Casino Design Psychology
By Alex Smith, Last updated May 17, 2022
There’s something about playing at land-based casinos; the thrill of placing chips on the table, the social aspect, a fantastic night out! What you may not know, however, is that the casino industry spends a LOT of time (and money) making sure that everything — from their slot machines and casino table games to the carpet pattern — is designed to make you spend as much money as possible!
All of the most successful casinos have dedicated teams designing casinos, and a casino consultant can make a lot of money when they come up with a successful casino design. While some critics argue that these design elements contribute to gambling addiction, casino management argues otherwise.
We will look at how traditional casinos (we won’t be covering online) try to make money from their casino design. We will also look at some of the different techniques used by casinos, techniques that are designed to lure you into their establishment and keep you there for as long as possible.
Casino Design Psychology: Nevada, Las Vegas… Where it all Began
Psychology expert Bill Friedman was a significant pioneer in casino design. He had a gambling addiction and used his first-hand knowledge to help casinos make more money by exploiting the addict’s mind.
During his ‘career,’ he studied more than 90 casinos to see which factors were responsible for causing players to make more money. As a result, casino executive teams ended up hiring Bill Friedman to design their interior casino theme, and he went on to help design the Playground casino.
In the end, Friedman came up with 13 different factors that influence a player’s behaviour in the casino. These factors can be seen in most casinos worldwide today, including the Playground Casino and the Bellagio Hotel Casino — almost all of today’s casinos incorporate them in some shape or form.
1. No Clocks or Windows
One of the most noticeable things about casino design psychology is that virtually all land-based casinos are devoid of clocks or windows. This is designed to help you lose track of time and do away with the stress of external commitments.
According to Freidman, the main goal of a casino should be to get the player into the building and keep them there for as long as possible. Because of this, natural light isn’t found in hardly any land-based casinos. Clocks can be found in poker rooms but rarely seen on the casino floor.
After all, if a player has a big clock over the casino table game, they’re much more likely to realize how late it is. Without clocks, they simply lose track of time.
However, croupiers and casino staff will be more than happy to tell you the time. It’s not as though clocks aren’t allowed in a casino; they simply aren’t plastered in your face. You will also often find clocks in the restaurant and non-gaming areas of the casino.
2. Casino Design Psychology 101: A Disorientating Design
When it comes to casino design, one of the most important things you’ll find is that the casino’s layout is quite confusing. The management team of a land-based casino wants you to become distracted and lose your situational awareness. While a casino may feature an elegant lobby and a glamorous space, this all changes once you’re inside the gaming room.
For example, you may find that the toilets are a long way away from you. The casino wants you to walk past as many gaming machines as possible before you reach the toilet, which increases the chances of you spending money on one of these machines.
This technique is especially noticeable in Las Vegas establishments like the Playground Casino. With such large buildings, the casino design becomes more noticeable — you may need to walk for up to 10 minutes to find a bathroom to use!
3. Intimate Settings
Interior casino themes are almost always designed around an intimate, homey feel. This is seen through smaller rooms, comfortable lighting and relaxing atmospheres.
When designing casinos, the idea is to make players feel like they’re at home. We see online casinos doing this; after all, the more relaxed you are, the more likely you are to let yourself unwind and, ultimately, spend more money!
One of the reasons why many casino design layouts feature smaller rooms is also due to human curiosity. Casinos know that humans are curious; if we see doorways, it’s only natural for us to want to know what’s behind that doorway!
Some playground casinos also implement different themes in different rooms. This can be an essential part of casino design, and it’s one of the reasons why land-based casinos spend so much money on developing and designing the gaming design area.
4. Small, Compact Rooms & Narrow Walkways
While we’ve just touched on the fact that land-based casinos are designed to make you feel at home, there’s a much more important reason for those small rooms and narrow walkways. You will also see the gaming design shine through here. Friedman and another Las Vegas figurehead, Roger Thomas, found that lining a corridor with gaming machines helps amplify the intimate feel and prevents players from feeling overwhelmed.
This may sound contradictory; after all, you would think more gaming machines would increase feelings of overwhelmedness, right? After a lot of research, it turns out that the absolute opposite is true.
Land-based casinos want to make sure everything is organized. This lets players know what part of the casino they’re in quickly. They could use giant progressive jackpot machines or prominent architectural features to achieve this effect.
Gaming Tables as Soon as You Walk In
Another core strategy in casino design is making sure that you can begin gambling from the moment you first step into the casino. This is built upon the idea that players should be ‘lured’ in when they step foot in the casino.
You’ll see gaming machines almost immediately whenever you enter a land-based casino. This reminds players that they’re in a casino and that games are waiting to be played.
Playing on our Senses
Land-based casinos are famed for their bright lights and loud noise, which isn’t by coincidence. Our senses are incredibly powerful, and casinos prey upon them to get us to spend more cash when you’re in the venue!
For example, in one study carried out in 2006, researchers found that certain smells and aromas — wafting through casino ventilation systems — could increase the amount that players played slot machines by a whopping 46%!
While researchers were unable to pinpoint exactly why this occurred, they theorized that it’s down to the fact that welcoming, pleasant smells make players slow down and relax, therefore drawing them to one of the many gaming machines that litter the casino floor.
Music can also play an essential part in the design of a casino, although it’s most effective in those developed around the playground design. Music also must be carefully thought out, as the wrong music could be a turnoff for some players.
This is why you’ll rarely hear music in land-based casinos with lyrics; most of the time, they use instrumental music, which is less likely to turn off certain players.
Designed for Minimum Stress
As you can imagine, land-based casinos want players to experience as little stress as possible. This is another crucial element of the playground casino design. Land-based casinos aren’t too dissimilar from airports because they’re designed to be as stress-free as possible.
Of course, when you’re going through security and checking in your bags, things are hectic. However, once you’re through security, you’re gently prompted to relax, grab a bite to eat and do some shopping; stress-free activities for the most part.
The same can be said for casinos; once you’re in the establishment, everything is designed to be as relaxing and stress-free as possible. There are restaurants, smoking areas, valet services, and ATMs. The idea is that you don’t need to worry about anything. It’s all taken care of, allowing you to sit back, relax — and gamble!
Could you imagine walking into a casino (one you’re about to spend your money in) and seeing angry-looking or grump croupiers and staff? It wouldn’t go down well.
That’s why ALL casino employees are trained to look as friendly and approachable as possible. Of course, this helps to set the scene for your entire gambling experience.
Another thing to consider is that multiple studies have shown that when we see friendly, welcoming faces, we’re more likely to relax. On the other hand, if we see angry, unfriendly faces, it causes us to tense up and put up our guard.
Conclusion: Lots of Clever Tricks!
Land-based casinos use a lot of techniques to not only get us into the building but also to keep us there, too. It’s pretty impressive to look at the history of casino design and realize that it’s an entire industry!
Grocery stores and supermarkets use design layouts to maximize their profit per consumer. They also spend millions of dollars every year designing their stores to maximize profits — and it works.
Land-based casinos are the same thing. Whether they use Friedman’s old-school design or the more modern playground design, they’re always looking to maximize profits and the amount of time you spend there!
You can even see similarities in online /casino-reviews/casinos. At the same time, they cannot utilize the same techniques used by land-based casinos; they rely on things like warm colour schemes, positive images and friendly faces.
Many people who don’t have experience playing poker assume the game is overrun with shady players or that it’s full of those looking to cheat others. In reality, poker is usually a gentleman’s game – and it’s scarce for cheating to occur, even though there are many opportunities to do so.