21 Sneaky Ways Casinos Secretly Get More of Your Money

by Michael Stevens
on May 25, 2017

The average person doesn’t visit a casino expecting to spend several hundred dollars in a single day.

But this happens far more than we’d like because casinos have a talent for taking our money.

This talent comes from casinos finding subtle ways to force us into spending more. Knowing these tactics in advance can help you better stick to your budget.

Let’s look at 21 methods casinos use to get more of your money along with how you can combat them.

Partial Wins & Slots Sounds

How It Works

In slot machines, a partial win is a payout that doesn’t cover your original bet.

Here’s an example:

You make a $1 bet and win back $0.40. The lights then start flashing and the machine makes triumphant sound effects – despite the fact that you just lost $0.60.

We all have the common sense to know that this is technically a loss. But the theatrics and sounds make us feel like winners in this situation.

Research from the proves that jubilant sound effects make players feel like they win more often than they really do.

Michael Dixon, a behavioral neuroscientist and lead author of the study, said that these sounds “disguise losses as wins.”

How You Can Combat Partial Wins

The problem with partial wins and sound effects is that they put players into a trancelike state where they continue playing until funds dry up.

The key is to interrupt this trance by taking breaks and paying close attention to each spin result. The latter is key because you need to take into account every loss so you aren’t blinded by the sound effects and lights.

As for breaks, you can set your smart phone alarm to go off every 20-30 minutes just so you don’t mindlessly push the spin button.

Comps

How It Works

Casinos don’t give you free drinks and meals out of the goodness of their hearts. Instead, the goal is twofold here:

  • Win your loyalty so that you come back to the same casino.
  • Make you feel like you’ve won something extra.

Comps include alcohol, free meals, show tickets, buffet passes, gaming vouchers, and free hotel stays. Even when you lose, receiving these comps will ease the burden and have you wanting to come back for more.

But the problem comes in when comps influence you to play more.

Here’s an example: you discover that you’re 1,000 points away from earning a free meal, so you bet $1,000 (1 point per $1) more on a slot machine.

The game’s house edge is 8%, meaning you face $80 in theoretical losses (1,000 x 0.08) to win the free meal. Unless this is dinner for two at , it’s not worth playing extra just to earn the comp.

How You Can Combat Playing for Comps

The main thing to realize is that casinos aren’t stupid. They know exactly how many comps they can offer you while still profiting off your play.

This idea reigns true for any comp, from meals to free alcohol. Regarding the latter, cocktail waitresses know how to spot slots and video poker players who are valuable to the casino.

The best way to treat comps is like a cherry on top of your potential winnings. Never let freebies influence your play because they aren’t worth as much as your theoretical losses.

Curved Hallways in Casinos

How It Works

Most of us don’t think anything about curved hallways in casinos. But as cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll told , casinos avoid 90-degree angles in hallways because they force people to reconsider their decisions.

“Casinos don’t want that. They want to curvy you gently to where they want you to go,” said Schüll, author of the book Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas.

How You Can Combat Casinos Leading You where They Want

Obviously you can’t change the architecture of the casinos. But what you can do is be self-aware that casinos are curving you towards areas where they want you.

If you’ve had enough play, don’t let a hallway lead you straight into another bank of slot machines. Instead, understand the design and how it’s meant to keep you playing.

“Playground” Design

How It Works

Casinos don’t just randomly place table games and slot machines on the gaming floor. Instead, every placement part is a concentrated effort to encourage more play and keep people in the casino.

The adult playground design is one of the most popular methods of accomplishing this goal in recent years.

Created by designer Roger Thomas, this concept departs from the traditional mazelike casino designs that are meant to trap and confuse players.

“If you think about it, the traditional layout makes no sense,” Thomas told . “People don’t want to make bets when they feel trapped or overwhelmed or confused. That’s not the mood you want.

Working on the Bellagio, Thomas created lavish designs that emphasize high ceilings, extravagant décor, and European-style furniture.

The idea behind the playground design is that if a player feels wealthy, then they’ll bet big. Given the success of the Bellagio, Thomas’ design is working.

How You Can Combat Lavish Casino Designs

Many players will agree that it’s more fun to play casino games in a well-lighted, luxurious venue, rather than a dark and confusing environment.

But it’s important to remember why mega-casino resorts look so nice.

These aren’t public parks designed to make people happy. Instead, lavish casinos are built to coerce you into playing more.

While it’s fine to admire the furnishings and décor at casinos, don’t let this influence how much you bet / play.

Alcohol

How It Works

Odds are that you don’t need an explanation on how alcohol affects your decision making. Drinking loosens your inhibitions, which makes you more likely to take risks.

