Design of the times: How does venue design influence gambling behaviour?
Research into how individuals react to the characteristics of a space has been a growth area over the last twenty years. In commercial environments, research has shown that desire to stay in a shopping environment is positively associated with layout and décor. Other features of the shopping environment have been studied including textures, floor layout, music and employee uniforms. However, much less is known about gaming environments.
A number of studies have been carried out examining the subject of casino atmospherics from the perspective of slot machine players. Leisure services (like gaming) usually want the player to spend longer amounts of time in the venue because the longer that they are in there, the more money they will spend. In 2003, Karl Mayer and Lesley Johnson (University of Nevada) asserted that casino operators have a number of aims. These are to get customers into the casino, maximise the overall gaming experience and keep players in the venue, and to get repeat patronage. The first aim can be achieved through such things as advertising, loyalty schemes and ‘word of mouth’ referrals. The second and third aims depend on may factors including the type of accommodation, the types of game offered, the opportunities to win, restaurant quality, customer-staff interactions, and casino ‘atmosphere’. From the player’s perspective, Mayer and Johnson argue that ‘atmosphere’ may be the most difficult to understand.
Bill Friedman has arguably conducted the most research on casino environments and his findings show that after location, interior design is the most important variable in increasing or decreasing the effect of the location. Friedman argues that casino design influences the decision of whether or not customers who are staying at competing properties will choose to play at another casino. His view on casinos is that design encompasses many features including the interior architectural dimensions, décor, game arrangement, traffic-flow pattern, focal points, lighting and signage. From a financial perspective, Friedman found that short line of sight, a maze-type lay out, and tightly packed congested gaming areas created higher player counts than those casinos with more spacious layouts. Mayer and Johnson’s findings suggest that casino atmosphere may be a much narrower construct than previous conceptualisations with floor layout and theme appearing to be the most important to players. Other studies have also reported that casino floor layout is an important factor in how players perceive casino atmosphere.
A study by Karl Mayer and colleagues (University of Nevada) reported that a casino’s atmosphere (which was a composite of casino theme, décor, lighting, noise levels, and smoke effects) had the most influence on player satisfaction. A follow up study by the same team examined casino atmospheric from a player perspective. The man-made physical surroundings of service settings have been referred to as ‘servicescapes’. Servicescapes comprise three important aspects, (i) ambient conditions (e.g., décor, theme, lighting, colour, noise, temperature, architecture, etc.), (ii) spatial layout and functionality (e.g., the way that seats, entrances, exits, etc. are arranged, i.e., the ‘built’ environment), and (iii) signs, symbols, and artefacts. Satisfaction with servicescape may also influence repeat patronage although satisfaction with servicescape appears to have a stronger effect on players’ desire to stay than on repeat patronage.
Anthony Lucas of the University of Nevada has done a lot of research in this area and has found that certain aspects of casino atmosphere are significantly related to player satisfaction including interior décor, navigation (i.e., floor layout), cleanliness, and seating comfort. Similar results have also been reported by Long Lam and colleagues at the University of Macau. They surveyed over 500 casino players in Macau. Overall, after controlling for betting outcomes, they found that gamblers were more satisfied when they gambled in an attractive environment. Satisfaction with the gambling environment was related to the person’s intention to revisit the casino. The study was also the first to examine both cognitive satisfaction and affective satisfaction. At its simplest, cognitive satisfaction relates to whether the casino met the gambler’s expectations, and affective satisfaction relates to the gambler’s personal feelings of positive emotion. Their research showed that cognitive satisfaction was most predicted by navigation, ambience, and cleanliness. Affective satisfaction was most predicted by navigation, seating comfort, and interior décor.
Another study by Lesley Johnson and colleagues examined ten elements of casino atmosphere (theme, décor, noise level, colour, ceiling height, lighting, temperature, floor layout, employee uniforms, and smell). Using factor analysis, five factors emerged (theme/décor, noise level, ceiling height, floor layout and employee uniform). Only three of these were significantly related to player satisfaction (theme/décor, employee uniform, and noise level in that order, i.e., theme/décor being the most important variable). Overall, in was concluded there was a direct linkage between atmospheric elements of casinos and player satisfaction – at least in slot machine players.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
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