How Casinos Use Psychology to Keep Patrons in the Building


A casino is a place where games of chance are played for money. Traditionally it adds luxuries like food, drinks, entertainment and dramatic scenery to make the experience more enjoyable and increase the likelihood that patrons will spend more money than they intended. This is why casinos are designed to keep people in the building for as long as possible.

This is where psychology comes in to play. Many of the methods casinos use to encourage patrons to stay longer are based on psychological principles developed by Robert K. Abelson, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and author of a 630-page book titled Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition. His theory is that the ambiance of a casino should be so attractive that patrons will lose track of time and may not realize it is time to leave for dinner or the bathroom. To maximize this effect casinos remove indicators of time, such as clocks, and try to get players so involved in their gaming that they will not notice the passing of time until it is too late to leave.

Martin Scorsese’s 1995 movie Casino is a great example of this psychology in action. This film shows how casinos are able to suck patrons in with the promise of excitement, opulence and gambling fun. The film also features some truly hellacious violence, such as a gangster torture scene that had to be trimmed down to avoid an NC-17 rating. While many movies set in Las Vegas only scratch the surface and portray the city as a party paradise, Casino digs deeper and delves into the city’s roots in organized crime while still showing off a lot of neon signs and opulent ambiance.