10 Psychology Tricks Casinos Use to Keep You Gambling
Have you ever wondered where the adage “The house always wins” comes from?
There are several layers to this phrase. The more obvious, surface one, alludes to the fact that the casino has a “house edge” when it comes to games of chance. Most gamblers are well aware of this fact and have accepted it as logical. Nobody’s trying to dispute the fact that, in the end, the casino needs to be profitable to remain operational. However, the house edge isn’t the issue in and of itself.
In fact, the advantage the casino has over players is negligible. Some studies show that roughly 70% of the players are winning at one point. However, only 4% walk out of the casino richer. This isn’t mere coincidence. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the disparity between people who almost won and the actual winners.
The answer lies in the plethora of psychological tricks casinos use to keep you playing and spending money. The games themselves are designed to be addictive. However, there are plenty of other factors why gamblers fail to quit while they’re ahead. Here are the top 10 casino psychological techniques that keep gamblers “trapped” inside these game houses.
1. No Clocks or Windows
It’s a general rule of thumb that there isn’t a single clock or a window in any land-based casino. And no, it’s not because they all have to comply with an industry-wide rule or anything along those lines. It’s nothing more than a simple, yet extremely effective way to make you lose track of time while playing.
Time flies when you’re having fun, right? Casinos know this all too well; that’s precisely why they make it as difficult as possible to tell just how much time has passed. Their goal is to keep you playing for as long as possible. The absence of awareness regarding the passing of time allows players to more easily fall into the trance-like state where everything else but the game they’re currently playing ceases to exist.
Most often, the end of a gambler’s play session is marked by the zero on their balance. Although you might feel like you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in a casino, the sense of guilt is suppressed by the sense of pleasure you get from playing.
So, not being able to tell exactly how much time had passed works to the casino’s benefit. As we’ve mentioned, the casino’s revenue largely comes from the fact that most people play their winnings, rather than making it more difficult to win.
2. Bright, Flashy Lights and Pleasant Sounds
As soon as you enter a casino, your senses are captivated by an overabundance of visual and auditory stimuli. The bright neon lights, clanging of change, and the constant ringing of slots all work together to create a (false) image in your mind that big wins are happening all around the casino.
This lifts your mood and gets you all hyped-up. More importantly, it makes you feel hopeful that you’ll be the next lucky winner. When you do hit the big win, the machines typically maximize the hype and add on to the thrilling feeling by featuring striking animations of coins falling from the sky or something similar.
If a slot was stripped of all sounds and animations and simply displayed the amount of money in the dead center of the screen after each spin, winning wouldn’t feel as good. However, casinos go a step further and utilize sound and visuals to artificially create this feeling. So, you’ll feel a dopamine surge even when you’re consistently losing money.
3. Near Wins
We’ve already established that players will, on average, lose more often than they will win. That’s the nature of the house edge we discussed. However, the house edge is merely a core mechanic that effectively ensures the casino will remain profitable in the long run.
Still, the fact alone that you’re winning about as much as you’re losing isn’t enough to keep you playing on its own. Let’s take slots as an example. The fact that most winning combinations don’t even pay back your initial bet, a different component of slot machines dramatically increases the casino’s revenue — near wins.
Say you’re playing a game with a 1% house edge. In theory, this means that for every $100 you put into a slot, it will give back $99. In this case, the casino is technically at a $1 profit. Obviously, casinos aren’t satisfied with such meager sums. They want you to invest the $99 all over again and keep playing until the game “eats” your entire balance.
And near wins ensure this. These are all the losing combinations that are just one symbol away from rewarding you with that hefty win. So, players often feel like they needed “just one more seven” to hit the jackpot.
In reality, you’re nowhere closer to three sevens with two of them on the screen than you are with no sevens present in the combination. But it’s this sense that the big win escaped you by a thread that keeps you playing.
4. Free Drinks
It doesn’t take a licensed psychologist to figure out that casinos aren’t offering their players complimentary drinks because they’re “feeling generous.”
As obvious as this psychological trick may be, it’s one of the most effective ones. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love free drinks?
However, always keep in mind the fact that the casino wouldn’t do anything that isn’t ultimately profitable. In a sense, the players often pay a heavy price for these drinks. First, they keep you cheerful and relaxed making you far more likely to spend a considerable amount of time in a casino.
Secondly, alcohol numbs your senses. You may feel comfortable, but you lose that sharpness which is often necessary to make the optimal play. Even seasoned professionals become a bit sloppy after a few drinks. And that’s what the casinos are counting on.
Finally, the tipsy you will be far more prone to making hasty decisions. So, you may end up sinking way more money into a game than the sober you intended.
5. False Sense of Control
Another trick that works in conjunction with near wins to drain you of all your money is the false sense of control most games provide. Whenever player input influences the outcome of the game, we immediately feel that “faith is in our hands.” In Craps, for instance, the player throws the dice. So, you’re technically responsible for the outcome of the dice rolls.
Still, there is absolutely no skill involved here. It’s not like there is a special dice-throwing technique to only throw fives. The end result is still random. It’s just that you are the random number generator in Craps rather than a computer algorithm.
The end result is the same, though — you will lose more often than you win. That’s how the rules of the game are designed. There are so many possible combinations that the likelihood of getting the winning numbers is fairly slim.