It’s no coincidence that casinos offer alcohol to frequent players more than any comp. And I can tell you that back in my younger days, this tactic robbed me of more money than anything else on this list.

The longer you play, the more drinks you’re going to be offered. Obviously this isn’t a good thing because you’ll take more risks and make strategy mistakes.

How You Can Combat Playing Casino Games Drunk

The good news is that you can have a few drinks and still play reasonably well.

2014 research from the revealed that responsible gamblers can drink some without hampering their decisions.

The study split players into a non-pathological group and a problem gambling group, with both sides drinking enough to raise their blood-alcohol level to 0.06%.

The non-pathological group didn’t use the gamble option (double winnings) any more often than they did while sober. But the problem gamblers used the gamble option far too frequently.

This provides us with two takeaways:

  • You’re fine to have a few drinks if you don’t get carried away.
  • Don’t drink at all if you have a gambling problem.

Ugly Carpeting

How It Works

How is it that many casinos feature chandeliers, ornate pillars, and beautiful artwork, yet they have the ugliest carpet known to man? Did the interior decorators quit midway through the job?

Casinos purposely lay down tacky carpet so that you’re not tempted to stare at the ground ahead. This keeps your eyes up and looking at all of the table games and slot machines as you walk around the casino.

David Schwartz, Director of the Center for Gaming Research, confirmed that ugly carpet helps casinos when speaking with .

“Casino carpet is known as an exercise in deliberate bad taste that somehow encourages people to gamble,” said Schwartz.

How You Can Combat the Ugly Carpeting

I won’t try to convince you to stare at the crazy floral patterns and wavy lines featured in casino carpeting.

But if you’re finished gaming for the day and don’t want to deal with temptation, you could browse your smartphone or tablet when walking through a casino.

Another option includes checking out the ceiling as much as possible because this is far more interesting than the carpet.

Party Pit & Poolside Blackjack

How It Works

Blackjack isn’t the world’s most-exciting game when you look at it from afar. But casinos have taken steps to remedy this by offering party pit and poolside blackjack games.

Party pit blackjack features dancers, music, and a festive atmosphere. Poolside blackjack lets you play 21 while you’re sitting in a luxurious hotel pool.

These games make for fun experiences that aren’t available in traditional blackjack. But if you look beyond the theatrics, party pit and pool blackjack have worse rules than the standard game.

You can guarantee that natural blackjacks will only pay 6:5 or 1:1.

A 6:5 blackjack payout raises the house edge by 1.39%, while a 1:1 payout raises it by 2.27%.

The dealer normally hits on a soft 17 in these games too, which increases the house advantage by 0.22%. Other unfavorable rules that might be present include no re-splitting hands; no doubling down after splitting; and no re-splitting aces.

How You Can Combat Party Pits’ High House Edge

The biggest thing to realize is that poolside and party pit games have a larger house edge than your average blackjack table.

This isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy these tables because they’re fun and offer unique experiences. But don’t play for hours in a party pit since the house edge wears down your bankroll faster.

A better decision is to look for tables that offer 3:2 natural blackjack payouts and force the dealer to stand on a soft 17.

Chips Instead of Cash

How It Works

Casinos employ chips instead of cash in their games for several reasons, including convenience and security. But the biggest reason is the psychology behind players using chips.

Imagine if every bet you made required putting $10 or $20 on the table. After each loss, you’d have the mental image of your $20 bill being taken away, only to have to risk more bills the next round.

Odds are that you wouldn’t plays as long if you physically saw money being emptied from your wallet / purse.

This is why chips work so well because they provide an extra mental layer between what you risk on casino games. While we all realize that these chips represent funds, you don’t have the same visualization when you’re losing plastic chips as you do when losing cash.

How You Can Combat the Absence of Money

The key is to remind yourself again and again that each chip represents dollar signs.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to obsess over dollar amounts to the point where you’re no longer having fun.

But it never hurts to remind yourself several times throughout a session that you have real money on the table – just in plastic form.

High Payouts on Small Bets

How It Works

Some of the most-exciting casino propositions include progressive jackpots and side bets. For a small amount, you can play for jackpots and side payouts worth 6 figures or more.

Many casino players dream about winning a life-changing amount of money. But the problem is that your chances of winning are very slim.

One obvious example is a progressive slot machine, which offers a jackpot that continues growing with each bet. Some jackpots grow upwards of $1 million or more, making them an alluring prospect.

Another example is the side payouts featured on blackjack and Caribbean stud tables. It seems like a harmless move to bet $1 to qualify for a five or six-figure jackpot.

