The history of casino design and architecture is a fascinating one. Not because of the golden lions and Roman facades that dominate the Vegas strip, but because of the intense level of psychology that goes into their construction. Casinos use this psychology to not only lure players in, but also to keep them there once they’ve walked in the door. Here’s a look at some of their most intriguing tricks.
The Windowless Walls
Quick, name any other commercial business that has as few windows as a casino. Not even a movie theater can compete. Casino architecture is typically designed with as few windows as possible, creating a cave-like environment where night and day cannot be distinguished. It’s a simple and effective tactic designed to keep players from realizing how late it’s getting. Combine that with a conspicuous absence of clocks, and you take away all measures of time. Might as well keep putting money in the slots!
How many times have you been in line at the grocery store, waiting to get checked out, when you suddenly find yourself adding a Snickers bar to your purchases? Grocery stores put these “impulse” items there for a reason, and casinos use a similar form of psychology to attract your money. Rather than making snacks and bathrooms easily accessible, they put them in the least likely locations, forcing customers to walk past dozens of attractive games to get there. It’s like the midway at your local fair, except the games are usually much more fun.
It can take multiple trips to a single casino to learn your way around the place. So confusing is the average casino’s layout that there are probably people from the 90s still absently wandering their halls today. This is, of course, fully intentional. The more twists and turns they introduce into the design, the more distracted the players will get. Oh, who knew the roulette wheel was way over here? Well, I was going to leave, but…
A Change Is In the Air
Traditional casino psychology has proven tremendously effective, but newer architects are battling back against the old norms and assumptions. Many casinos developed in the last decade have eschewed, for instance, the suggestion that windows are bad for business. Instead of aiming for a frenetic, enclosed experience, these designers are trying to make their casinos feel more like a luxury resort.
The new wave of casino architecture embraces natural lighting, colors like soft greens and whites, and high ceilings that make guests feel more at ease. Why has there been this sudden shift in psychology? Some experts insist that it’s because women make up a much larger portion of the gambling demographic than they did forty years ago. And the high-octane, gaming-cave atmosphere casinos have always embraced was turning women off. The new casinos – exemplified by Steve Wynn’s Bellagio – have proven to be a roaring success, recasting much of what we believe about gambling psychology.
As online gambling sites proliferate, keeping players home, casinos will have to adapt to the changing times. In doing so, they’ll doubtlessly use as many psychological tricks as they can muster to improve the brick-and-mortar gambling experience. What will the casino of the future look like? There’s no telling, but a great deal of research will go into figuring it out. That, you can bet on.