The ugly carpets of Vegas

I have a friend who teaches at Cornell's famous School of Hotel Administration; she has a lot of casino designer contacts. According to her, the carpets are deliberately designed to obscure and camouflage gambling chips that have fallen onto the floor. The casinos sweep up a huge number of these every night. So the carpets are just another source of revenue.

There is more at the link, including some striking photos.  For the pointer I thank Arun Eamani.


There's a rebuttal to the original theory on the website:

UPDATE 2: Dun dun DUNN! The plot thickens, with a little bit of Ivy League rivalry! Reader-with-cool-name Ian Banger has a bone to pick with Mr. Chan's theory:

I went to the Hotel School at Cornell (graduated in '08) and have to call bullshit on the sweeping up chips story. Our design professor addressed a whole bunch of the carpet rumors, almost all of which are bogus, especially the hiding of chips on casino floors. The primary use of the wacky patterns is to hide stains and the wear patterns from people walking along the same path all the time. I also asked one of my best friends, who works at the Wynn and went to school with me about it. She responded, "Trust me, if someone drops a chip and can't find it, they're not letting it go. They're coming to me demanding compensation." It's more fun if the evil casino people are trying to nickle and dime you with crazy techniques, but not really accurate.

Tacky design and decor in Las Vegas? I would never have believed it without the photos.

I call market failure. As a Progressive I suggest we create a Congressional Oversight Panel on Casino Carpets. We must create a licensing program to ensure those designing carpets have the customers' interest in mind, not the evil corporations that rape and pillage the little guy.

Movie theaters use carpets that purposely make it difficult to see popcorn on the floor.

What I want to know is, who makes the carpets?

They are surely unsellable in any other context. Do they have an in-house carpet design team? And do those folks consider themselves misunderstood geniuses, or are they in on the joke?

Rubbish. As others have stated, the carpet design serves to hide stains and wear and tear. Although I have heard another theory that is more plausible than the camouflage chip theory - ugly, busy carpet patterns encourage customers to look up while they walk instead of down. The idea being that customers looking down will not be enticed to play the slot machines and tables.

Hiding the fallen chips, hide stains or any other reason presented may be true. Those are the reasons behind the ugly carpet designs and that’s undeniable. The fact that people are talking about it gives another reason for those ugly designs. Get it?


The rooms may never shut down, but you can be sure the floor is vacuumed regularly.


Someone who knows he dropped a chip might not let it go.

Found property should be handed over to the state.

I have to say the fallen chip theory is the only one that seems even slightly convincing to me:

The idea that casino carpets are so ugly in order to hide stains and wear-and-tear doesn't make a lot of sense to me; there are a huge number of places which are used just as or nearly as heavily, and they don't have hideous carpeting. Same with the theory that ugly carpets somehow make you more interested in gambling; does anyone seriously believe people in a casino with a plain-colored carpet would spend their time admiring the floor?

Looking at the photos, it seems very true that they make it very hard to find fallen chips, and the fact that this kind of carpeting seems to exist exclusively in casinos (and not in, say, hotels or offices or medical practices) is a hint that this might be in fact an intentionally desired effect.

If you get down close and look (don't ask how I know), you'll also find that the intricate patterns in many casinos and rooms are spray painted on - which no doubt makes for easy touch-ups.

The fallen-chip theory makes no sense, regardless of your opinion of the ethics of people who run casinos. People simply don't drop that many chips! The extra profit would be a rounding error.

If you're looking for a reason for anything at all that casinos do or don't do, the explanation almost certainly begins and ends with measurable and replicatable revenue maximization.

In other words, casinos must have run extensive empirical experiments, changing floor patterns and other elements of decor, and simply settled on what was found to work best. Now maybe you could invent some underlying psychological theory (or "just-so story") to explain this -- perhaps garish patterns induce an untranquil, restless psychological state that creates a "call to action" -- but casinos probably just shrug and go with what works, without worrying too much about the reason.

In a similar vein, I have been told (by someone who works in one) that bars that play earsplitting music do so because they found that it (predictably and consistently) makes people drink more.

Living in Las Vegas and attending UNLV's MBA program, the story I've heard from my professors and classmates is that the carpets are painful to look at because they'd rather your eyes be drawn up to the gaming machines and tables.

My wife and I travel to Las Vegas a lot to play poker--at least we did before we reproduced--and "Steve" has it right. The reason I believe this is that the new Aria resort kindly ran the counterfactual. A large bunch of carpet near the entrance is a modern, attractive, solid steel-gray color, totally unheard of near the gaming areas of Las Vegas.

And at this meticulously maintained, high-end, newest-of-the-megaresorts megaresort, that patch of carpet was already filled with an appalling constellation of stains. It was disgusting and immediately noticeable. In my view, Aria settles the ugly-carpet question with high probability.

Probably because stains can be hidden more easily and to give darkness & ambiance to the room. They could though use some nice tile flooring.

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