Researchers investigate Vegas experience at Montreal casino

By Mia Chapman Updated
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Casinos around the world have tried to emulate the experience of Las Vegas at their venues, but now researchers are studying the phenomenon. 

Mirage News reports a group of researchers from Concordia’s Centre of Sensory Studies recently completed a study that looks at how all the specific techniques the local casino uses to create a “sensuous” gambling experience affect the client.

The authors argue their ethnographic study is among the first to explore how these sensory design techniques work together to shape the atmosphere of the casino.

The paper, published in the journal The Sense and Society, is a sensory ethnography of the Montreal Casino. 

It paints a vivid picture of the casino experience during its “Vegas Nights” promotional events in September and October 2019.

The researchers note details as minute as the additional bounce visitors get from extra-plush carpets to the labyrinthine layout of the slots section and difficult-to-find exits.

“In recent years there has been an explosion of experiential design in casinos, where what is being offered is not just an activity but an experience that appeals to the sense,” says interdisciplinary scholar Erin Lunch.

“We wanted to take this relational and contextual approach and look at how the senses mix and mingle within the casino environment. We also investigated how various actors such as patrons and employees co-produce that atmosphere.”

Anti-gambling part of casino analysed

The researchers also passed time at the Casino’s Centre du hazard, its responsible gaming station. 

This government mandated kiosk is supposed to raise the curtains on certain aspects of gaming in order to demystify the experience and create awareness about the risks of gambling.

While there are superficial similarities to the actual gaming areas, such as touchscreens and spinning wheels, the centre “feels clinical in nature”, they write.

“As a source of information competing for visitor attention in a sea of in-your-face entertainment, the sedate aesthetics feel distinctly out of place.”

While the paper takes a critical look at some of gambling’s hazards, the researchers also argue that the fun side of the casino experience needs to be better understood.

Indeed while gambling studies have tended to focus on the gambling hazards, researchers also argue the fun side of the casino experience needs to be better understood.

Canada’s casinos slowly reopen after pandemic

The land-based casino sector in Canada is slowly gathering momentum after the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to gaming. 

Calvin Ayre reported in early September that the Great Canadian Gaming Corp announced plans to reopen 11 casinos in Ontario that were ordered to shut in mid-March due to local COVID-19 infection rates.

The venues are scheduled to reopen on September 28.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced a “phased approach” to reopening the province’s casinos in July, but left the ultimate decision on when to reopen to the third-party service providers who manage day-to-day operations.

Few of these service providers saw then or see now much point in reopening given the restrictions, which include a maximum of 50 customers inside a venue at any given time, ensuring a minimum of two metres distancing between guests and no live dealer table games.

GCG said last Friday that its 11 venues will adhere to these guidelines, while also requiring slot jockeys to reserve a spot online before showing up at the casino.

GCG chief executive Rod Baker warned investors that “we expect no material financial benefit to the company from our 11 Ontario locations” under the current limitations.

Other large Canadian operators, including Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, have yet to announce plans to reopen their Ontario venues.

Gateway was said to be musing about subdividing Caesars Windsor’s gaming floors into as many as a dozen 50-person ‘pods’ that could isolate groups of gamblers from each other.

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