Secrets Casinos Don't Want You To Know
Have you ever innocently wandered in through the sliding doors of a casino, drawn in by the flashing lights and clanging machines, only to emerge several hours later in a dejected daze?
Well, you’re not alone — and it's no accident that this happened.
Casinos work hard to lure you in and help you part with as much of your hard-earned cash as possible. By purposely disorienting you, plying you with booze and promising winnings that never come, they guarantee that the house always wins. Little wonder that, globally, casinos rake in $119 billion from gaming each year.
To help you lose a little less during your next gaming vacation, we've rounded up some clever tricks casinos employ to turn a profit. Hint: be careful of those "free" drinks, and if you want to win big, never (ever) play Keno.
They leave intentionally long lines at cashiers’ desks.
It’s no accident that the cashiers’ cages are usually located in the deep recesses of the building, past hundreds of tempting machines and tables.
And if by some chance you do make it to the desk to cash out your winnings, it’s usually no mistake that there are long queues of people waiting to do the same. The theory here, at least in the more cynical of casinos, is that by understaffing cashout desks and allowing queues to grow, patrons will decide to ditch the line and blow their meager winnings instead.
They don’t want you to know the time.
There's a reason so many patrons leave casinos feel disorientated. Casinos want guests to lose track of time while they’re inside, and as a result they will make every effort to avoid displaying clocks, time or references to what’s happening in the real world.
Casinos combine this strategy with other distractions and enticing elements to get players caught up in a trance-like state, constantly justifying “just one more hand” — without realizing how long it’s been since they stepped through the doors.
The playlist adds to your casino hypnosis.
If you can’t remember the music that was playing in the background at the last casino you stepped into, chances are there’s a very good reason for that. This is because most casinos use music and careful sound design to keep you in the gambling zone, or to draw you to different sections of the casino, without breaking your concentration.
Without distinctive songs, it’s easier to get into a flow that keeps you reaching for the buttons. Most also use music to draw you to different sections of the casino — upbeat tracks coupled with clanging slots can effortlessly lead you to the casino’s biggest earners.
Although the music can’t actually hypnotize guests into spending more money, as some conspiracy theories suggest, it’s a key element of the strategy to keep you seated for longer and spending more money.
There are few windows for a reason.
Just like clocks, windows are a good way to tell what time of day it is. Or, at the very least, what you’re missing out on in the real world. As a result, once you step onto the casino floor, there’s a good chance you won’t see any windows or natural lighting.
Almost all lighting in casinos comes from artificial sources, and it’s carefully controlled to help you forget about the time of day. Some casinos even go so far as to create a fantasy world where it feels as if it’s permanently daytime, complete with blue skies and clouds painted on the rooftops. (As at, memorably, the Paris Las Vegas hotel.)
Some games give you more chance of winning than others.
Any serious gambler will tell you that some games are far more likely to pay out than others. Slots, for example, will hardly ever deliver any serious payouts, and should be viewed more as mild entertainment than a way to make any returns.
Though a little more daunting than the machines, some table games like blackjack actually give you a better chance of walking away with some winnings. With a basic strategy for blackjack, the house only has a 1 percent advantage. Compare this to games like roulette and craps — they may be packed full of excitement, but they have much smaller odds of winning. In these cases, the house has an advantage of 5.26 percent, and up to 16 percent, respectively.
The penny slots are a waste of time.
The cheapest slot machines, with their attractive lights, big buttons and enticing sounds, might be the most tempting place to start when you head out for a night of gambling. They usually don’t require you to part with too much cash, at least not initially, and can keep you playing for longer. If you’re looking just to soak up the atmosphere, and treat these machines like arcade games, then go for it.
But cheap slot machines are often the most profitable in the entire casino, with experts suggesting slots are two to three times more costly to play than table games. If you’re heading to the casino to win big, you’ll have to spend big — and be prepared to go broke.
If you’re determined to play the slots, then that means skipping over the penny machines and going with bigger denominations, where your odds of making a reasonable profit are marginally better.
Keno will basically never pay out the jackpot.
Many modern casinos now offer some variation on the game Keno, where players wager by choosing up to 15 numbers between 1 and 80 on a card. Twenty numbers are then drawn at random, and players can win if they match a certain number of available numbers.
It’s not unlike your standard lottery system, and might seem tempting at first, but any mathematician will tell you it’s best to steer well clear of this game. That’s because the odds of winning are basically non-existent. The odds of hitting 10 out of 20 numbers rests 1 in 253,801. And the probability of hitting all 20? A ridiculous 1 in 3.5 quintillion.
They’re keeping you awake (but not with piped oxygen).
Fatigue is the enemy of any successful casino, and players who start to drift off after a long day of gambling are at risk of pocketing their credit cards and calling it a night. Because of this, rumors abound about how casinos secretly keep their customers awake without them knowing.
The main theory that still does the rounds in Vegas is that casinos pipe in oxygen, or air laced with pheromones, to help keep gamblers feeling refreshed and ready to part with more cash.
