Why Do Casinos Make Us Gamble?


It’s happened to all of us: you stride into a casino, wallet filled with cash, and a plan for an afternoon or evening of enjoyable, sensible gaming and maybe two rounds of drinks. Then hours later, you find yourself at the ATM again, wondering where all your money went. How do casinos make otherwise rational people — people who work hard for their income and make reasoned financial decisions on a day-to-day basis — toss hundreds or even thousands of dollars away based on the roll of a dice or spin of a slot machine?

It begins with the environment. Most modern casinos are designed to envelop you in a pulsing, colorful fantasy world of flashing lights and clinking slots. The walls are covered in gaudy, gold-plated art, and the air is heavy with perfumes and cigar smoke. Even the bathrooms are tucked deep into the casino, past all the many opportunities to try your luck. You can’t escape the place unless you want to — and even then, it is hard to step out of a casino without feeling like a complete idiot.

Then there are the games themselves. From classic table games that pit players’ wits against each other to slots that allow you to place bets based on nothing more than the color of the slot or a sequence of numbers, there’s something for every type of gambler. And that’s not including the booze and the music. Casinos pump in scented air and play loud, joyful music to keep you happy, and when another player hits that big jackpot on a slot or rakes in the chips at the blackjack table, the crowd roars and cheers. Even if you know that those wins are a rare event, the illusion created by the sounds and lights keeps you playing.

In addition, studies have shown that gambling improves a variety of abilities, including math skills, critical thinking, and pattern recognition. In fact, some games require you to develop and implement an intricate strategy — like poker, aethngbl, or blackjack, where players study body language for tells. These strategies can help you beat the house, but they don’t necessarily mean that you can win in the long run.

Casinos also employ a number of other tricks to lure in players and make them spend more money. They hide clocks so you can’t tell what time of the day or night it is, and they use lighting to create a mood that’s at once bright and temperate. This manufactured blissful experience is meant to distract you from the fact that you’re losing money hand over fist.

There’s one other trick casinos employ to keep you spending — they give you lots of chances to win. They’re always offering free spectacular entertainment, luxurious transportation, and elegant living quarters to high-rollers, and they offer reduced-fare transportation, hotel rooms, and free drinks and cigarettes while you’re gambling. These inducements give you a virtual assurance that you’ll earn more money than you lose, and they’re an important part of why casinos are so profitable.

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