The new casinos and how they induce you to spend money

From Jonah Lehrer.

Using the Panoscope method, Finlay compared the mental effects of classic casinos, with low ceilings and a mazelike layout, to those of casinos designed by Thomas. Subjects surrounded by footage of Thomas’s interiors exhibited far higher levels of what Finlay terms mental “restoration”—that is, they were much more likely to say that the space felt like a “refuge” and reduced their stress level. They also manifested a much stronger desire to gamble. In every Panoscopic matchup, gamblers in Thomas’s rooms were more likely to spend money than those in Friedmanesque designs. Although subjects weren’t forced to focus on the slot machines, the pleasant atmosphere encouraged them to give the machines a try.

Finlay refers to Thomas’s environments as “adult playgrounds,” since they provide an atmosphere in which people are primed to seek pleasure. “These casinos have lots of light and excellent way-finding,” she told me. “They make you feel comfortable, of course, but they also constantly remind you to have fun.”

…Thomas’s designs have a particularly marked effect on those guests who normally don’t gamble. The seduction of his décor, perhaps, is that it doesn’t feel like a gambling environment. The beauty is a kind of anesthesia, distracting people from the pain of their inevitable losses.

I just noticed exactly this from my trip yesterday to the newer complexes.  While I felt no temptation to gamble, I found them far more pleasant than the traditional casinos, and if I were going to gamble, I would do it there.  My refuge I found in Jose Andres’s restaurant China Poblano (in the Cosmopolitan), which I recommend if you are also here for the APEE meetings.


Mazes in department stores slow you down. There is no clear line of site to the exit.
There are higher ceilings in high end department stores than in budget stores; high end stores hang lighting-- chandeliers or other lighting--and use less recessed lighting.
There are studies which show that in hot climates a store will signal its quality by running the air conditioner at lower temperature, and that consumers will identify the store as high end based on the temperature.
Flashing lights in casinos, and random noises of slot machines, are there to distract you and give you a sense of excitement. Libraries don't.

"There are studies which show that in hot climates a store will signal its quality by running the air conditioner at lower temperature, and that consumers will identify the store as high end based on the temperature."

Why is that? I remember shopping malls in Singapore being really cold.

Speculatively -

It's expensive to do so. Electricity is not cheap. Recall that signaling requires a costly signal to be effective.

It's a requirement for doing other things that being high-quality entails, like your staff and target customers wearing multi-layered Western clothing.

In the very strong sunlight, everything has a propensity to become warm and combating this requires even cooler air. From experience, even with 12°C indoor air (~53°F), sunlight streaming in through a window would be sufficient to render someone sitting in its glare uncomfortably warm.

The climate is very humid. Insofar as feeling cool is a function of humidity and heat, the air needs to be even cooler than normal.

It's not really that cold and you're really observing indoor HVAC with an especially high air flow in order to combat sweat odors.

It's not really that cold and you're just acclimating to outdoor temperatures.

Add affiliation with perceived climates in London, Paris and New York.

They don't turn it off during a Northern hemisphere summer.

I think people "consume" a bundle of entrrtainment goods at casinos. Your willingness to pay varies with the value of the overall bundle. Expecting to lose so cash in a nice place is "more ok" if you still get an overall higher value of your time there.

Of course, you can just enjoy the non-gambling entertainment there too, and some people do.

Non-gaming revenue (shows, hotel rooms, dining, shopping, clubs, etc) passed gaming revenue in Las Vegas a long time ago, like over a decade.

Casinos' human decor isn't quite as young and attractive as in all the TV commercials.

+100, but then again, does any business live up to its commercials?

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