The Psychology of Casino Design

min read
A glamorous casino dealer standing in front of an exclusive poker table.
BetMGM Jul 17, 2023, 8:29 PM

Step into the engaging world of casino design, where every detail – from the layout of casino table games to lavish interior furnishings – is meticulously crafted to enhance your gaming experience. Explore the principles of casino psychology behind the scenes and how the world’s best casino designs put them into practice.

Cracking the Casino Psychology Code

When you look into designing casinos, you’ll soon find that beneath the glitz and glamor lies a carefully crafted tapestry of psychological principles at play. Every element is meticulously woven together to create a casino effect that maximizes engagement, prolongs play and keeps guests entertained.

A Timeless World

Casino designers understand the power of loss aversion. One of the things people don’t like to lose is time. By creating an environment that masks the passage of time and prompts continuous play, they keep players engrossed, making sure to avoid potential losses. Why don’t casinos have windows and clocks? Because they remind us of the outside world. Instead, carefully controlled lighting, immersive soundscapes and labyrinthine casino layout turn our focus inwards, creating an alluring environment that transcends the boundaries of time.

Positive Reinforcement

Anchoring our minds with positive experiences is a crucial aspect carefully orchestrated by casinos. They skillfully employ a combination of vibrant lights, celebratory sounds reminiscent of clattering coins and captivating visuals showcasing joyful players. These elements work in harmony to reinforce the exhilaration of winning, serving as powerful motivators that drive us to pursue that elusive next big triumph.


Creating an illusion of scarcity amplifies desire. From limited-time offers to exclusive VIP areas, casinos leverage our innate drive to access rare opportunities, encouraging us to become more invested in the pursuit of that elusive jackpot.

Sensory Stimulation

Casinos engage our senses through a multi-sensory experience. Besides dazzling lights, they feature energetic sounds, aromatic scents and tactile sensations. This stimulates our senses, heightening our engagement with the games.

Cognitive Biases

Biases contribute to the belief in patterns or systems, ultimately encouraging longer gameplay. The gambler’s fallacy misleads individuals into believing that past outcomes can influence future independent events, distorting their perception of randomness. On the other hand, confirmation bias leads us to favor or seek out information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs or expectations, which keeps us engaged.

Social Influence

The social environment within casinos creates a sense of camaraderie and social connection. Seeing others win or hearing their cheers triggers a desire to participate and replicate their success, fostering a sense of belonging and influencing our behavior. The social aspect is often a deciding factor when choosing between a land-based or online casino.

Reward Anticipation

Casinos masterfully employ reward anticipation to keep us entertained. The intermittent reinforcement schedule, with occasional big wins and near-misses, triggers a release of dopamine in our brains, driving us to chase that next rewarding experience. Don’t underestimate the value of frequent small wins, cleverly dispensed to ensnare your senses and keep you engaged.

Past and Present Approaches to Casino Design

Two prominent figures deserve to be recognized as the best casino designers in the industry. Bill Friedman, born in the United States in 1932, is known for his strategic layouts applying principles of behavioral psychology in his interiors. His fellow American, Roger Thomas, was born in 1941 and is renowned for his innovation, attention to detail and creation of luxury casinos.

These two designers possess distinct styles, approaches and design philosophies  ̶  all with the common objective of attracting gamblers while encouraging their continued engagement. Friedman’s design focuses on maximizing player engagement and retention through the absence of clocks and windows, with an emphasis on gaming machines. Thomas’s casino layouts create luxurious and opulent environments to evoke a sense of grandeur and attract high-end players. Both designs leverage psychological principles to influence player behavior and create immersive casino experiences.

Old-School Design

Friedman is regarded as an old-school designer because his principles and strategies were developed during an earlier era of casino layout and design. His focus on practicality, efficiency and behavioral psychology, along with his emphasis on functional layouts and minimizing distractions, align with traditional approaches to design that have evolved over time.

While still influential, Friedman’s design philosophy is often associated with a more traditional and established style compared to more innovative and contemporary approaches.

Friedman’s main focus is to attract and retain players within the casino environment, encouraging them to engage in gambling activities for longer periods. He directs attention to gaming machines by color-coding passageways and emphasizing them as the main feature, minimizing other decorations.

Friedman emphasizes the removal of elements that may distract players from gambling; thus, no clocks and windows. By creating an environment free from external cues, players are more likely to remain immersed in the gaming experience.

With his iconic Desert Inn (1950,) he introduced the concept of thematic design, incorporating elements inspired by the Arabian Nights to create a captivating environment for guests.

Friedman promotes the use of smaller, segmented rooms and narrow walkways to create a cozy and intimate atmosphere. This design approach aims to make players feel comfortable and less overwhelmed, encouraging them to stay and play.

Friedman advocates for a seemingly random arrangement of slot machines throughout the casino floor. By increasing the chances of players encountering these machines, the design intends to entice them to try their luck and engage in gambling. A perfect example is the MGM Grand (1973.)

The Modern Casino Playground

Thomas is regarded as an innovative designer due to his groundbreaking approach to defying traditional norms. He incorporates luxurious aesthetics, thematic elements and spacious designs to create visually captivating and immersive environments that revolutionized the industry.

He focuses on designing casino environments that evoke a sense of luxury, opulence and visual captivation. To achieve this, he makes use of materials of the highest quality and incorporates grandeur and spaciousness with open floor plans and majestic atriums to evoke a sense of awe and elegance. For example, the Wynn Las Vegas (2005) embraces regal luxury, featuring lavish decor, high-end materials and stunning architectural elements that established a new standard of opulence in design.

Thomas places great importance on high-quality materials, lavish furnishings and intricate detailing to create a visually stunning and sophisticated ambiance. These design elements aim to elicit positive emotional responses from players.

Thomas incorporates thematic elements into his designs, drawing inspiration from various countries and historical periods. By surrounding players with cultural, theatrical and natural themes, he creates an engaging and memorable casino experience. For example, the Venetian (1999) reimagined the charm and elegance of Venice, Italy and includes replica canals, gondolas and stunning architectural facades, transporting guests to a romantic and enchanting setting.

The comfort and needs of casino guests are also prioritized in Thomas’s designs. He includes spacious layouts, clear sightlines and easy navigation to ensure players feel at ease with access to the various amenities within the casino. By enhancing the overall experience through pleasing aesthetics, Thomas recognizes that people come to casinos to unwind, have fun and enjoy themselves.

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Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.