But you’d be amazed at how much you spend in a session by continually making these long-shot bets. And the worst part is that you won’t earn back as many small wins to cover losses.

How You Can Combat the Temptation to Play for Big Payouts

The easiest way to keep yourself from throwing money at these wagers is to know the odds.

Here’s an example: the famed Megabucks jackpot in Las Vegas has paid out as much as $39.7 million. But according to gaming expert John Robinson, your odds of winning this progressive jackpot are only 1 in 49,836,032.

You must bet $3 per spin to qualify for the Megabucks jackpot. At these odds, this means $149,509,096 was spent on winning the $39.7 million jackpot – or approximately $3 bet for every $1 won.

Here’s another example: blackjack’s Lucky Ladies side bet offers a 1000:1 payout if you get a queen-of-hearts pair combined with a dealer blackjack.

This sounds exciting for a dollar side bet, but the catch is that Lucky Ladies’ house edge is 17.6%. Theoretically, you’d spend $1,176 to win a $1,000 top payout.

Perhaps you still want to make these bets even after knowing the odds. And while this is fine, you should try to limit the time / money you spend on these long-shot wagers.

Advertising Payback Rate, Instead of House Edge

How It Works

Have you ever seen a casino advertise the following: “Our games have a 2.5% house edge!”

I’m guessing your answer is no because casinos don’t like to emphasize what percentage of your money they take. Instead, they tout how much money they’re paying back in relation to other casinos.

What casinos don’t advertise is that these payback figures include everything from huge jackpots to top blackjack tournament payouts.

Nevertheless, it’s still an attractive marketing strategy for casinos to stress how much they’re paying back, rather than what they’re winning off players.

How You Can Combat the Casino Stressing their Payback

Knowing casino payback figures is important so that you find the best chance to win. But don’t let high payback convince you that you’re almost on even ground with casinos.

Just because you see that a casino pays back 97.5% doesn’t mean you’re going to win with this frequency. After all, jackpots and other lucky payouts are included in these figures.

The best strategy is to research the house edge and rules on individual games, rather than blindly playing at casinos with high advertised payback.

Misleading Slot Machine Advertisements

How It Works

Continuing on the above point, casinos sometimes put signs above a bank of slot machines that reads “Pays Up to 99%.”

Obviously this is encouraging because 99% payback is the highest a casino can offer while still making a profit. But the problem is that only one machine in the entire bank has to pay 99%to make this sign accurate.

Many players are fooled by this tactic, sitting down to any random machine thinking that they’ll be rewarded with the highest payback available.

The reality is that you could be playing games that only pay back 90% or lower.

How You Can Combat Misleading Slots Ads

Again, the best way to ensure that you’re playing the highest-paying games available is to do your research.You can find a wealth of information online regarding how much individual slot machines pay.

Of course, casinos can request different paytables based on their preferences. But you can still find good info on how much certain games pay in specific casinos.

Comping Big Winners / Bettors

How It Works

Being somebody who doesn’t bet more than $25 at a blackjack table, I never have casinos clamoring for my play. But if you’re a big winner and / or somebody who plays large, then the casino host will definitely visit you.

As covered in the comps section (point #2), casinos know how many freebies than can offer you while still making a theoretical profit. And they quickly gravitate towards anybody with a lot of money to spend.

Here’s an example: you win $5,000 in a single blackjack session. The casino host visits you afterward and gives you a $200 comp at their steakhouse.

Meanwhile, the person playing $5 blackjack can only look forward to a free drink every 1-2 hours.

Here’s another example: you bet $100 per blackjack hand for five straight hours. At 60 hands per hour, this is $30,000 in total wagers.

The casino will want to establish a relationship with you at this point, meaning you’ll get a free meal or similar perk.

How You Can Combat Generous Offers for Winning / Betting Big

For starters, you should take whatever comps are being offered. Secondly, don’t let the comps sway you into revisiting the casino the following day / week.

The reason why casinos offer these comps is because they want to get you back on their gaming floor as quickly as possible.

Rather than taking the bait, simply take their freebies and wait until you feel like revisiting the casino again. Think of the comp as a gift for the play you’ve already given the casino.

No Windows or Clocks

How It Works

One of the oldest casino tricks is removing anything that reminds you of how long you’ve been in the casino.

This means no clocks or windows. Dealers even avoid wearing watches to prevent people from asking them about the time.

The idea is to make you forget about time and focus on the games. And casinos do a good job of this by keeping the lighting consistent so that time stands still indoors.

How You Can Combat the Lack of Windows and Clocks

I encourage you to join the masses in staying glued to your smartphone. After all, smartphones have clocks that help you keep track of the time.

