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Latest news and insights on consumer behavior in the offline world

Dealing the Winning Hand: How to Maximize the Design of Your Casino

Posted by Jason Trovela on 3/6/17 3:37 PM

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We all have a desire to make it big; it’s human nature. Gambling just might be the quickest way to get there. In today’s world, you don’t even need to visit a casino to find a machine that will take your money; slots are now becoming commonly found in places like airports, gas stations, bars, even embedded in exercise equipment. But, there’s just something about the casino experience that keeps us coming back. The major component driving foot traffic to casinos is the exhilarating allure of the win. As Melissa Price, the Senior Vice President of Gaming for Caesar’s Entertainment, states, “We are the envy of probably every consumer products industry out there.” But what makes casinos so irresistible? The most successful casinos use subtle psychological techniques to navigate their customers around the floor, encouraging them to find a game they like, and provide such a positive experience that even a loss is worth the entertainment of the game. How can your business influence these customers? Let’s check out the psychology behind casinos.

Casino Design

A large part of the allure is in the design of the casino floor. Casinos are one of the top performing industries when it comes to optimizing a physical space. From the floor plan design to atmosphere and ambiance to the number of hotel rooms at the casino is taken into consideration during the design process. It comes as no shock that a high-stakes business designed to get customers through the door (and ready to spend a large amount of time and money) would take meticulous consideration in every detail to reach that goal.

As Bill Friedman, author and researcher of organized crime and the Las Vegas casino industry, writes in Stripping Las Vegas: A Contextual Review of Casino Resort Architecture, “The only relevant consideration for casino design are these: What percentage of visitors gamble? What percentage return to gamble? Nothing else matters.” Friedman developed his own casino design known as the “Gaming Design”, most commonly associated with the “classic” style of casinos. In this design, Friedman encourages the placement of gambling equipment immediately inside a casino’s entrance, along with the “maze” pathways layout that emphasizes gambling equipment, low ceilings, dark lighting, neutral floor colors, zero visible time pieces, and gambling equipment as the main element of decor. He also analyzes the total slot-to-hotel room ratio for us, explaining that casinos should offer more slots machines than rooms in the hotel. This shows that the casino is not only servicing their guests, but attracting customers from competing casinos and other entertainment businesses.

An alternative layout to consider is the “Playground Design” by Roger Thomas. This design modernizes the Gaming Design by implementing a sense of grandeur in casinos. The Playground Design is characterized by safety and relaxation, offering updates from the traditional design with high ceilings, magnificent decorations, natural sunlight and clocks on the casino floor. This is the type of design is recognised in the most grand casino resorts today.

In 2009, these designs were put to the test in the Casino Décor Effects on Gambling Emotions and Intentions study by Finlay, Marmurek, Kanetkar and Londerville. Participants were given money to use at both a Gaming Design and Playground Design casino, and were tested to see which invested with and preferred more. The results of the study found that casinos with the Playground Design encouraged higher spending than the Gaming Design, and interestingly enough, that females were more likely to spend more than males. Additionally, the study found that the more a casino leaned toward this design, the more likely they were to receive a higher rating from customers.

The Allure of Winning Big

While casinos offers a wide variety of games, most are roughly broken down as 20% tables and 80% slot machines on average, and some casinos have slot machines outnumbering table games 10 to 1. Therefore, a service that offers gambling services must find a way to continuously evaluate machine interaction in order to maximize engagement. Each of these games have their own subtle (or not so subtle) and unique way of drawing in their players by combining aesthetics with functionality and convenience. Typically, slot machine areas present consistent and uniform aesthetics: live and vivid colors, machine themes that are relatable or meaningful to the masses, and game sounds that exhilarate the experience. These ingredients encourage further play.

Slot machines also offer many different winning combinations and rewards, and we need to experience these consistently throughout a session to keep up engagement with the game. A popular example in psychology is the practice of conditioning. B.F. Skinner is a behavioral psychologist who developed the basis for conditioning known as Skinner’s Box. Skinner put pigeons in a box that dispensed a reward in the form of food each time the subject pressed a button. After doing this a few times, the experimenter altered the timing of rewards. Instead of being rewarded with each press, a reward would be dispensed after a random amount of presses. This encouraged the pigeon to press the button more often. This ratio of presses-to-reward was key. The experiment also found that the subject would become frustrated and stop trying if the reward was not dispensed often enough. Similarly, if the reward was dispensed too often, the subject would feel fulfilled and not press the button as often. See the connection?

Another way these machines keep people in their seats is through the concept of “flow.” Flow is a state of hyperfocus, or as many of us would understand it, being “in the zone.” This state of mind builds the “just one more try” mentality in the customer, challenging them with each push that it just might be the one that wins the jackpot. A very successful design by game developers, as each interaction is a low-value investment with a big-win opportunity, making it easy to lose track of time and total investment on a machine. Even when you finally decide to resign, encouragement comes from a nearby jackpot ring and an ecstatic customer who timed out the perfect win.

No matter the approach you take, utilizing these psychological techniques will help your casino win big. When offering your customers the thrilling experience they desire while maximizing interaction and dwell times at your machines, we call it a “win-win.” That’s when a casino goes from “just winning” to hitting the jackpot.


About Scanalytics

Scanalytics is among the top 10 fastest growing “Internet of Things” companies, measuring human behavior insights through intelligent floor sensors. The SoleSensor platform translates consumer foot traffic into actionable data through a dashboard interface for real-time and historical viewing of trends in physical spaces. Using the floor sensor technology, brands capture and analyze occupancy, traffic patterns and engagement times to increase conversions and improve ROI.

With over 40 million impressions to date, Scanalytics has deployed SoleSensors across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Southeast Asia. Learn more at: www.scanalyticsinc.com.

Topics: Psychology, Branding