Popular music has seen plenty of gambling-themed songs make it to the top of the charts. “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga smashed Billboard when it debuted several years ago, Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” pays heavy metal homage to the most notorious of playing cards, and Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” is an instant classic that gives the listener some valid advice for success at the card table. These songs may seem like no-brainers for casino ambience, but the truth is that most casinos prefer a lower-key musical accompaniment if they even bother with music at all.
Why is that?
The themes playing from the well-hidden speakers of your favorite casino are not designed to get you onto the dance floor; they’re chosen for a very specific psychological purpose. Namely, to get you relaxed enough to part with your money. The ambience of the average casino is highly agitating. Constant bells, sirens, lights, and yelling can make even the wildest, drunkest customer feel uncomfortable. It’s one thing to create a crazy environment for 6-year-olds in a Chuck E. Cheese, but it’s quite another to create that environment for adults. To offset the insanity, casinos like to pump soft, calming music through the speakers.
To this end, most casinos use Muzak, a soft, instrumental genre of music often heard in elevators and grocery stores. In some cases, the Muzak will feature songs from the current Top 40 while in others the songs will be of a more generic variety. The point isn’t the music itself, of course, but the feeling it imparts to the listener. It’s not that soft, imperceptible music is going to make you spend more money, but the relaxation effect may encourage you to stick around a while longer. This is a big win for any casino, seeing as how their house edge shifts things further and further into their favor the longer you play.
Of course, fast-tempo, intrusive music does have its part to play. A recent study involving 56 volunteers demonstrated that red lights and fast music made people bet at a more rapid pace than slower music and softer lighting. If you’re trying to recreate the gambling atmosphere while playing Casino Las Vegas at home, therefore, you may want to stick to the Muzak. Not only will you be more relaxed, you’ll be less tempted to force-feed bets into the Roulette wheel before you’ve had a chance to think about it.
From the gambler’s perspective, neither fast-tempo hits nor soft Muzak is the sound of choice. In fact, the one thing that most gamblers really want to hear is a cacophony of celebratory sounds that reinforce the positive feedback loop. These sounds – think of the triumphant bells and sirens of a slot machine that just hit jackpot – contribute to the addictive nature of these games, bringing players back for more. Even on a conscious level, though, most players would grow bored with a slot machine that was silent when paying out. As gamers, we want that sensory experience that tells us we’re winning. Whether we get that experience while listening to Kenny Rogers, Katy Perry, or Yanni makes little difference.