Although Snopes debunked the conspiracy about piped oxygen and pheromones, a move they say would be outlawed in most states, casinos do control the internal climate very carefully. Their goal: achieve just the right temperature to keep you comfortable and alert enough to continue bashing those buttons.
Near (and small) wins are there to keep you gambling.
Apart from actually winning, there are few moments as thrilling as those “near misses” on the slots. If casinos paid out as often as the slots make it seem they will, they wouldn’t be in business. Instead, they use these near misses on the slots, where those 7s almost align for a multi-million dollar jackpot, to keep your adrenaline pumping and your money flowing.
The same is also true for some table games, though it’s more up to chance. Most blackjack players will win a hand or two throughout the evening, which gives the impression that it’s possible to beat the house. The reality in most cases, however, is that these small wins along the way only draw you in deeper, getting you to gamble more than you intended.
They’re manipulating you with their ugly carpets.
It’s no secret that casinos have some of the ugliest carpets imaginable. Most look like remnants from a forgotten era, when amateur interior designers took pleasure in throwing together clashing luminous colors and jarring patterns. But as with most design elements in a casino, this choice is about more than just poor taste — there are several possible explanations behind the monstrosities lurking under your feet.
The first, and most obvious, is that the bizarre patterns hide drink stains and wear and tear, but other theories also abound. Some say they’re designed to conceal dropped playing chips, so the casino can sweep them up later in the evening.
Another explanation is that these bad-taste carpets contain subliminal messages about gambling and winning, and help keep you alert and fixated on the fantasy world of gambling.
The interior is intentionally confusing.
Feel like every time you walk into a casino, you’re stepping into some bizarre new-age maze? Ever noticed how, at casino hotels, you always seem to end up walking past the same clanging slot machines, now matter how desperate you are to exit?
That’s not unintentional. In fact, it’s another deliberate tactic that casinos around the world use to keep you gambling.
That vast sea of tables, flashing lights, lack of recognizable landmarks, seemingly illogically placed machines and unclear exits are designed to disorient you, making it difficult to leave.
Casinos also place the flashiest, easiest and most profitable machines close to the entrance to draw you in and get the adrenaline flowing, with the hope that the bug will bite and you’ll venture in deeper.
They use chips to psychologically manipulate you.
Chips are the official currency of casinos around the world, and their bright colors and that iconic clinking sound have become synonymous with gambling. But their widespread use is about more than just aesthetics — although they serve several practical functions like making play more convenient and safer, they also deliberately disassociate players from the money they’re spending. Consider how much more difficult it would be to part with a crisp $100 bill, versus sliding a chip along the green felt of the roulette table.
The same is true with the new wave of casino playing cards that swept through the industry in the late ‘90s — charge them up once, and you’ll never see hard cash again. When you’re not playing machines by feeding cash into each machine, it’s far easier to get caught up in the excitement and forget you’re actually betting real money, and lots of it.
Card counting isn’t illegal, but it will get you kicked out.
There’s no law that says you’re not allowed to count cards during a game of blackjack, but that’s not to say a casino official who spots you trying to beat the house has to allow you to hang around.
Though it may not be illegal, casino security is within its rights not to let you gamble there should they suspect you of counting cards. The reality is that counting cards is incredibly difficult and requires many years of training — by which stage, casino bosses will probably know who you are and be sure to limit your time in front of the dealer.
Free drinks on the casino floor aren’t exactly free (or particularly strong).
Like fatigue, hunger and thirst are big concerns for casinos. A gambler who’s off wandering the aisles looking for a drink is a gambler who’s not pulling the arm on a one-arm bandit. Because of this, casinos take their floor service very seriously, to the point that many will offer free beverages to those who look settled in for a day or night of gambling.
This is much less about casinos caring for your well-being and happiness, and more about keeping you locked in to the game by plying you with watered-down well drinks.
Most people who’ve ventured into casinos and relished in the so-called free drinks forget that they paid for them 10 times over in the day’s gambling losses. And, of course, a few drinks do wonders to help impair your judgment and loosen those purse strings.
They use high roller rewards to try and get their money back.
Much like the alcohol, there’s usually no such thing as a freebie when it comes to casinos. Those stories about hotels putting their MVPs up in luxurious suites and showering them with freebies is no myth, but they do so to make more money, or in some cases, to get their cash back from big winners.
The longer they can keep the big winners and spenders on the casino grounds, the more chance they have of getting them back onto the casino floor. In the bigger scheme of the gambling economy, a free night in a hotel suite costs the casino very little compared to what they might be able to make back off the seemingly good deed.
You should walk away when you’re ahead.
“Quit while you’re ahead” might be one of the most overused clichés, but in the case of casino gambling, it’s worth emphasizing what excellent advice it is.
Casinos know the average odds are in their favor across all games. Even in the off chance that someone hits it big, they have enough strategies in place to ensure most winners will plough their money straight back into the casino’s coffers.
The only way to ensure that you don’t become a statistic in this regard is to be conservative and walk as soon as you make a profit, no matter how boring this might seem. The reality is that even if you walk away with a few extra dollars, you’ve made more than the majority of those gambling around you will.