Casinos have one single goal: to get you to empty out your wallet and wager as much money as possible.
Notice that I didn’t say the objective was to have you lose as much money as possible. Obviously, the house doesn’t want you to clean them out, but the games are all tilted slightly in their favor so the casino will always come out ahead. In fact, they don’t really care whether you win or not.
With this in mind, casino design takes on a heightened importance. In this article, I’ll lay out all the subtle ways casinos design gaming floors in order to encourage more spending.
Ugly Casino Carpets
Just about everything from eye-level up is beautiful at a casino. From the bright, flashing games with their cheerful soundtracks, to opulent chandeliers that hang overhead, it feels as if luxury just comes with the territory. Why, then, are most carpets in casinos notoriously unattractive?
The answer is simply: to keep you from looking down. Yes, the casino takes it that seriously.
Any second that your attention is diverted away from the casino games on the floor is a second that the casino isn’t making any money, now or in the future. When your eyes are up, you’re looking (even if subconsciously) for your next game—meaning the next opportunity for the house to make money.
To be realistic, the design or color on the carpet, no matter how ugly, probably isn’t going to be the difference between a casino staying open or having to shut down. However, it’s even more evidence that there is no detail left unexamined when designing a gaming establishment.
The Location of the Games
If you think the thousands of games spread out over the gaming floor were randomly-placed, you’re missing a major component of effective casino design psychology.
The most profitable games for the house are typically placed in the middle of the floor, because that’s where most patrons tend to spend the majority of their time.
In most casinos, there’s a very real “central gaming area” that can be found if you walk inward long enough. Although you’ll always have those who prefer to stick to the low-limit tables and lower-risk slots that can be found on the edges of the gaming floor, the majority of players are going to spend most of their time in the middle areas—exactly where the house wants unwary gamblers.
Most businesses try to keep the bathrooms either out of sight or as convenient as possible. When it comes to the casino, however, there is much more at play.
The casino designers are truly at an advantage when it comes to this particular component of design and layout. They know with almost near-certainty that everyone is going to have to take at least one trip to the bathroom. That gives them more than enough to work with in order to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the bankrolls of unsuspecting players.
The Lack of Clocks
If you’re an experienced gambler who has spent a good deal of time at land based casinos over the years, this one definitely isn’t going to be news to you. If you’re new to the hobby, though, it might come as a surprise that casinos don’t have clocks…or at least don’t have any that are easily visible for gamblers.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, the goal of the casino isn’t necessarily to get you to lose as much as possible, but rather to simply bet as much as possible. If they’re able to remove any indications of how long you’ve been at that slot machine, you’re likely going to be pulling those levers for a much longer period of time than you originally had planned.
The good news? It’s easy to fight back against this by simply wearing a watch or looking at your cell phone. Personally, when I visit the casino, I set reminders on my device for every 30 minutes as a reminder that time is, in fact, passing even if I don’t notice it consciously.
The Lack of Windows
You know that casino floor with a great view? I don’t either. Again, another secret casino tactic is they try to remove the concept of time from your sense of awareness. And yes, it has proven to be very effective in getting patrons to spend more money.
I would go into more detail on the subject, but like the idea of removing clocks, a lack of windows is a straightforward concept. When you don’t see that midday sun setting as nighttime begins to fall, the only light you’re really concerned about is the one on the slot machine at which you’re staring.
To reiterate once more, wear a watch! It’s helpful.
The Noises the Games Make
If you’ve ever taken a stroll around a casino floor, you’ve undoubtedly heard the pleasant (or maybe not so much) noises emanating from any number of the vast array off video games. If you listen closely enough, you might just even hear, “Winner!” sprinkled in with regularity.
Unfortunately, these noises (or electronic voices) don’t necessarily indicate much success is being found by the people pulling the levers. Games are programmed to say “winner” even when the haul is merely a few cents. Hey, I guess it’s better than losing.
When you sit down in front of a digital gaming machine, it’s important to recognize that the singular goal of the machine (or rather, the designer of the machine) is to keep you in that seat as long as possible.
Following the theme of keeping you playing as long as possible, there’s one more notable tactic that slot machines employ to encourage you to stick around—the “near-miss.”
Our brains have evolved to recognize a near-miss as something that inspires us to try again. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that something is possible, even if it didn’t quite work out that time. Simply put, don’t fall for this trick.
You get the exact same amount of money for a total miss as you do for a near-miss, and coming “close” is not an indication that you’ve almost won. Don’t fall for the trick and you’ll save yourself a lot of money.
The Gaming Labyrinth
Have you ever felt like the casino floor was, in many ways, like a maze that was hard to escape? You guessed it—that’s by design, too!
Don’t get me wrong, you aren’t actually going to get lost and struggle to get out. However, they certainly don’t make it easy to leave.
Part of the allure surrounding casinos revolves around these psychological design tactics that casinos have been using for decades to keep people hooked…even if just for a day.
As long as you’re able to recognize what’s going on, it shouldn’t cause you to lose any more money than you would have otherwise. Your best tools for combating the casino’s tactics are simply a watch, some common sense, and of course, your bankroll.
With that in mind, find your local casino, pull up a chair, and let the chips fall where they may.