designing the casino

Casinos are a multi-billion dollar industry that relies on pleasing their customers. Pleasing clients is the cornerstone of every casino, both retail and online. The Las Vegas casino online and other online gaming platforms must create enticing environments online but retail casinos draw in customers based on the physical amenities that the casino offers. To do this, they consider the décor, the lighting, the layout of the slot machines, the unobtrusive security details, etc.

Land-based casinos have the luxury of being able to utilize physical elements to attract customers. Some of the ways that they do this involve light and sound which are key elements of a brick-and-mortar casino. Players are attracted to the bright, colorful and flashing lights which create a visually-stimulating environment.

Casinos rely on this kind of sensory overload to trigger releases of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that’s associated with motivation and pleasure in the brain -- to keep players engaged. Every nuance of the sounds and lights, including the pitch, the volume and the levels, are carefully calibrated to produce a sense of anticipation and excitement.

Other Elements

Online casinos join retail casinos in incorporating other elements in casino gaming that maximize psychological insights to keep their players engaged and coming back for more. They include:

Near Misses

Slot machines, one of the primary attractions in a casino, are designed to optimize the psychology of near misses. Near misses refer to the times that players come close to winning but fall just short. The near-win scenario stimulates players to keep playing as they hope that the next spin could be the jackpot. This concept, known as "loss aversion," plays on our innate desire to avoid losing and makes players more likely to keep feeding the slot machines.

Research shows that slot machines account for the highest percentage of revenue at Las Vegas casinos and, likely, at other casino venues as well. Due to a concept called cognitive dissidence, where people disassociate from the knowledge that, on average, they will lose more than they win, the hope of hitting it big keeps them feeding coins into the slot machine.

That’s a big part of the reason that there are slot machines located in every spare space of the casino – between the tables, along the corridors, etc. The more convenient those machines are to play, the more people will play and the more the casino will profit.


If you’ve ever visited a casino you’ve likely noticed that it’s easy to get lost. That’s not an accident, the maze-like layout is intentionally designed to be confusing. Corridors are winding, there’s little signage, there are no windows or easily-noticable landmarks and cash-out windows are hard to find.

The casino makes it hard to leave because they want people to stay on the gaming floor for as long as possible. The longer they stay, the more money they’re likely to spend. The exit options are limited so customers will stay longer and gamble more.

Free Food and Drinks

If you want to keep your customers from leaving to find nourishment and some alcoholic relaxation, the best way to do that is to offer free or discounted food and drinks to your patrons. That, surprisingly, is not the only reason that casinos ply their gamers with satisfying refreshments.

Casinos operate on the principle of “reciprocity” because they know that there’s a psychological concept that dictates that when people receive something for free, they feel an obligation to reciprocate. That (plus some alcoholic lubricant) often leads to more gambling and more spending.

New Concepts

Many of these elements of casino design are the brainchild of Bill Friedman, a professor of Casino Management at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Friedman wrote “Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition,” a book that, until recently, was used by almost every retail casino to set up their gaming floor.

According to Friedman, the main factor of casino design involves the understanding of the percentage of visitors who return. According to Friedman, the main focus of a casino’s design should be to enhance the overall gaming experience, attract gamblers aside from the casino-hotel’s own resort guests and make money.

Today, many of the newest casinos are taking a page from the book of the Bellagio which focuses on stimulating senses by providing ample light, high ceilings, glamorous lobby spaces with sculptures, excellent wayfinding elements and a high level of comfortability.

The Bellagio, and others like it, aim to promote an atmosphere of relaxation in order to encourage larger and riskier bets. Financially, the gamble paid off for the Bellagio, so we should be seeing more of these chances in the near future in new casino designs.

These spaces became refuge, and their overall designs manifested a much stronger desire to gamble.

Online Casino Psychology

The online casino, obviously, can’t use physical elements to attract and retain players but it can maximize other psychological enhancements as it builds its digital casino site.

In their advertising and marketing, many online casinos promote gamers’ abilities to make choices as part of their casino event – the gaming decisions, the option to play for free or for real money prizes, the choice to bet with finite or cybercurrency, etc – to make the gaming experience more engaging through a believe that the player’s decisions can influence, if not the outcome of the game, at least different stages of the gaming adventure.

Online casinos are also able to offer a more appealing rewards program. Rather than giving vouchers for free meals and discounts on hotel stays, they offer real money bonuses like gaming points and match credits, free cash and free chips. There are also lucrative VIP programs that make it more likely that players will join and spend more money .

The design of a casino is far more than just aesthetics; it's a careful orchestration of principles aimed at creating an environment that keeps players engaged. Understanding human psychology is at the core of these design choices. Casinos will continue to innovate to create rewarding experiences for their visitors.

As long as people are drawn to the thrill of gambling, psychology will remain a fundamental element in casino design.

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