Influence of Strategic Design on Behavior: Casinos

After reading Geoff’s post about the design of Yankee Stadium, I was inspired to write about another type of environment that I find truly fascinating. The strategic design of casinos and the impact is has on the individuals within it is a perfect subject for anyone with an interest in the presence of psychology with respect to management. I have taken several management and psychology courses, and discussions about casinos have come up in almost all of them. Geoff’s post about Yankee stadium discussed how the organization and the environment of the arena seems to have a legitimate influence over how individuals act once they are inside it. This environmental influence is extremely present in casinos, and it is undoubtedly a reflection of how management has figured out how to strategically design them to enhance this impact.

The underlying motivation for the design of casinos is to keep people in them for as long as possible, thereby increasing the chance that they will spend a lot of money. So, the floor plan itself is a very key component. Casinos are designed in such a way that you have to either walk directly around or through several rows of slot machines to move around the casino. This is done so they people get maximum exposure to the thrilling sounds of the machines and also to increase the chance of seeing another person win, which would encourage one to try for him/herself. Casino managers have direct control over how often a slot machine gives a payout, so they can control how often other partons see a winning bet occur. Generally, the machines that pay out the most frequently are strategically placed far into the casino so that people are drawn towards the middle of the floor and are therefore likely to stay longer.

Another design strategy is the deliberate placement of slot machines relative to card-playing tables. Studies have shown that card players do not enjoy slot machines because they find the noise distracting. However, it would be foolish to separate the two completely because then spouses or friends of table players would be less likely to stray away from their table-playing mate to occupy themselves on the slot machines. So, there are slot machines lining the table-playing area, but these machines are programmed to win less frequently and therefore minimize the distraction and irritation to the card-players.

Casinos generally lack natural light and clocks. This is strategically done to eliminate the possibility that a gambler will decide that it’s time to go, because they really lose all concept of time. The main entrance to the casino is located as far as possible from the gambling floor to keep what is going on within the casino as far as possible from reality. Many casinos use lights that simulate natural daylight, which is again an effort to minimize the awareness of how much time one has actually spent in the casino. This is another strategy used to play on the psyche of casino patrons to maximize profits for the business.

Another technique is the carpet choice, which is generally unpleasant or startling to the eyes, which encourages the people in the casino to keep their eyes up on the machines.  The music casinos play is generally soothing and plays continuously (as opposed to one song after another) which also reduces the chance that people will recognize that time is passing and decide to leave. Some studies has suggested that casino managers manipulate their air conditioners and add chemcials such as pheromones that cause individuals to feel happy and at ease.

I am truly fascinated by how far this deception has been taken in an effort to trap people in casinos and maximize profits for the business. No wonder people develop addictions. I’ll leave you with a photo of a very extreme example of what I am taking about: the Venetian. This entire thing is indoors. Like I said, it’s extreme, but it’s an example of how far some casino owners are willing to go to increase profits.


3 Responses

  1. Holly – you forgot to mention the free drinks they give out. That probably keeps peoples minds off the fact they are losing money….

  2. Unbelievable photo. How do they do that?

  3. […] of Strategic Design on Behavior: Casinos 2010 January 27 by wills023 This is a post from the Spring 2009 blog discussing how casino environments are designed to affect a… The author points out that the goal of specific casino designs is to keep people inside for as long […]

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