There's a Reason for Quirky Casino Carpet Design
Las Vegas, NV, Aug. 25, 2008--Vicky Picco was playing slots at the Peppermill Resort Casino and was asked what she thought of the carpet.
"It's loud," she told a reporter for RGJ.com, looking down at the floor for the first time.
Actually, it is more than loud, some gaming experts said. It's black, purple and aqua with planets, comets and rainbows; not something you would want in your home.
But in a casino, loud carpeting can subtly help separate you from your money, some gaming experts told the newspaper.
"Casino carpet is known as an exercise in deliberate bad taste that somehow encourages people to gamble," David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, wrote in an essay.
Casino carpeting is a hobby for Schwartz. He has posted shots of casino carpets throughout the nation on his Web site, www.dieiscast.com. They're wild and bright and follow a Nevada tradition that at least dates back to places such as Reno's Riverside Hotel Casino in the 1930s.
And the Peppermill? That carpet might be at the core of the concept that bad carpet is good for gaming.
"It is the essence of the whole thing," Schwartz said of the Peppermill carpeting. "You don't get rainbows and planets at most places."
Peppermill officials defended their carpet but said it contains a subtle reminder that the Peppermill may be the place where visitors win.
"People always don't notice the rainbows (in the carpet) but they have a perception of good luck," said Bill Hughes, marketing director. "Rainbows give us a sense of good feeling."
And the black, purple and aqua background?
"There is a practicality side to it, too," Hughes said. "You don't want a real plain carpet because people drop cigarettes on it and spill drinks on it."
Head up, eyes level
The long-held tradition is that loud carpeting makes people look up and somehow rivet attention on slot machines and table games, some experts said.
"I think there is something to that," said Bill Eadington, director of Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno. "It is the same thing as putting canopies on tops of tables, which has become popular. That lowers the ceiling. People don't look up at the spaciousness and concentrate more where the action is."
Finding subtle ways of keeping eyes focused on the gaming machines follows a business tradition that dates back long before Reno and then Las Vegas became gambling cities, other experts said.
"The fact is, at the places that have the most play, the attention of the visitors is focused on the gaming equipment, just like in a department store which (Frank Winfield) Woolworth thought of in 1878," said Bill Friedman, "Šauthor of the book, Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition.
Who wants beauty?
Traditionally, casinos have not wanted to install beautiful carpet.
"Beauty doesn't drive casino play at all," Friedman said. "What would be the real issue here is gambling is a hyper experience. Nobody gambles to relax. They gamble for the adrenalin rush. Therefore, it is possible that a more exciting carpet pattern will create a more exciting atmosphere but nobody has ever demonstrated that."
Casino carpeting was not a consideration in Freidman's research for his book. However, he would not discount subliminal suggestions to gamble in carpet patterns.
"I am not arguing against it, but I could not find the impact," Friedman said. "But, I emphasize, that doesn't mean it is not there."
Schwartz is more straightforward in his essay about the subliminal role carpet plays in Las Vegas resorts: "Note the regal tones of Caesars Palace, the bountiful bouquet of Mandalay Place, the soft, almost abstract pointillism of Paris, all whispering, 'gamble, gamble,' just out of the range of consciousness as people walk to the nearest slot machine," Schwartz wrote.
Eadington questions whether carpet has the power to put the subliminal whammy on casino customers. But carpets play a major role in the lure of a casino's environment, he said.
"You are trying to create an ambiance that is going to encourage people to stick around and play," Eadington said. "So you can't treat carpets all by themselves. They are part of the integrated pull."
That integrated pull needs to create a willingness to gamble, others said.
The casino ambiance hopes to convert the "unlikely player into a player," said David Kranes, a professor of English at the University of Utah and a casino design consultant. "In that world, it is not enough simply to provide games and play. One has to understand as deeply as possible, what 'play' is -- and then build playgrounds."
And carpet concepts are on the ground floor in building that playground.
"You want to get that sense of vibrancy and energy (with carpet), that something is going on," Hughes said.
The curves and flowers
"The curve welcomes us and the oversharp angle rejects us ... the angle is masculine and the curve feminine. ... the beloved curve has nest-like powers; it incites us to possession, it is a curved 'corner,' inhabited geometry."
Floral designs on the new carpet at the Atlantis Hotel Casino has a pattern with long curves and bright circles, supposedly helping visitors feel comfortable and alive.
"The most enticing and alluring and stimulating casino spaces are those which make principal use of the curvilinear rather than the straight," Kranes wrote about casino space in general.
Flowers and circular shapes dominate casino carpeting at the major resorts in Reno and Sparks. Although each design is unique, they could hold a universal message, Schwartz said.
"Many of the carpets use flowers and wheels, both suggestive of a cyclical life: flowers bud, bloom, and then die, and their beauty is only ephemeral," Schwartz said. "The wheel was famous to the Romans, note its prominence at Caesars Palace, as a symbol of the relentless capriciousness of fortune.
"Could both be subtle reminders to casino patrons that life and luck are fleeting, and one should eat, drink, and be merry before the morrow brings a swing in fortune?" Schwartz said.