The music they incessantly play in the background has sounds vaguely like a slot machine paying out.
Casinos are among the worst examples of an artificial environment to control behavior. It really is like a zoo. Makes museums that force exiting through the gift shop look benign.
As someone with an addictive personality, I find it shocking how casinos are so inclusive when it comes to sucking people in. All races, all ages (especially seniors). All focused on their game with an intensity that I wonder if they exhibit in their regular lives.
While I've been lucky enough (once or twice) to experience the rush of winning several hundred dollars at blackjack in the space of 20 minutes (it really is a surreal/joyous experience - you feel like everyone is cheering you on - like a celebrity almost), I'd rather avoid casinos than to get sucked into the vortex.
I can't be the only one who finds that annoying? When I'm in a casino in London that's one of the things that limits how much I bet on a hand, the fact that I don't want to be a spectacle - many times I've played big enough hands that a small crowd will form to watch even if I'm alone on a table... and it's just a little weird in my opinion.
edit: Weird from my point of view, not weird that they do it - I too enjoy watching over the shoulder of people as they play.
This all comes from a research paper: http://www.nh.gov/gsc/calendar/documents/20091117_harrigan_d...
"So I started betting, and right away I lost five dollars in succession — one, two, three, four, five. I was supposed to be out only seven cents; instead, I was five dollars behind! I've never gambled since then (with my own money, that is). I'm very lucky that I started off losing."
Back to the idea of near misses, I spent an afternoon reading webpages like this one...
...which show with charts how the "near miss" effect works. I then went ahead and blew the $20 that was in my pocket the next time I was in a casino for a buffet dinner. I play games that I enjoy, with the licenses, all the lights and sounds and big numbers and terrible payouts. I have some fun losing, but never as much fun as I'd have with 1/4th the money if I just took it down the street to the Pinball Hall of Fame arcade.
If you're curious just search for "PAR sheet" or "payable and reel sheet".
A typical PAR sheet is mentioned in the study two leaps above, but that's just reverse-engineering the math. Understanding virtual reels helps look at it from the designer's direction.
The invention of "bonus games" that play when a certain reel combination was hit also changed the math drastically. A lot of companies that were locked out of virtual reels by IGT's ownership of the Telnaes patent used this technique to offer similar payout structures.
IGT seems to own all, it's like you can't touch a thing without IGT being involved. I've even heard stories of potential new IGT employees being asked if they have any invention ideas, if they do IGT will but them.
But, interestingly, you can see the place differently if you change the 'soundtrack'. If you're in Las Vegas and have a good set of ear-sealing headphones – for example rubber earbuds – try listening to your own choice of music while strolling around. It creates sufficient detachment to let you view things as if with new eyes, and a slightly clearer mind. It's not quite the glasses from 'They Live' – but close.
Bright lights, flashing lights, disruptive sounds you have to tune out.... It narrows your sense of reality just as say a computer game does, and that also helps ensure that people play suboptimally.
I am less convinced by the color scheme arguments, since colors associations are extremely culturally bound.
My thoughts too. Looks like the color choices in that color wheel are arbitrary. I tried searching for information on why the colors in that wheel are associated with the emotions the way they are, but couldn't find any.
Not to mention the relatively high occurrence of some amount of color blindness in males.
This is a very interesting subject, perhaps worthy of a more scientific study.
So there is a business in not being like the other businesses.
He describes some of the stuff they actually do: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/11/15/142366953/the-tues...
Gave me a more positive view of casinos as Gary Loveman comes off as seeing himself in the business of selling customers “having a good time” and works hard to ensure that his customers leave the casino feeling they indeed had, which may require e.g. giving gift cards or similar to customers who are on a losing streak.
I am sure a lot of the game companies (Zynga, online poker etc) are all over this!
Also reminds me a little of this awesome Reddit interview as well (the guy explains how data driven the online game companies are and its quite awesome and scary); http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/pc6j9/iama_former_full...
Lastly it also reminds me of this article from a few days ago illustrates what crazy (but profitable) things you can do with data/behaviour/trend analysis (how the Target shops target you advertising); http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-targe...
Some of those things are mentioned in the classic hacker book "The Newtonian Casino"
I'm not sure how the Shiv experiment proves anything. I personally would always choose the chocolate cake, no matter how much time I had to spend on the decision - I just don't like fruit salads, at least not as much as cakes. And one doesn't eat desserts all the time, so it's not much of a problem anyway. 'Optimal' != 'healthy', and I bet (pun intended) that when choosing dessert many people optimize for feeling, not for health.
