Casino Design (No clocks? No windows? Extra oxygen?)

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Casino Design (No clocks? No windows? Extra oxygen?)

Post by rogerwimmer » Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:23 am

Hey Doc . . . I just got back from Las Vegas and it was an enjoyable trip. Regarding casinos, what is true and what is myth? For instance, it is true that are no windows or clocks in casinos? Is it true that they spray fragrances to get you to stay longer and gamble more? Does a scent make you linger? Is it true that they "pump in" extra oxygen, again, to get you to stay longer? If they do, does this technique work? Are there other "secrets" casinos use to get you to gamble more? Thanks, Doc! - Anonymous

Anon: Whenever you go to a casino, just keep in mind that everything is done to try to get your money. But before I get to your specific questions, I'd like to provide a little background.

I'm sure that gambling of some sort was present as far back as when humans first appeared on the earth . . . "Hey, Fulmar, I bet the two rabbit skins you have that I can kill that wild pig over there with one stone to the head." (or whatever). However, your questions refer to modern times, and I would like to provide a little background on how to retrieve, steal, or take money from other people.

It's no secret that many casinos in the United States, specifically in Las Vegas where legalized gambling in the United States first appeared, were initially developed by organized crime groups/clubs/gangs/families. I think the discussions among the leaders in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s may have gone something like this . . .

"Ya know, we're generating a lot of money from our thefts, robberies, hijacking, shakedowns, protection, drugs, numbers rackets, and other things, but getting arrested all the time is getting boring and all that stuff takes a lot of work. Besides, jail isn't fun and we need to come up with a better way to take other people's money. Let's build a fancy place and call it a casa, something like, 'Jake's Money Diverting Casa.' When people come in, we hold guns to their heads, take their money and kick them back out to the street. Simple. No hard work"

But another club member says, "Hey, Scarnose. I mean no disrespect, but that's a stupid idea. What we need to do is build a fancy place and call it a casino, something like, 'Jake's Golden Casino.' We can control everything and make people think they're having fun while we take all their money. We can get this legalized somehow and we won't have to worry about getting arrested all the time. When we steal, I mean, when people give us their money, they need to think that it was a fun thing to do."

OK, so the discussions may not have gone exactly like that, but I'm sure there is some truth in there somewhere. The most important thing is that it's necessary for casinos to develop an environment where customers will enjoy, to some degree, losing their money. And that's the root of your questions. How is casino environment manipulated so customers will stay a long time and not be upset too much when their money is stolen (lost)?

Casino Environment
If you check a variety of sources on the Internet, you'll see that there are many discussions of what casinos do or don't do to make the gambling experience as pleasant as possible. This is not a small-time endeavor. Casino design and marketing is a huge industry. Check out some of the articles in these searches . . .

Casino Marketing

Casino Consultants

Design Psychology

Design Psychology 2

So, it's clear that the design of casinos is an important element of their success, and here is information on the three specific items you mentioned . . .

No Clocks or Windows
It is true that most casinos do not have clocks, and many don't have windows. The idea is to divert customers' attention away from the amount of time they are spending in the casino. However, both of these things are silly to me. Don't most people wear watches? Don't many people have the time on their cell phones? If not, there is always the wild and crazy option of asking another customer the time of day. I think the idea of having no clocks and/or windows is based on someone's mistaken idea that not knowing the time of day is important in keeping customers in the casino. It also shows the stupidity of thinking that most people are too dumb to look at the watch on their wrist, their cell phone, or ask another customer.

Extra Oxygen
I can't find the origin of the myth of casinos pumping in extra oxygen, but it's really a silly idea, mostly because of the potential fire hazard. The extra oxygen myth has been discussed and proved false in several articles. Check this Snopes article, this article, and other articles in this search if you're interested.

I have heard about this before, and it's true that some casinos do "pump in" scents/aromas to make the environment more pleasant (supposedly). Here is a good article that explains the process.

You didn't mention anything about security, but I'm sure most people know that casinos have cameras in all public areas of the casino — "Someone is always watching." But the cameras aren't the only security in a casino. There are also security people in the casino. When I was in Las Vegas last year, I mentioned to a security person that there appeared to be more uniformed security people walking around than usual. I then asked him if there are any plainclothes security people in casinos walking around or even gambling. He looked around as if to determine if anyone could hear him and whispered, "They're everywhere in the casino."

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Roger Wimmer is owner of Wimmer Research and senior author of Mass Media Research: An Introduction, 10th Edition.

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