By Cyndi Fifield, Lindy Lamielle, Karolina Murchova, and Michael Barbera Ph.D.
Imagine you’re entering a casino and your senses are dazzled by the lively atmosphere that is complete with lights, sounds, drinks, and food, which keeps players entertained and comfortable, feeding the thrill and hope that you could be the next big winner. Happily, players move around the casino floor oblivious to the fact that these gambling establishments are employing casino psychology tactics to keep people playing and spending more.
Casino design has a long history of controversy when it comes to creating the most effective spaces to entrap guests and keep them spending. If you’ve ever been to a casino where there are slot machines near the entrance to the hotel, gambling equipment featured as the main decor, winding and often confusing pathways through the space, and low ceilings, then you’ve observed applied psychology in action. The following are 12 tactics are used by casinos to manipulate gamblers into playing for as long as possible and to contribute to the phrase, “the house always wins.”
#1 NO CLOCKS AND NO WINDOWS
Good luck finding the time if you don’t wear a watch to the casino or forgot your phone at home. Time has little meaning in a casino. Most often, you won’t find a clock insight and it isn’t likely you’ll find windows or skylights to help you determine if it’s light or dark outside. Casinos are purposely designed to look the same, regardless of the hour. Whether it is 3 am or 3 pm, the atmosphere is unchanging. When you’re in the casino, your internal sense of time shuts off. Players who don’t know the time are less likely to quit playing.
#2 CRAZY CARPETS
Most customers of casinos will agree that gambling establishments have the gaudiest carpets. These brightly colored carpets with wild swirling patterns and psychedelic designs are intentional. They are, in fact, another one of the casino’s psychological attempts to keep players alert and happy, encouraging them to play more. A garish carpet isn’t likely to lull your eyes to sleep; however, they are likely to stimulate the mind and keep people awake and alert.
#3 BRIGHT LIGHTS AND PLEASING SOUNDS
Casinos are a symphony of continuous sound, lights, and color. Flashing slot machine lights and happy, upbeat noises captivate players and boost their moods, making them feel excited and hopeful they could win. The majority of the machines are alive with sound and lights, drawing people in and encouraging players to continue placing their bets. In addition to sound effects and other noise, must casinos play a soundtrack of music that is pleasing to the ear. In some cases, the music may be soft, repetitive, and easy listening, for the purpose of putting gamblers in a trance-like state. While sometimes, music may be upbeat and stimulating. Additionally, different genres of music are likely to have different effects on consumer decision-making based on industry and geographic location.
#4 THE CASINO FLOOR IS BUILT LIKE A LABYRINTH
You’ve had a good time and you’re ready to leave the casino. That’s when you realize you’re not sure how to exit the casino. You start making your way through the maze of tantalizing slot machines and game tables, only to find yourself encountering more of these tempting traps at every turn as you search for the exit. The confusion you experience as you attempt to navigate the labyrinth-like design is normal, and it is one of the many behavioral tactics employed by casinos to keep players gambling. Casinos are virtually void of landmarks, making it easy for players to get lost. In addition to alluring games, the labyrinth could make it difficult to leave. If you’re a fan of furniture retailer IKEA, you might find the IKEA shopping experience to be similar to a casino.
#5 SERVICES ARE STRATEGICALLY LOCATED WITHIN A CASINO
Hungry? Need to use the bathroom? Want to cash out your chips or ticket? You got it; however, be prepared to encounter tempting casino game action along the way. Restrooms, restaurants, and the cashier tend to be situated deep inside the building. You’re unlikely to have difficulty locating these amenities, yet they’re purposely located deep within the casino. The most common behavior identified following the use of these amenities is the departure of the establishment. When you’re finished with the restrooms, restaurants, or cashier, you’ll be subjected to the sea of eye-catching gambling entertainment during your long walk to the exit. This tactic is the casino’s last-ditch effort to convert the customer who is willing to make that final impulse bet.
#6 PLAY WITH DIGITAL CREDITS, NOT WITH CASH
Although the gambling adventure may begin with cash, after the player feeds their money into a slot or video poker machine, the cash becomes digital credits. It’s easy to forget how much money is being gambled without inserting tangible, paper cash into the machine each time a bet is placed. A ticket is printed with the remaining balance once the player cashes out from the machine; therefore, it’s easy to feed that ticket into another machine and keep playing since the player is not holding tangible, paper money in their hand. A visit to the cashier is the method of receiving winnings. Casinos make it easy for you to play, yet not easy for you to walk away.
#7 NEAR WINS KEEP YOU SPINNING FOR THE JACKPOT
Casinos could lose the interest of their customers if a machine or table did not pay out the occasional small win to players. Casinos manipulate players into believing they have a chance at winning by designing the machines to tease players with near wins and appease them with small payouts. Players are likely to continue feeding their money into the casino because they believe a big win is close. For example, a player may need three cherries to win the jackpot, perpetually spinning two cherries isn’t getting the player any closer to the win, yet the casino is attempting to convince otherwise.
#8 A SENSE OF CONTROL
Some casino games are designed to provide players with a feeling of control. For example, Craps lets you roll the dice, Keno lets you pick the numbers, while Blackjack and other card games let you decide what move you’ll make after the cards are dealt. This illusion of control could provide some gamblers with an illusion of having a higher possibility of winning, which could result in them playing for longer periods of time.
#9 EVERYONE SEES THE BIG WIN
If a player visits casinos often, eventually, they’ll encounter another player hitting the jackpot. You’ll likely know when it happens. All the bells and whistles go off, lights flash, and the staff shows up to administer the win. Drawing this kind of attention catches the interest of other players and is among the cleverest psychological tactics of casinos. The most persuasive thing a brand could do is show that other people are doing it, too; therefore, “If they can win, maybe I can, too.”
#10 COMPLIMENTARY ALCOHOL
Complimentary drinks are slightly more salient than other freebies or comps from the casino for two significant reasons. First, alcohol affects the cognitive decision and reaction process. A player who avoids getting drunk can still make poor decisions under the influence of alcohol. Second, players who are buzzed or drunk are far more likely to be liberal with their money. Alcohol is extremely likely to corrupt the way a gambler thinks, which is often a detriment to them yet a benefit to the casino. Complimentary booze is arguably one of the most persuasive tactics used by casinos to encourage gamblers to spend.
#11 FREE PERKS FOR LOYAL PLAYERS AND HIGH ROLLERS
Just like free drinks, casinos are also known to give away other freebies to loyal players, especially to high rollers (the big spenders), their most important players. Some of the free perks offered to players may include free hotel rooms, luxurious suites, food, tickets to shows, and other prizes. All of these comps that the casino gives out “free” to players, make players (both low and high rollers) feel important. They feel they have gained something even when they’ve lost, which makes it more likely they’ll return. Whatever the casinos offer in perks, they likely receive a return on investment from the player’s increased willingness to return.
One of the more bizarre tactics casinos employ is increased levels of oxygen in their establishments to help keep players awake. Pumping in this extra oxygen from pressurized tanks, help gamblers to feel refreshed and alert, which enables them to gamble for longer, without getting tired. Additionally, a few select casinos release pheromones, which would promote feelings of comfort and euphoria, making the environment all the more appealing and addictive.
Remember these casino psychology tactics in mind the next time you visit the casino and use this knowledge to your advantage. You’ll have a far more gratifying experience and a lot more fun when you remember that, no matter how much a casino might attempt to entrap you, ultimately, you are the one in control of your actions.