Wearing a watch is even better because you’ll always have the time right on your wrist. Conventional watches are becoming less popular, but more and more people are using Apple Watches and Fitbits these days.

Promoting the Gambler’s Fallacy

How It Works

The gambler’s fallacy is the mistaken belief that past results play a role in future results.

Here’s an example: I lose 5 straight blackjack hands, so I double my next wager because I’m due for a win.

The truth is that I’m no more likely to win on the next hand than I was in the previous 5 rounds. Casinos fully know this too, but they still promote the gambler’s fallacy through different means.

A prime example includes how roulette tables offer electronic boards, which show the previous 10-20 winning numbers.

This is disguised as a way to help players guess what to bet on based on recent trends. But in reality, this is designed to keep players engaged and falsely believing that they can predict future results through past results.

How You Can Combat Casinos Promoting the Gambler’s Fallacy

The key involves knowing that every round is independent of the last.

Just because a blackjack hand or roulette section has won five times in a row doesn’t mean it’s more or less likely to win the next time.

Unless you’re basing decisions off winning and losing streaks for fun, it’s best to forget streaks altogether and treat every round independently.

Gaudy Welcome Bonuses

How It Works

Online casinos love plastering huge welcome bonuses on the front page of their sites. One example would be a 200% welcome bonus up to $5,000 on your first deposit.

This is an exciting offer because it gives you the chance to earn up to $5,000 in free cash. But the catch is that you have to meet wagering requirements before the bonus can be cashed out.

Below you can see an example of how this would work if the wagering requirements are 25x the bonus plus deposit amount:

  • You deposit $1,000, making you eligible for a $2,000 bonus.
  • You must wager $75,000 to cash out your bonus [25 x (1,000 + 2,000)].
  • You play online slots with a collective 5% house edge to meet wagering requirements.
  • You’ll theoretically lose $3,750 (75,000 x 0.05) before earning your bonus.

When your $2,000 bonus and $3,750 losses are added, this results in a theoretical net loss of $1,750.

How You Can Combat Big Welcome Bonus Offers

The key aspect to understand is that online casinos don’t offer welcome bonuses where you’ll be making a profit – at least not without luck anyways.

Instead, they offer these big bonuses in hopes that you’ll make a large deposit and continue playing to meet wagering requirements.

If you enjoy casino gaming and view the welcome bonus as a side reward to your play, then by all means take advantage of these offers. But don’t expect to make a profit by the time you meet wagering requirements.

Making Players Feel Like They Have More Control

How It Works

While slots machines are still the lifeblood of casinos, there’s only so much you can do to influence the results.

Those who want more control over their destiny choosegames like baccarat, craps, keno, and roulette. Your input into these games plays a role in the results – just not as much as you may think.

While you may be tossing the dice or picking your numbers, the odds are still against you during every round. Even as the shooter, you’re facing the same 1.41% house edge on the pass line bet as everybody else.

How You Can Combat the Lack of Influence over Odds

It’s important to separate real control from fake control in casino games. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Fake Control – In baccarat, you can choose between the banker bet, player bet, and tie bet. But the banker wager is the only logical bet because it has the lowest house edge (1.06%). If you choose anything else, you’re merely taking a greater risk.
  • Real Control – In blackjack, every strategy decision you make has an effect on the house edge.
  • Fake Control – In European roulette, every bet has the same 2.70% house edge. And while most wagers have different odds of winning from each other, no individual bet offers a long-term strategical advantage.
  • Real Control – In video poker, every card you keep or discard affects your long-term chances of winning.

This isn’t to say that your choices don’t matter in baccarat or European roulette. But these games merely create the illusion that your decisions affect the long-term results.

Free Spins

How It Works

Online casinos commonly offer free slots spins through both welcome bonuses and standard promotions. And free spins are a popular perk because they give you a chance to win real money without risking anything.

But as always, nothing is truly free in the casino world. You must deposit to claim your free spins and / or meet wagering requirements on the spins.

Here’s an example of the latter:

  • You get 50 free spins and use them to win $12.
  • You must wager 60x your winnings to claim the $12.
  • You wager $720 and the money is yours.

This scenario shows why you should pay careful attention to the terms and conditions behind any free spins promotions.

How You Can Combat Terms behind Free Spins

As we mentioned with the welcome bonus, you should never base your play on bonuses. Instead, you should view free spins as an extra on top of your regular play.

If you plan to play online slots anyways, then it makes sense to take advantage of free games and earn money on the side. But forcing yourself to play slots just because you got free spins isn’t a good idea.

Always read the terms and conditions any time that you’re considering one of these offers. Then you can decide if the free spin wagering requirements fall within your normal playing range.

