Why Do Casino Layouts Copy Grocery Stores?


What do grocery stores and casinos have in common? At first thought, you might think nothing — but you’d be wrong. 

Well, aside from the fact that neither of them have windows, sometimes it feels like walking through a maze to find what you’re looking for in the grocery store, just like trying to find a specific game at the casino. 

Think about it. How many times have you run into the grocery store just for one or two things, like milk and eggs, and walked out with bags full of things you didn’t intend on buying? Or, when you last went to a casino or played at an online casino, did you get sidetracked by flashing lights and pretty graphics and play a couple of new games you didn’t plan on playing?

This is by design. By putting kitchen staples like milk, eggs, and butter in the furthest corner from the entrance, grocery stores force you to walk through attractive displays of produce and bins of sale items meant to catch your eye in order to get where you need to be. At casinos, bathrooms are found on the other side of a maze of slot machines, so you’ll have to weave through them at some point during your visit. You’re greeted by sounds like rowdy craps tables and sights like bright, flashing slot machines in all directions, so there’s always something new to look at.

This is completely intentional, and it all comes down to psychology. Behavioural experts agree that grocery stores and casinos follow similar layouts that are meant to have visitors lose track of time (no windows or clocks), get distracted by items they didn’t intend on purchasing (impulse buys and strategically placed slots), and spend more money. The longer you spend in the grocery store, the more money you’re likely to wind up spending, and the same goes for the casino. The longer you’re there — and the more free drinks you have — you’re more likely to spend more money and tip your dealers more.

How do Casinos Design their Layouts?

Casino designs vary depending on location, but many follow the standards laid out by Bill Friedman in his book Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition: The Friedman International Standards of Casino Design. 

Friedman, a former gambling addict turned casino manager, used his experiences to study the effectiveness of different layouts and designs used by casinos. Which were effective in keeping players engaged for longer periods of time? Which had the opposite effect? Friedman compiled two decades of research into this book, which outlines 13 design principles that make a successful, profitable casino.

slot machines

A section of slot machines at the Bellagio.

Along with having no windows or clocks so you can easily lose track of time, Friedman also suggested that casinos use a labyrinth-like design to confuse and disorient visitors, forcing them to look at games other than the ones they set out to play. Any decor within the casino should be simple so as not to take attention away from the games.

Friedman said that small, tightly-packed rooms with warm lighting made for a more intimate experience, making guests feel more comfortable and at home. He wanted low ceilings everywhere to make casinos feel even more intimate, rather than high ceilings with lots of open space.

Who are Some Other Casino Designers?

Roger Thomas is another well-known designer who went against many of the principles Friedman tried to put in place. Instead of trying to manipulate and control a guest’s actions, Thomas focused on making guests feel welcomed and comfortable in casino spaces.

Along with Steve Wynn, a real estate developer with a keen interest in luxury casinos, Thomas designed the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas. While he kept some features suggested by Friedman, like warm lighting and intimate, smaller spaces, Thomas didn’t want guests to feel cramped, so he adapted the space to make it feel more open.

On the other end of the spectrum, Thomas incorporated high ceilings and brightly lit spaces into the Bellagio to make for a multi-sensory experience for visitors. He made sure the entire space didn’t feel claustrophobic and limited, allowing guests to take time to take in the beautiful design and decor without pushing them to gamble every minute they’re inside.

Next time you’re visiting the casino, or doing your weekly grocery shop, take a look around you — isn’t it so weird to realize that nothing is placed where it is “just because”?

Want to avoid land-based casinos altogether? Check out our online casino reviews for the best operators to play your online casino games for real money, and skip the grocery-store-like layout.

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