THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CASINOS AND THE EVASION OF CONVENTIONAL ECONOMIC RULES
In the words of Cara Bertoia, "It is hard to walk away from a winning streak, and even harder to leave the table when you're on a losing one." But why is it so?
From the instant you enter a casino, the tricks have started. Casinos are a sensory overload; bright colors and flashing lights stimulate your senses, inviting excitement and participation. One of the main objectives of a casino is to keep people inside it for as long as possible and in order to do so, there usually exist two types of casino designs
The first is the ‘traditional design’ casino, which uses sly, intricate design details to retain the visitor.
In the traditional design, casinos lack windows, i.e., there's no natural light. This is because if you can’t look outside, you lack visual awareness that time is passing, and therefore, will prolong your stay. This is also the exact reason why some casinos don’t have clocks. In fact, casinos go as far as painting their ceilings to appear like daytime skies further adding to the illusion of daytime.
The decor of casinos is also designed to make people feel right at home. The lighting is subdued and soft to make a comfy laid back ambience. The background music is the same: soft, easy, and unobtrusive. In order to keep the customers alert, there are very bright colored carpets.
Casinos are also designed like a maze, making it extremely difficult for people to find their way out. There are no straight aisles leading to exits and instead, the path opens up to another set of games and slot machines to gamble more.
The other design is called the ‘playground design’ casino, and has been adopted in recent years. The ‘playground design’ doesn’t aim to trap a player in and make it difficult for them to depart, rather it encourages the players to spend more time in the casino due to its magnificent opulence.
The idea is to turn the casino from a maze into a high-end, posh place where players feel comfortable and excited, surrounded by exquisite sculptures in every direction. These casinos evolve into something more than just a place to gamble, hence bringing in more footfall. The aura of playground design casinos is such that you don’t mind spending money even if you know the odds aren’t really in your favor.
But it's not just design, apart from that, several psychological tricks are also used by casinos to manipulate visitors and extract maximum financial gain.
Many games in the casino don’t require chips to play, like the slot machines which use money loaded on a card. The aim here, therefore, is to keep the customer in an illusion that real money isn’t being spent. Slot machines are powered by highly sophisticated computers driven by algorithms. Most have a feature called the ‘near miss’. This means the jackpot or any other big prize symbol appears to fail to line up just by one character on a carefully calculated number of spins. This gives one the impression that they almost won and therefore makes them likely to play again. If anyone wins big in a casino, it is made sure that everyone gets that information to encourage them to gamble more in the hopes of winning.
But what about 'Conventional Economic Rules'? Conventional Economic Rules assume that humans are rational and therefore, casinos shouldn’t be able to exist. However, that's clearly not the case.
Conventional economic rules predict that if someone offered you a deal where you gave $100 and they gave you $95 back, you wouldn’t take that deal, but for some strange reason people go to roulette tables every day and in essence, take that exact deal. In a roulette table, the odds of doubling your money are 47.2% which means for every $1 spent one can lose up to 5.2 cents. This small gap between the winning and losing odds is where the casinos earn their money. According to a survey, people were given a 100% chance of receiving $5 or a 0.5% chance of winning $1000. If you look at these numbers closely, you will see that 0.5% of $1000 is $5, and therefore, the two options are worth the exact same amount, but 64% of the people in the survey chose to have a 0.5% chance of winning $1000. This shows to that people like to have a small chance of winning big over a certain gain and this is exactly what happens in a casino.
There is, therefore, sufficient proof that the multi-billion dollar casino industry is built on the exploitation of the human psyche and capitalizes off the irrationality of humans for its own gain.