And yet, people believe that blowing on dice or throwing them a particular way will help them win. However, it’s nothing more than a coincidence and a testament to the cleverness of game designers that have managed to trick the players into thinking they have any control over the game’s results.
6. Hyping Up the Big Wins
Although casino games seldom pay out considerable sums, it’s not impossible to hit the jackpot. If big wins were nothing more than a marketing gimmick the casinos used, they would fairly quickly run out players. So, not only are big wins possible — they’re mandatory.
Of course, that doesn’t mean every gambler will win an astronomical amount of money throughout their gambling career. However, from a casino’s point of view, every big winner drastically lowers their profit. So, casinos employ one extremely profitable strategy that perfectly counteracts the fact that they periodically pay out these hefty sums. They hype up the big wins.
In fact, almost every big win is hyped to ridiculous proportions. As soon as the reels stop, the arrows start flashing, the machine starts “screaming,” and every soul in the casino can see the humongous “Winner, Winner, Winner!” sign. The staff rushes to the scene with champagne in hand, keep congratulating the lucky winner for fifteen minutes, take dozens of pictures, and often even make a public announcement.
Make no mistake; the casino isn’t overjoyed by the fact that they have to pay out millions of dollars to the “lucky bastard.” They aren’t creating the hype because they wish to share in the joy. The sole reason why casinos make a fuss about big wins is to capture the attention of other players.
By doing this, they essentially give validation to every player in the casino that they can indeed win life-changing amounts. They just have to dump a bit more money into the slot machine and keep playing. However, only one in a billion players hits the jackpot. So, as absurd as it may sound, winning big impacts every player present on the casino floor at the moment and actually makes the casino money in the long-term.
7. Location of Services
All of the services available in a casino are strategically located as far as possible from the gaming tables and machines. The reason for placing the toilet, restaurants, and the front desk in the most remote corners of the casino is simple. They are deliberately making it difficult to access anything other than the games themselves.
So, when nature calls, you’ll likely have to walk a good ten or so minutes through the maze that is the casino floor before you finally reach the toilet. Additionally, it’s no coincidence that all of the services are on the opposite side of the floor from the main entrance.
You will have to walk through countless rows of games after you cash in your chips in order to reach the exit. Of course, many people give in to the temptation and eventually gamble away their winnings.
8. ATMs at Hand
Still, even running out of money isn’t a problem; there are ATMs everywhere. Casinos have made it extremely convenient for people gambling in their facilities to access more money and continue feeding their gambling addiction.
This isn’t a psychological trick per se. Rather, it’s a precautionary method every casino implements. If players had to leave a casino’s premises to get more gambling money, they’d have plenty of time to review their decision. Naturally, many of them would conclude that they’ve already gambled away a considerable sum and would simply not return to the casino.
Keep this in mind if you’re planning on gambling in the near future. Leave your credit/debit cards at home and determine beforehand how much money you’re willing to lose. Stick to your bankroll and call it a day when you run out of cash.
9. Maze-like Design
As we’ve mentioned, most casino floors are designed to be modern-day mazes. So, it’s not that the players have bad spatial awareness; their inability to easily navigate the casino floor lies in the casino’s maze layout. Casino designers purposefully made it extremely difficult to leave once you’re inside — both physically and psychologically.
In fact, due to the playground design and the layout of the games, casinos are a psychological minefield. Players require impressive mental fortitude and must overcome a series of hurdles, as well as actively fight the temptation if they’re not planning to leave every single penny at the casino.
So, winning on games of chance is only half the work. The far trickier part is maintaining a high level of self-control necessary to walk out of the casino with those winnings.
10. Pumping Oxygen
If you frequent casinos, you’ve probably caught wind of the fact that most gamblers seem to be able to play for hours on end without ever feeling tired. However, you likely didn’t give it a second thought and attributed this fact to the adrenaline rush we feel while playing.
There’s no denying that gambling is a thrilling, adrenaline-pumping activity. However, the casinos give players a small “boost” to help them stay attentive. We’re referring to the practice some casinos employ of pumping in extra oxygen on the gaming floor. Although perfectly safe and absolutely harmless, we can’t help but question how ethical this practice really is.
The goal behind it is to help you stay awake and alert so that you can gamble more. There have been rumors and allegations that some casinos have even released pheromones in the past, not just oxygen, to make the ambiance all the more alluring and addictive.
Don’t Get Fooled
There are plenty of other tricks casinos adopt to attract visitors and keep the gamblers playing for long periods of time. However, now that we’ve revealed the top 10 psychological techniques casinos rely on, you shouldn’t be so easily fooled by them.
The first line of defense against an array of subtle psychological attacks casinos launch at you is developing a healthy mindset. It’s vital to understand that gambling is primarily a fun and entertaining pastime. You shouldn’t treat it as a potential source of income; otherwise, you’ll easily succumb to the feeling of having to win back the money you lost and dig an even deeper hole for yourself.
Additionally, we strongly advise you to firmly establish the maximum amount of money and time you can afford to spend at the casino. It will undoubtedly be difficult to stay true to these self-imposed limitations once you enter the lion’s den. Still, it’s crucial to persevere and show the strength of character.
With everything said, now that you have a better idea of what you’re up against, you shouldn’t get fooled by the psychological tricks casinos employ.