be damaged in a traumatic brain injury.”

Tempest says that playing video poker stimulates the prefrontal cortex of the patient’s brain. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain which involves problem-solving, attention span, impulse control, and working memory.

15-Minute Therapy Sessions

Patients play on the machines for about 15 minutes at a time. Those with cognitive impairments receive help with their movement and their physical endurance. Of course, the patients do not use real money.

The rehab center chose video poker machines over slot machines for obvious reasons. Slots are games of chance, with no strategy component to them. The player hits a button to spin the reels. In video poker, the player must make decisions similar to a game of 5-card draw. This stimulates the brain, while requiring a few more movements to play the hand.

Gaming Machines a Part of Vegas Lifestyle

Because of the location of the HealthSotuh Rehab center, many of the patients are former gamblers themselves. The ability to play on gaming machines restores a sense of normalcy, because electronic gaming machines are a part of the landscape in Las Vegas.

Tempest said, “It’s very familiar and very often automatic, it’s a source of entertainment and socialization for these patients that they enjoy.

How HealthSouth Rehab Got the Idea

Sandy McGinnis, an occupational therapist at the facility, said that the idea to use EGMs for therapy was a homegrown idea.

McGinnis said, “One of our coworkers here, her husband works on slot machines for a living, and she had talked to the director of therapy and asked if they wanted to incorporate them and we said ‘Yes’.

FoxNews Doctor Suggested Caution

Not everyone is a fan of the therapy. Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and Fox News contributor, suggested caution from the therapists at the facility.

Dr. Ablow said, “It’s very important for the clinicians to tell the patients if they’re going to pursue this path, keep in mind you might have impulse control problems.”

Given the nature of the patients’ conditions, becoming gambling addicts is not likely to be a concern. Since the players are not using real money to play, the therapy is no more dangerous than playing any of a number of smartphone games.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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