The 5 Hacks Casinos Use to Hook Us
Psychology and design tricks observed by a Las Vegas native
As a Las Vegas native, I’ve had my fair share of casinos. But as I was growing up around casinos, I’ve noticed they use specific tactics and tricks to keep people gambling.
After hearing many friends complain about losing money, I decided to research how casinos use psychology and design to keep people gambling.
5. Color Psychology
Casinos use very subtle, psychological tactics to make their guests feel comfortable. The colors of the carpets, walls, and playing tables are chosen carefully. Deep colors of red, purple, and black create a warm, comfortable mood and are used in the casino’s interior design. In traditional casino design, machines are arranged in long rows.
In the rows, the middle machines have the soft, cool colors of blue and green. On the other hand, machines at the ends use bright red colors. Casino consultant David Britton found most players would head first to the bright-colored machines to gamble. And after a while, the players would head to the cool-colored machines.
Graphic engineers also use millions of distinct colors to create a slot machine’s pleasing tones, imagery, and animation to ensure the player is relaxed.
In 1982, psychologists Stark, Saunders, and Wookey conducted a study on how color affected gambling. 28 students gambled under either red or blue light, and the psychologists found gamblers take riskier bets under red lighting. Though more empirical evidence needs to be conducted, this suggests casinos should use red lighting for players.
4. Chips & Tickets
Have you ever wondered why casinos use chips instead of regular cash or coins? For starters, it’s a lot easier to use chips than breaking big bills or looking for change during a game. Using chips also helps prevent counterfeiting as each coin has its own design and combination of security features.
But with dozens of casinos competing with one another, each casino has to stand out. As a result, each casino has its own unique form of currency, which doesn’t resemble any country’s currency. These coins prevent the players from realizing they’re using real money, making it easier for them to keep on gambling and spending.
Back in the good old days, casinos used to have machines pouring out coins when you win. But not anymore. Most casinos use a TITO — Ticket-in, ticket-out — system. It works like this: you insert a card into the machine to play, and when you’re done, you take the ticket out.
This process makes tickets easy to use, allowing players to keep going to different machines and keep playing. By reducing downtime on machines, overall speed and magnitude on plays increase by 20%. For the casino, the system also prevented inefficiencies, coin jams, and freed up more space for gambling machines.
3. Adult Playground Design
Traditionally, casinos design building layouts to be maze-like. Casinos used Bill Friedman’s, a casino management professor at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, advice for casino design: low, featureless ceilings, slot machines arranged in a labyrinth, and to ignore high-end decor unrelated to gambling.
With a maze-like design, gamblers would have to spend more time looking at machines, attractive women, etc. and be enticed to say in longer. But in the late 70s, visitors to Las Vegas peaked and declined. To solve this, Roger Thomas, a designer for Steve Wynn, realized casino design had to be changed.
To accomplish this, Steve Wynn and Roger Thomas decided to ignore all traditional rules for casino design. Thomas created high soaring ceilings, used antique clocks and skylights, and used fancy European-style furniture. By creating a casino with rich and glamourous space, gamblers would be more likely to feel relaxed and safe. This, in turn, would make gamblers feel more comfortable take riskier bets and stay longer.
Wynn would use Thomas’s designs into the casino Bellagio, which resulted in the largest profits for a single property in Las Vegas history. The “playground design” would be used in Wynn’s future casinos, Wynn and Encore.
2. Slot Machine & Table Game Layouts
Slot machines are extremely crucial to a casino’s success. As a matter of fact, they make up 71 percent of a casino’s revenue. The majority of players prefer playing machines over traditional table games.
So it’s crucial casinos strategically layout the machines. With the arrival of touchscreen machines, casinos now use dozens of different themes, including movies, video games, celebrities, etc. to make the machines feel familiar to a player, enticing them to come and gamble.
Previously, machines were also aligned in rows. But the variety of touchscreen themed machines allows designers to arrange the machines into smaller clusters, usually in a circle shape. The circle-shaped layout allows players to socialize with one another easier. And it also allows the players to see different machines from a variety of views, giving the players more options to choose from.
As a result, the small clusters allow players to socialize and gambler together, creating a fun and memorable experience.
With table games, designers generally place them in the middle of the casino into clusters. The centric placement allows new players to come in and see the fun. With the clusters of table games in the center, a higher number of players will be playing in a small group, creating a rowdy atmosphere. This draws even more people in to create a bigger social atmosphere.
1. Slot Machine Design
While the interior design is to draw the players in, the ultimate goal is to lead players to the machine. As such, it’s imperative slot machines are designed with three aspects in mind:
“Keeping the pace” is critical to a user’s experience. Players don’t like to use slow machines. As a result, the slot machine uses electronic push-buttons to speed up the play. When using push-buttons, games can double their rate of play to 300 to 600 games an hour. Slot machines also use video technology, which accelerates the play by removing mechanical reels to spin.
Extended time on device:
As much as machine designers want speed, they also want their players to stay put and keep playing. To accomplish this, the designers include all possible things players want: black boxes, panel inserts, extra buttons, a library of different games in the same machine, TV monitors, etc. Audio engineers also use digitized soundtracks of coins to simulate winnings, which motivates the players to keep gambling.
Increasing financial flow:
Players, of course, gamble to win money. The Bally Casino has introduced Cash Systems: a system where players can draw funds from various accounts, checking accounts, credit cards, or debit cards, directly into their player cards while still gambling. Casinos also use player loyalty programs, which allow wins to be directly transferred into a player’s cards. This card makes it easier for gamblers to keep using their play funds.
Schüll, N. D. (2014). Addiction by design machine gambling in Las Vegas. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Radke, B. (2015, May 14). Magnificent Spaces: How Roger Thomas designed the Vegas of our dreams. Retrieved August 09, 2020, from https://lasvegasweekly.com/news/2015/may/14/roger-thomas-designer-vegas-dreams-wynn/
Jolly, C. (n.d.). Gaming the Competition: How the Psychology of Casinos Can Win Your Next Bid. Retrieved from http://www.24hrco.com/images/articles/html/Colleen_eZine%20Article_Jul12.html