Why are casinos designed to be confusing?

If you’re one to peruse the gaming delights of Nevada, Atlantic City, Monte Carlo or Reno, you’ll know too well what we’re on about. You think you’re heading for the exit, when boom, you’re lost. You can find your way out, the carpet is playing with your eyes and everywhere you look all you see is slot machines. These bricks and mortar casinos have crafty ways of keeping you in. The people who design these casinos are theorists, who are constantly developing strategies to keep you playing.

You see, as online casino gaming grows – internet gaming being a safer and more accessible environment than regular casino gaming – regular casinos are looking for that edge. Well, we’re going to take a look at a few ways that casinos do this and answer the question – why are casinos so confusing?

Loads of players and just one casino

Big venues such as stadiums, shopping malls, cinemas and casinos are all designed to hold multiple people at once – this is obvious. A casino, ultimately, can’t be designed for just one punter. It has to support the traffic of thousands of people every single day. It hosts all kinds of players from hotel guests, casual players and casino whales. These players all have their idiosyncrasies, or another way of putting it, their individual habits.

Whales, another name for high rollers, know exactly where they’re going and as such high-stake tables are kept out of the way. This creates an air of exclusivity, which spurs the whale to gamble more for preferential treatment. The casual gamer – a person who spends one, or two weeks a year at the casino – will generally mill about in a casino, looking for new games. Hotel guests will walk straight through the casino and head up to the hotel. As such, the layout needs to accommodate three types of customer. To do this, casinos are laid out in a very specific way.


The routes to high-limit tables will be simple to follow. It will also contain no distractions, such as slot machines or food courts. It is in the best interest to get the high roller to the table as soon as possible. The casual player doesn’t get this luxury and routes to low-stake table games will be barricaded with slot machines, video poker and various other profitable machines. Since blackjack has the lowest house edge, these will be the hardest to get to. Hotel guests will have the easiest route through, straight down the middle of the casino.

It’s not just the layout though, no, also considered is what the customer can see. Designers take into account what is visible above the slot machines, where people are likely to congregate, the noise and even how the casino smells. Every little detail matters!

Studies show, for example, that women will gamble where crowds are smallest. Being comfortable is key for that demographic, and since women are more likely to play slots – the typical slot player is a 55 year old female who owns her home, has college education and has an income of $55K+ – their well-being is of the utmost importance. Essentially, as the theory goes, women don’t like being watched when playing slots and as such designers will map routes out which avoid slot machines completely, allowing their target audience to play in peace

Once the designers know what appeals to their targets and how they maneuver around the casino, they tweak the layout to cater to them. Hotel guests might see the flashiest games to entice them to play, while punters from the street hit the best games straight away. The real key though is how you entice the customer further inwards. Getting customers through the door and into the heart of the casino is, well, the true battle for designers. Keeping them in has already been worked out.

The maze layout

During the 1990s and throughout the early 200s, Las Vegas experienced a renaissance and casinos became large, elegant and palace like. The Strip became a haven for all things casino and with the punters walking in their droves, the only problem was keeping them in. The idea behind all of this was that casinos should suck people in and then make it very difficult for them to leave. The maze concept was adopted quickly and soon all regular casinos had a strangely confusing layout. Hence, no clocks on the wall and no windows – it was like a whole new world.

Slot machines are no longer laid out in rows, but in clusters that punters have to weave in and out of. A player would now have to spend several minutes of this until they made it to the food court, the toilets or even the cashiers desk. Then there was the long walk back once they had cashed out, with the temptation of just one more game looming in their head as they struggle to find the exit. Most players succumbed to this, and the few extra dollars the casino clawed back on exist were incredibly valuable. Essentially though, no matter where a player is standing, they should see gambling machines.


Then 2010 came along and blew all of this out of the water. Through the Bellagio and Wynn’s – two high-end establishments – casinos became art nouveau. Places to exhibit art, grand buildings and gorgeous sculptures; all combined with a few slot machines here or there, blackjack tables in the corner and roulette tables simply standing around, waiting. No longer do gamblers feel the pressure to gamble. They do it on their own anyway!

Nowadays it is referred to as the ‘playground’ era of gaming, where casinos no longer push their players through an orchestrated arena of gaming and instead leave them to wander free, doing what they please. Players should feel comfortable and excited to go play, instead of being pressured. And would you believe it, by turning the heat down on gaming people have played more in the last six years than in the last thirty. That’s the ultimate benefit of the playground effect – more winners!

The layout of slot machines

Slot machines are the biggest income generator for casinos, with 71% of their revenue coming from these blinking machines. Players – especially millennials through gaming on their iPhones and tablets – are especially fond of video slots, attributing to their growing popularity. In modern casinos nowadays, slot machines outnumber tables games by 10 to 1.

The beauty of the slot machine is the ease of digitalising the game. Slot machines were one of the first casino games to make their way online, and as such have become a great asset for online casinos. Video slots have also advanced within bricks and mortar casinos, with more paylines, more bonus features and more interaction between player and game. This enhances the user experience and blurs the lines between playing and gambling.


Variety is the spice of life and gamers are now treated to hundreds of different slot games. Thunderstruck II, Mega Moolah, Agent Jane Blond; these are all games you’ve heard of before. If one is treating you bad today, then try another. This psychologically spurs players to carry on playing, even when their luck is down.

Slot machines are laid out differently in modern casinos. Community has become everything nowadays, and lines of slot games created a very isolated gaming experience. Today slot machines are laid out in circular clusters, creating small pockets of gamers who can revel in their winnings together.A group of friends can come together and sit in huddles, hoping for that big win while keeping the party together.

The layout of table games

Table games take up big space, which means designers don’t have as much flexibility on their placement. They are generally placed in-between a cluster of slot machines, together in one group so they can be managed by casino staff. Regular gamblers gather around these tables anyway, so they don’t have to be out in the open.

Blackjack table in Las Vegas, Nevada, Caesars Palace and Casino, gaming, gambling, chips, blackjack, betting croupier, blackjack players, model released, blackjack table, cards, NV, Las Vegas, Photo nv238-17909. Copyright: Lee Foster, www.fostertravel.com, 510-549-2202,lee@fostertravel.com

Keeping table games together does have it’s advantages. Blackjack tables are often rowdy, so it’s best to keep them together. When someone is winning big, people will stick around to listen, watch or even join in. Crowds develop as more people join in, developing a bigger crowd which in turn attracts more attention – essentially what a casino wants. These tables are best apart from roulette table, which require decorum and etiquette.

That’s pretty much everything you need to know about the layout of casinos. Ever got lost in a casino? Think we’re talking nonsense? Drop us a comment below. Good luck at the casinos from the Lucky Nugget Team!

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