Tinkering with Casino Music

How It Works

Aside from party pit areas, you won’t hip hop, pop, or rock music on casinos floors. Instead, you’ll hear mild music with a constant flow, rather than different songs from famous artists.

2016 research from the suggests that casino managers use background music to “create the right atmosphere for gambling and to promote certain moods within the casinos.”

The managers said that they manipulate the music genre, tempo, and volume to create a desired atmosphere.

Another finding is that casinos use live music away from the gaming floors to enhance non-gambling activities.

How You Can Combat Casino Music

Reading between the study’s lines, casinos use soft constant music to put us in a relaxed state and forget about how long we’ve been playing.

This is similar to how casinos lack windows and clocks to hinder your ability to tell time.

My suggestion is to take frequent breaks and / or listen to your own music via an iPod / smartphone and headphones. Hearing songs change every few minutes helps keep you out of the trancelike state that casino music causes.

Near Wins

How It Works

At the beginning, we covered how partial wins convince you to keep playing through positive reinforcement. And the same is true of near wins, where you miss a jackpot by one or two symbols.

Many slots players lament over the time(s) when they got 4 of the 5 symbols they needed for a huge jackpot.

Coming close to the big prize is enough to keep people playing for hours afterward. But as covered with the gambler’s fallacy (point #14), a near miss doesn’t make you any more likely to win a future jackpot.

How You Can Combat Near Wins

This is another time when it pays to know the odds of winning a jackpot.

Earlier, we discussed how the odds of winning Las Vegas’ Megabucks jackpot are only 1 in 49,836,032 (point #9). But Megabucks isn’t the only prize that features long odds of winning.

Even a $10,000 jackpot can carry 1 in 2 million odds or higher. And a near win doesn’t change these odds.

The best way to avoid falling for the near-win trick is to realize that past results have no bearing on your future spins.

Making Gaming a Social Experience

How It Works

In the late 2000s, social gaming sites began rising to prominence. Zynga Poker has been particularly successful, drawing tens of millions of players since being launched in 2007.

These sites seem harmless because they don’t involve real money gaming, but rather play money chips. They also integrate social aspects into the fold by allowing players to invite friends, share accomplishments, and play for achievements.

What’s more is that you can play with a limited number of free chips every day. But the catch is that you must buy more chips if you want to earn achievements faster and stay competitive with your friends.

Some players spend more on social gaming than they would on real casino games. And the downside is that you can’t win any money back.

How You Can Combat Social Casinos

Social gaming sites can be a fun experience for you and your friends. But the important point to remember is that you don’t earn anything substantial back from these experiences.

Ideally, you’ll only play for free at social casino and poker sites. But if you do spend money, you should practice bankroll management just like you would with regular casino gaming.

Injecting Skill into Slot Machines

How It Works

The latest gaming craze involves adding skill-based bonus rounds into slots. This concept is aimed at attracting millennials, who don’t play traditional slot machines as much as previous generations.

A couple of examples include WMS’ Space Invaders and IGT’s Centipede, which offer skill-based bonuses. Here’s how these work:

  • Centipede Bonus – Upon triggering the bonus, you select whether you want to play free spins (no skill) or the skill-based bonus round. The latter involves using a joystick to shoot centipedes. The more you hit, the more credits you win.
  • Space Invaders Bonus – You’re given the same option as Centipede when you trigger the bonus. This bonus round is similar to Centipede’s in that you blast aliens with your joystick and fire button.

Skill-based bonus rounds add a nice interrupt to spinning the reels over and over.

But the skill element leads some players to overvalue their chances of beating the house.  And this can cause people to spend beyond their bankroll in hopes of winning profits.

How You Can Combat Skill-based Slot Machines

I personally love the idea of casinos injecting skill into slots. After all, casino gaming needs to continue evolving as technology and interests change.

But the key is understanding that these slots still feature a house edge, no matter how good you are at the bonus round.

While you can raise payback by being a good player, you still won’t gain an advantage over casinos. That said, I recommend treating these like normal slot machines with a slight twist.

Conclusion

Many of the tactics that we’ve covered are so subtle that players overlook them. These include casino designs, chips, curved hallways, partial wins, and promoting the gambler’s fallacy.

Others casino methods like serving alcohol, offering comps, and poolside blackjack rules are more obvious. But players tend to overlook these when they’re having a good time.

In any case, it’s important to be aware of the different ways that casinos can trick you into overspending.

We covered some things you can do to counteract these tactics. But above all, you need to set a budget and stick to it.

By sticking to a budget and recognizing every subtle trick that casinos throw your way, you’ll have a better experience with casino gaming.
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