(Maybe this effect was documented using some other experiments, but sometimes when I read psychology stuff, I start do doubt both my and researchers' sanity, because I can't figure out how little shifts of behavior over e.g. a chocolate cake, tested on a small (< 1k) sample are really giving us any valuable insight, and are not just random noise)
EDIT: I'm searching for original paper on Shiv experiment. It might be that cognitive load makes our decision less rational, but I'm not buying choosing salad over cake as a rationality test.
EDIT2: Found it.
It seems that they also asked people to rate the rationality of their choice - whether they believe the cake/salad is good for health, a wise choice, etc. Given this data the result and conclusions sound a bit more reasonable.
I try to trust peer reviewed papers (if we can't trust them, what can we trust?), but I also try to keep my bullshit meter well calibrated. There's enough of pseudo-scientific "knowledge" circulating around. Just look at 7-38-55 (spoken-voice-body language) "rule of communication" and 'cone of learning' ("we remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, ...") - it gets repeated around all the time, but if you think of it, it makes no sense. And, in fact, it's totally not true. It's just a result of a big misinterpretation of some scientific studies.
I don't think most of these more exotic strategies (i.e. other than gaming itself and alcohol) were consciously employed when organized crime ran the industry. They made so much money skimming profits that they weren't too worried about squeezing dimes out nor were they sophisticated in that way (they were very sophisticated in other ways). In that time, the culture was marked by personal relationships (who you know), "comping" or giving free things, cheap rooms and food, more live entertainment, more well dressed adults going out at night rather than people walking the strip in the day pushing strollers, etc. Also there was a notable lack of violent crime in and around the casino areas. Organized crime wouldn't allow purse snatchers, card cheats, etc. (Of course I mean other than the crime committed by the mafia in enforcing this peace or crime among themselves).
This all changed as corporations began to run things and the mafia became more marginalized beginning in the '90's. The corporation's spreadsheet toting MBA's began calculating profitability on a per-square-foot basis. This resulted in less comping, more expensive food and hotel rooms, live entertainment replaced with more video poker, and many of the more esoteric strategies to induce gaming profits such as those mentioned in the article. It also resulted in some notable failures - for example the idea of appealing to families by adding huge kids rides and carnival style game areas. (This idea was taken from the Circus Circus Hotel which was the first to have that.) The idea kind of flopped and the hotels realized that people with kids don't spend 16 hours at a blackjack table (shocker). A spectacular example of this was the theme park behind the MGM that they eventually tore down. They shifted back to gaming and adult entertainment launching the "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" campaign and we saw the rise of casinos like the Palms that appealed to young men trying to relive the cool sophistication of Hugh Hefner's days in the '60s.
But there has to be money involved nobody will play if money can't be won, it's not the slot machine or deck of cards it's the gambling.
Zynga Texas Hold'Em seems to be a fairly definitive disproof by counterexample here. (For that matter, a lot of MMORPGs/social games/etc use gambling mechanics and psychology without any monetary reward for winning the game.)
Occasionally you would get people would spend too much and need help, the same for alcohol some people just can't regulate their vices. But anyway, my uncle offered to take a slot machine to their house set it up so they could play all they wanted without cost, or gain! Nobody he offered that to wanted to play without winning.
As for the "non-gaming" i.e. not casino type games, such as the MMOROGs/social games I would say players are aware before they play no money is won (unless there are side bets) but levels are status are probably just as valuable to them. Even with slots I have seen people trying to win the jackpot which may be $500 yet spend weeks trying to get it spending 100x that amount, or a bonus pot/progressive which may be almost nothing; it's not so much the money as it is the feeling but with slots it doesn't pay out in feelings only money.
For all of those examples I always think of an article I read about the US military where soldiers in WWI and WWII were not shooting at the enemy, soldiers were frozen with fear. So a system was created where the soldiers were trained to shoot at a target that popped up and when hit it would fall down. The response was to shoot and when hit the falling target was the reward and it got to the point the soldier would shoot it without thought more instinct. This training is called "Stimulus Response Reward" and I think gambling as well as any repetitive system seems to condition people to act, add to that genetic predisposition of gamblers to gamble on top of SRS.