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How Casinos Work

The Casino Experience
The Atrium at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia.
The Atrium at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia.
Photo courtesy of Jamesbehave

The interior design of a casino has some very specific goals -- keep the patrons happy and make them feel that they're having a unique experience. It doesn't hurt to minimize their awareness of the passing of time, as well. Casino décor can vary greatly, but they try to give off an air of expensive taste. Lush carpets or richly tiled hallways complement carefully designed lighting, which is often dimmed slightly to give the casino some excitement and mystery. Often, a large prize of some kind is displayed prominently, such as a sports car on a rotating pedestal. Casinos on the legendary Vegas strip take this to another level. A single casino resort can cost $1 billion or more, and may include multiple luxury hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, enormous fountains or even giant replicas of Egyptian pyramids or volcanoes.

Casinos take a number of steps to keep gamblers content. Free food and drink keeps them on the casino floor and might even get them intoxicated, which doesn't exactly reduce the house edge. One of the reasons casinos use chips instead of real money is that chips make money into an abstraction (chips also help the casino track how much money is going in and out of the casino). Players are less likely to be concerned with the money they're losing, since it doesn't look like actual money. The casino may put ATM machines in strategic locations, although some states regulate how many and where they can be placed.

Windows and clocks are extremely rare in casinos. The absence of natural light and chiming clocks allows players to gamble for hours without realizing how long they've spent (or, more importantly, how much money they've spent) on the casino floor. One would think that a simple wristwatch would render this strategy useless, but casino designers continue to employ it.

Comps are another way to keep people gambling longer. Making high rollers and big spenders feel special encourages people to try to be big spenders and high rollers. We've already discussed the perils of playing for comps. One recurring casino myth is that casinos pipe pure oxygen onto the casino floor, ostensibly to give gamblers an "oxygen high" that lowers their inhibitions. There is no evidence that this has ever taken place, and if it did, the casino owners would face criminal charges.

We'll look at casino security in the next section.