A Closer Look at Casinos


When most Americans hear the word casino, they think of a megaresort in Las Vegas—a giant hotel and entertainment complex blazing with neon lights, fun, and games. But a closer look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word reveals that casinos are more than just glitzy places to play games of chance; they’re businesses that generate billions of dollars each year for the corporations, investors, and Native American tribes that own them. And they’re businesses that rely on the savvy of mathematicians and computer programmers to keep them profitable.

To maximize profits, casinos employ a variety of strategies to attract and retain customers. They offer incentives called “comps” (short for complimentaries) that can be exchanged for meals, rooms, shows, and even free slot play. They also monitor patron activity using computer systems that tally up points and track spending patterns. These systems are known as “big data,” and they help casinos make informed marketing decisions and develop customer-relations programs.

Many casinos use bright and sometimes gaudy floor and wall coverings to create stimulating, cheering atmospheres. The color red, for example, is thought to encourage gambling because it makes people lose track of time. And because humans are naturally attracted to bright colors, more than 15,000 miles of neon tubing are used to light the casinos along the Las Vegas Strip.