Put all thoughts of big winnings and Casino Royale out of your mind. No matter what your system or how great your understanding of the odds, at the end of the day the house always wins, meaning you can kiss your hard-earned dollars goodbye. And just in case you were to get a run of good luck and attempt to hightail it out of there with the casino’s money, the people in charge have some dirty tricks to play, below-the-belt connivances and underhand tactics to keep you in there until your pockets are empty – and your brain has turned to jello! Casinos are big business, and there are reasons why it’s been that way for so long, stretching far beyond the human urge to gamble and the fact that the numerical odds are always stacked against you. Indeed everything about the casino environment is carefully designed to keep you gambling – thereby maximizing the business’ profits. Here are 10 sinister means that casinos use to keep you coming back for more.
10. Additional oxygen
Breathe in slowly, now breathe out. Do you feel more refreshed? Higher levels of oxygen keep us awake and alert; one of the disputed theories for why we yawn while tired is that it is in order to draw in more oxygen. Sleepy gamblers might feel like they should head home and have a nap, and napping gamblers aren’t giving any money to the casino. So the casinos pump in additional oxygen from pressurized tanks so that the gamblers feel refreshed, awake and able to gamble for longer. There have even been reports that some casinos release pheromones that promote feelings of euphoria or comfort, bringing the addictive nature of gambling to new heights.
9. Near misses
There’s nothing worse than almost winning. At least when you are obviously a complete and utter loser you can take comfort in the fact that there was no other possible outcome. But when you win silver, you can see that gold is within your grasp and are likely to keep on going. Casinos are well aware of this flaw in human nature, and exploit it so that they can keep funneling your money into their pockets. From slot machine cherries that repeatedly fail to line up by just one symbol, to those one-armed bandits that are programmed to pay out a paltry sum of money every so often in order to entice you back, the casinos exploit the pull of near wins to persuade you to give it just one more try.
8. Food and drinks
The nice casino waitress who is constantly hovering in the background in case you would like some food or drink is not actually very nice after all. The goal of the casino is to keep you gambling until they have bled you dry and then to lure you back again. Hungry people might stop gambling and sober people might make wise decisions like, “Maybe I won’t just put it all on black.” In many cases your food and booze isn’t just brought to you; it is completely free, building an association in your mind between freebies and the casino. Of course the irony is that you’ve probably paid for your food ten times over in gambling losses, but, for many, the feeling in another reason not to leave.
7. Psychedelic carpets
When Oscar Wilde died, among his finals words were: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.” The interior design-minded playwright could almost have been referring to casino carpets. At first you might assume that the garish patterns and clashing colors of the casino floor coverings are simply there to hide stains from spilled food and drink – or perhaps other bodily fluids.
It turns out that casinos have deliberately designed the ugliest carpeting in existence so that you cannot stare at it peacefully and fall asleep. Instead, the garishness of the carpet shocks your eyes into wakefulness so that you’ll turn swiftly back to gambling.
6. No time indicators
The casino is a perfectly oiled machine within which time has little meaning. The lights never dim and the party never stops. After a session of gambling it could just as easily be the next hour or the next day. Any means by which gamblers might be reminded that they have responsibilities, duties and a life outside of the casino is absent. There are no clocks at which to glance and realize that it is time to go, and once away from the entrance no windows which could become light or dark with the passing of the sun, triggering an internal sense of time. Within the casino there is only an ever-present now that stretches and recoils with the wins – and the losses.
5. Mild, looping, hypnotic music
Background music with defined beginnings and ends would allow gamblers to unconsciously chart the flow of time, but no music at all would permit patrons to become aware of their environment – all the little noises of other gamblers and staff constantly bringing them back to reality from their gambler’s fantasies and reminding them that they are rapidly running out of cash. Profound reflection is anathema to the casinos, so they loop a constant mild music with no sharp crescendos sudden diminuendos or pulsing bass notes. The music aids the gambler in entering a trance-like state where there is nothing but the game – filling the casino’s pockets.
4. Maze-like internal layouts
If you do manage to keep money in your pocket on the way out of the building, you reach another conundrum – which way is the way out? Casinos are deliberately designed to have as confusing a layout as possible such that you must traverse a labyrinth in order to attempt to leave.
At every point on your journey you must avoid the siren call of rows upon rows of slot machines and roulette tables while slaying the demons of temptation for just one more punt. The design is disorientating, landmarks are difficult to spot, and getting lost in the maze is the order of the day. Once the casino has you in its grasp you will always find it difficult to leave.
3. Cashier desk trickery
So, you’ve decided it’s time to go and, resisting the urge to risk a few more bucks again, you look for the cashier’s desk to cash out your chips. Of course, this desk is located right in the depths of the casino, past every possible opportunity for more gambling. When you finally make it there you are likely to see large lines for those who wish to exchange chips for cash. Nobody likes waiting in line, so why not gamble instead? And if you do wait in line and decide to put just one dollar into the slots on the way out, you’re likely be surprised to see that the cashier has cashed out your chips with the largest denominations possible, so that one last gamble will cost you a five or a ten instead.
2. Stimulating lights and noises
Everyone likes a party and in the casino it is an endless festival with dancing girls, bright lights and music. We have been socially conditioned into believing that bright lights and noises indicate something of importance, that flashing colors are a hallmark of success and that shine and sparkle are a stand-in for beauty and wealth. The casino machines constantly light up and flash, never content to stay at a single luminosity, always progressing and giving you the impression that winning is constant and all around you. Amidst all this excitement surely it will be your turn to win soon, we’re being told.
1. Subliminal messages in slot machines
Even those who find the casinos’ business model to be generally abhorrent and feel that they prey on the weak and vulnerable tend not to believe that they are actually evil. However, the fact that casinos have had to withdraw slot machines due to their use of subliminal messages should put paid to that belief. In some Canadian casinos, five-of-a-kind symbols were flashed on screen for a fraction of a second during play, aimed at convincing gamblers to stay at the machine, and increasing the feeling that they would hit the jackpot. It sounds like something from a conspiracy nut or tinfoil hat-wearing loon, but scarily it actually happened.