Comping at the Casino


It’s happened to all of us: We stride into the Luxor or Mohegan Sun with our wallets filled with cash and a plan for some enjoyable, sensible gaming and perhaps two rounds of drinks. Hours later, we have no idea what time it is or what happened to our money. It’s easy to see how people can get swept up in the casino experience: its lights, music, and physical design all work together to make it hard to walk away from a game of poker, roulette, or blackjack. But how do casinos manage to trick otherwise rational people — people who work hard for their income and make reasoned financial decisions on a day-to-day basis — into throwing hundreds or even thousands of dollars away based on the roll of a dice, spin of a wheel, or draw of a card?

The answer is that casinos employ psychological tricks. They use sound, color, and even fragrance to distract gamblers from the fact that they’re spending real money. They also change your cash into colorful chips that look like currency, so you’re still spending actual money but it doesn’t feel as big a loss when you lose.

And to further take the sting out of losing, many casinos offer rewards programs that reward loyal players with free meals, rooms in their hotels, show tickets, and even airfare or limo service. This is called comping, and it’s an effective way to keep you in the casino longer by keeping you coming back for more.