How Casinos Make You Lose Track of Time


From the glitz of Las Vegas to the illegal pai gow parlors of New York’s Chinatown, casinos draw in an astounding variety of people. Some strut with confidence, expecting to win big, while others struggle to claw back the money they’ve lost. But one thing these patrons have in common is a desire to have fun. And that’s exactly what casinos want to give them.

Founded on the principle that the more time you spend gambling, the more you’ll lose, casino managers have figured out a way to manipulate their guests. Using sounds, lights and physical design, they create an environment that’s welcoming yet difficult to step away from. And the result is a place that’s more addictive than you might expect.

A casino’s biggest trick is making you forget time. You walk in and immediately lose track of the day, the hour or how much money you have spent. Curving paths and strategically placed gaming sections are designed to snaffle your attention, convincing you to try your hand at a new game when you might otherwise be heading to the bathroom or the exit.

Scorsese nailed this sense of enchantment in Casino, his 1992 adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s book about the Mob and the heyday of organized crime. But even though the film is a period piece and stars Goodfellas’ Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, it doesn’t shy away from the violence. In fact, its depiction of gangster life is downright frightening at times.