Pi Attitude Zone: Self-Gratification

Gambling Dens Meet Interior Design

It’s widely known, even among addicted gamblers, that most of the money they bet stays with the house.  Why else would casino owners be in business?

What is less well-known, however,  is how the gambling industry gets us to suspend our common sense, and believe that one more roll may unlock the big win we just know is coming our way. 

Turns out it’s mostly about how the casino looks and feels.  Back in the 1960s, a reformed Las Vegas gambler called Bill Friedman started teaching a course in casino management at the University of Nevada.  His material was based on empirical research.  Since every hotel on the strip offered the same games at the same odds, he sought out the most-frequented gambling resorts, and studied what they had in common.  His findings, positioned as “what gamblers want”, set casino design rules for decades to come. 

A casino needed low ceilings, said Friedman, slot-machines that start within ten feet of the entrance, a labyrinthine layout so that the punter feels lost among the tables and slots, and no clocks or windows (so that people get disoriented and lose the sense of day versus night).  The rest of the hotel or resort was to be designed to funnel guests relentlessly into the gaming area.  It seemed to work.  For years, gamblers contentedly parted company with their stake money in dimly-lit, décor-impoverished slot mazes. 

Then along came Roger Thomas, head of design at Wynn Resorts, and the whole theory got turned on its head.  Steve Wynn’s palatial Vegas hotels brought opulence, style and luxury to a desert city whose resorts were previously preferred on the basis of their ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffets and their proximity to strip clubs. 

Thomas’ design sense dumped the conventional wisdom. “People don’t want to make bets when they feel trapped”, he said, and instead created opulent environments in which the ‘guests’ felt relaxed, safe, pampered, and accordingly more likely to risk big money on games of chance. 

The insight was based on a canny re-evaluation of consumers’ attitudes: the ‘gotcha’ was that people “feel glamorous in a glamorous space, and rich in a rich space.  Who doesn’t want to feel rich?”.  The net effect has been to give long-term gamblers new reasons to bet, and to seduce occasional and non-gamblers into trying their luck.  Beautiful, elegant surroundings act like a kind of anesthetic, diverting peoples’ attention away from the disappointment of their inevitable losses. 

Pi says:  maybe there’s a gambler in nearly everyone, just waiting for…um… the right décor?

Zone: Self-Gratification Country: USA / North America Product – Leisure