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10 Menacing Ways Casinos Keep You Gambling

by M David Scott
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The odds of winning big at a casino are against you, but the casino will do everything in its power to convince you that your jackpot is just around the corner. From free booze, buffets, and hotel stays to flashing lights and loud noises, these establishments have pulled out every trick to convince you to continue gambling.

Casinos keep their guests entertained and comfortable while subtly sending you subliminal messages to stay seated and gamble. The house usually wins thanks to their dirty little tricks. Here are ten menacing ways casinos keep you gambling.

10 Crazy Carpets

Photo credit: Kienco

Ever noticed the psychedelic carpets at a casino? They are usually gaudy and ugly, but they look that way for a reason. Bright colors, trippy designs, and swirling patterns are all strategically used to keep you gambling. Bad carpet is good for gaming, and oddly enough, it encourages people to gamble.

The carpet in a casino can create a sense of vibrancy and energy while keeping the gambler’s attention toward the games. The abstract colors and designs of casinos help keep gamblers trapped in a “prison of sensory impressions.”[1] It’s almost impossible to rest your eyes anywhere in a casino, even if you look at the floor. It may be subtle, but the carpet is encouraging you to spend more money.

9 No Clocks Or Windows

Take a look around a casino, and you’ll quickly realize that there aren’t any windows or clocks in sight. The theory behind this is that gamblers will lose track of time and continue to spend their money. A past general manager of the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana, denies that this is the main reasoning behind having no clocks or windows. “We recognize that everyone has their own time devices,” he said. He continued by stating that natural light would cause a glare on cards and machines.[2]

Casinos don’t want you to know how beautiful it looks outside because then you would feel as if you were missing out on the day. They also don’t want you to know when it is dark because you might feel like you’ve been there too long. Some casinos have even been known to simulate natural light during the night hours to keep gamblers depositing cash into their machines. Time seems to fly by when you’re having fun, especially when you’re having fun in a casino.

8 Free Drinks, Meals, And Rooms

Many casinos take good care of their customers by offering free drinks, meals, and even rooms. The casino tries hard to keep gamblers from leaving when they experience hunger or thirst. Complimentary drinks are offered at many casinos to keep gamblers in their seats, and it may also loosen them up a bit to spend more moola. Vegas casinos have begun to reward gamblers based on how much they spend, though, which limits the free drinks.

Free meals are also ways casinos “reward” players. New players who sign up with the casino may receive a free buffet or meal, or points can be earned that can be cashed in for free meals.[3] Big spenders can even earn free rooms at a casino. Freebies like these are referred to as “comps,” and they are generally earned by high-rollers. If you’re not a big spender, though, many casinos offer travel packages that offer lower rates, free meals, and even free play. Everybody loves freebies!

7 Maze Of Machines

Machines in a casino are strategically placed to attract gamblers. Casino layouts resemble labyrinths to keep players roaming the gaming floor. Visitors to the casino will roam the floor longer searching for a machine, and they will even wander the establishment trying to find an exit, which ultimately keeps them there longer. British psychologist David Canter compares the design of casinos to that of a department store. He doesn’t believe that architects deliberately make casinos tough to navigate, but he said, “I think it’s very much the idea that people get swallowed up into it and feel comfortably part of it.”

In his book, Stripping Las Vegas: A Contextual Review of Casino Resort Architecture, author Bill Friedman talks about how critical the layout of a casino is.[4] He details how the maze concept, consisting of shorter and narrower passages, is preferred over long, straight rows. He believes intimacy is the most important concept design for casinos today, because the smaller area makes visitors feel more at home.

6 Themed Displays

Photo credit: The Wrap

If you have ever been to a casino, you have definitely noticed that most of the slot machines have a themed display. Some of these themes you may find inside the casino include leprechauns, princesses, animals, Sex and the City, Alice in Wonderland, and dragons. The theme, mixed with the sights and sounds of the game, typically draws in people to play.

The themes bring in new gamers, but it’s the actual gameplay that keeps people playing.[5] Gamblers seem to enjoy when the actual gameplay matches the theme. For example, the Sex and the City game has bonus rounds that involve shopping for shoes, dresses, and diamonds. Once again, the theme draws in players to the game, but the actual gameplay is what keeps gamblers coming back for more.

5 Sense Of Control

Unlike slot machines, many table games let the player feel as if they have a sense of control. Playing craps lets the gambler roll the dice, while keno allows you to pick your own numbers. Many of the card games also give gamblers the option to decide their next move once the cards have been drawn.

Casinos want to make you feel like you are in the driver’s seat, giving you an illusion of control.[6] The players feel as if they have a greater chance of winning when in control, and they will continue to gamble, thinking they can beat the system. As long as players feel like they have a real chance of winning big bucks, they will continue to gamble in the future.

4 Player’s Cards

Casinos want you to stay in their establishment instead of switching to another casino down the road, so they give you player’s point cards. These point cards allow players to accumulate points with the casino that can be redeemed for food, drinks, rooms, and other prizes. The cards not only keep players from visiting competing casinos but also make them think they are still winning by racking up points, even if they are losing money on the machines.

The more you play at the casino, the more rewards you will earn through your player’s card.[7] These cards are usually good at any other casino that is owned by the same company, too, giving you more ways to add up the points. Casinos use the cards to keep players from realizing how much money they are losing, instead focusing on the points and free items that they are earning.

3 On-Site ATMs

Once you’ve lost all of the cash that you brought with you to play at the casino, what do you do next? Withdraw money from the ATM, of course! At least, that’s what casinos want to see you do.

Players can withdraw money from any of the several on-site ATMs, and many allow you to get a cash advance from a credit card.[8] Some of the casinos even allow players to withdraw money without leaving their machine. ATMs are easier to find in a casino than a restroom, but be prepared to pay some hefty fees for using them.

2 Lighting And Sound

The casino feels like a never-ending party, and that is partially thanks to the lighting and sound. The continuous flashing lights and nonstop sounds keep gamblers alert and interested in the gameplay. The slot machines in many casinos overwhelm you with blinking lights, animated flashing screens, and the sound of clinking coins blaring.[9]

Flashing colors and sounds of jackpots won continuously fill the room at a casino, and it’s all intended to keep you gambling at the many machines located on the property. Researchers at the University of British Columbia set up a casino of rats to learn more about the impact that sensory cues have on risk-taking behavior. The study showed that lights and music led to the rats taking bigger risks. If you find yourself losing on the slots, just let the sounds and lights remind you that your winning moment is just around the corner!

1 Subliminal Messages

Subliminal messages can be found all throughout casinos to keep you excited about the possibility of winning. You’ll find posters displaying pictures of smiling players with their winnings as well as signs for a high-rollers’ lounge, and the words “jackpot” and “win” are posted hundreds of times in a casino. These casinos are creating a winning atmosphere that you would want to be a part of.

In 2007, a number of machines in a Canadian casino were ordered to be removed after flashing subliminal messages to players.[10] The machines were caught flashing jackpot symbols for a fraction of a second while in use. The symbols were deemed a glitch by the maker, and they created a software update for the machines. The symbols were not able to be consciously perceived with the unaided eye, so they were considered to be a subliminal message to make players feel like they were going to win the jackpot.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater