Now and then, many people enjoy a game of chance. The risk of losing versus the reward of winning gives players a rush of excitement. But just as with experiences that make people feel good, such as drinking alcohol, shopping, or eating, going overboard can also lead to mental dependence. To trigger the reward system, the brain becomes condition into wanting more to the point when the mental warning could be altered.
Sensuous gambling experience
A new study published in the journal The Senses and Society suggests that the lights, sounds, layout, and smell of casinos are crafted to entice gamers and keep them there as long as possible. The authors refer to it as the sensuous gambling experience. A group of researchers from the Centre for Sensory Studies, an interdisciplinary collaboration platform for research in the social life and history of the senses, sensory design and marketing, and multisensory aesthetics completed the research. The team looked at how certain techniques used in the Montreal Casino affect the client.
Shaping the atmosphere of the casino
In their ethnographic study, which requires interacting or observing with the participants in the real-life environment, they argue that they are among the first researchers to explore how sensory design strategies work together to create the casino atmosphere.
For their study, they witnessed first-hand the fun and art of an ordinary casino experience. They experienced sugary Vegas-style cocktails and met magicians and drag queens. They were also exposed to an abundance of deep-fried food. The authors described that it was a buffet of over-the-top sensations and spectacles.
Erin Lynch, an interdisciplinary scholar and senior fellow at the Center for Sensory Studies told Medical Xpress that in recent years, the experiential design has become popular in casinos. What is being offered is not only the activity but the experience too that appeals to the players’ senses. Their team wanted to take the contextual and relational approach and looked at how the senses mix within the casino environment. They also studied how several actors, like employees and patrons, co-produce the sensuous atmosphere.
The Vegas Nights
The Vegas Nights is a 9-pay line slot that depicts the gambling environment at its finest: big wins, entertaining music, and bright lights. The researches added that the Vegas Nights appealed to the “bacchanalian,” which is used to describe an event that is wild and wine-soaked. In ancient Roman, the name was in honor of Bacchus, the god of wine and ecstasy.
Lynch explains that when in Vegas, you are being somewhere else, like in Egypt, Venice, or Paris. At the Montreal Casino, for instance, the Vegas Nights pushes the event further. It becomes “a copy of a copy.”
The researchers spend time at the Centre du Hazard, a responsible gaming station at the Casino. Such government-mandated information kiosk makes it known to the player about certain aspects of gaming, allowing them to demystify the casino experience. The riskiness of the gambling-related acts is also made aware to them. So, although there are superficial similarities to the actual game, like spinning wheels and touchscreens, the experience “feels clinical in nature,” the team describes. They went on to emphasize that the sedate design of Centre du Hazard gaming station feels “out of place” as it provides information for the player in the sea of entertainment.
Gambling researches tend to zero in on the pathologies of play but the pleasurable experiences linked with gambling remain under-studied. Academics have abandoned such terrain and the industry continues to monopolize the discourses of pleasure. Erin and the team’s research pulls academics back into such terrain by showing how social science can tell about pleasure in gambling but still maintain that critical edge.
The house always wins
In a casino, gambling is designed so that the casino owners (house) will net a profit regardless of the success of the patrons. According to Casino.org, Macau is a major player in gambling this year even though gambling is illegal in mainland China. Half of Macau’s revenue is made up of gambling alone and it made almost $38 billion in 2018.
This year, the gambling industry of the USA is worth $261 billion and holds 1.8 million jobs. The majority of the casinos are in Nevada since gambling is banned in other states. The UK market is likewise steadily growing with changes in their legislation. In 2018, the UK gambling industry made £14.4 billion. An estimated 32% of the British population gamble every week.
Fourth in the list is Australia as 80% of its population gamble. People in Australia even bet more than other countries as they spend around $18 billion a year. Canada is fifth in the list as it makes CA$17.3 billion in revenue every year from gambling. The industry continues to grow. The statistics include online gambling.
For top casino countries in the world, the US ranks the list with the US $113.65 bn gross wins. Second in rank is China, including special administrative units Hong Kong and Macau with $80.91 bn. It is followed by Japan (47.27), and Italy (21.47). Las Vegas Sands remains the top casino company worldwide in 2019, according to the World Casino Directory. Other top casinos worldwide are MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Galaxy Entertainment Group, and Melco Entertainment Resorts.
Focusing in the US, the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help reminds the public that gambling is not just harmless entertainment. It can also lead to serious issues in different aspects of life. Problem players, those not capable of controlling their gambling behavior, are divided into age groups. The majority are between 16-24 years old (1.4%) as they show the most susceptibility, followed by 35-44 (1.1%). They are at higher risk. For 25-34 years old (0.8%), they tend to gamble less than their younger and older mates. For 45-55 and older, only 0.3% or less.
So, what exactly makes gambling addictive? Winning and making money are not the only reasons. The physical factors described in the new study compel players to keep playing and not just the psychological factors of gambler’s fallacy, loss aversion, and the illusion of control. Fortunately, there is plenty of information online about knowing a problem gambler and that, if they seek for support, it is an addiction that can be overcome.