The Psychology of Casino’s


Anyone who has been to Las Vegas will know that casinos are fascinating places. According to Kati St Clair, a business psychologist, the aim is to induce a trance-like state in gamblers.

Casinos make you feel intimate, enclosed, euphoric; you’re in a suggestible state in which you want to stay where you are, continuing to do what you are doing,

So how do they do it?

Sense of time
There are no windows or clocks. Gamblers have no idea whether it’s light or dark or sunny or rainy outside. Time becomes meaningless.

There’s intentionally poor navigation. They are built like mazes meaning it’s usually tough to find a way out. They even build the floors on a minimum slope to the center of the casino so that you automatically walk to the center of the casino.

There’s a constant barrage of noises. Slot machines spin, games ding and dong, coins hit metal, there’s the pitter patter of the people running the games, etc. Many of these sounds, like the ringing of the slots, is there to give you a false sense of hope (“If all of those bells are ringing, somebody must be winning!”).

Loose slot machines — ones that pay out more often — are placed near highly trafficked areas (e.g. the aisles, change booth, restaurants, etc.) so more people witness winners.

Gamblers at the Las Vegas Hilton Casino spent 50 percent more time playing slot machines when the space was perfumed with a floral scent than when it smelled like an everyday casino. The stronger the fragrance, the longer individuals gambled.

The result: a completely immersive and compelling customer experience.


48 Responses to “The Psychology of Casino’s”

  1. I wonder if any researchers have done brain scans on people in this situation? I’ll be it would produce an exact profile of this state, in terms of which parts of the brain are most active. Related material of interest can be found in ‘Rules of Play’, by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, in the section on probability and game design. Certain fallacies about probability seem to be ‘hardwired’ into our brains (I’m paraphrasing the book):
    1. Overvaluing the long shot – going for high gain in one go, instead of safer, but lower gains
    2. Thinking of successive chance events as additive – having one more die throw doubles the chances of obtaining a result (it actually slightly less than doubles them)
    3. Monte Carlo syndrome – after a run of failures, success is more likely
    4. Overemphasis of good outcome – between being killed by a car, and winning the lottery, people believe the latter is more likely
    5. Lightning striking twice – believing highly unlikely positive events WILL happen again, but negative ones won’t
    6. Luck – there is no evidence that a particular object, calendar date, etc. is ‘luckier’ than any other

  2. 2 Barry

    Jim, Check out this TED presentation of Dan Gilbert, its also about the fact that certain fallacies about probability seem to be ‘hardwired’ into our brains.

    [video src="" /]

  3. 3 sam

    you missed out the chips heheheh is not like real cash 🙂

  4. 4 casinotipsblog

    I have been to plenty of casinos, and I definately agree that a lot of psychology goes into the design and structure in them. Most gamblers are completely unaware of this, and would probably not think that these factors are of any importance, but I definately think that they make gambling more attractive for a lot of people, for longer periods of time!

  5. 5 Anonymous

    I’ve been to most of the big name casinos in Las Vegas. The only smell I recall in there was that of cigarette smoke – which made me want to leave.

  6. 6 toby

    What about the color schemes? They almost always include gold, purple and red which we equate with royalty and wealth. The casino in downtown, pre Katrina New Orleans had large planters that were part of the concrete steps leading to the entrance. These could have been any shape but they chose to configure them as stars. They start on you even before entering the casino! I love it. Now if only we could put these minds to work to address our social ills.

  7. 7 Anonymous

    I am doing a public speech for class at UNH on this topic of Casino Psychology. It would of been much easier to do it on gambling addiction. I thought this would be more interesting because it affects even the novice person just looking to have some fun. The Casinos can be powerful in not just having the house advantage but the advantage of people spending more time and more money than they intended too. The difficultie with this subject matter is there is not any case studies, or real research on the topic. The adverstising they do as well as the freebees with rewards cards seem like any other business. They want to be profitable. It is just the sneaky aspect of the maze like set ups, no sense of time, told dealers are not aloud to wear watches, cool temps, not all cashier windows available, you have to hunt for one it seems, when you want to chip out… The glamorization, low lighting. I guess no real proof of pumping oxygen in, music, near misses, bright colors in carpet guess studies show it helps with alertness. Anyway interesting topic

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