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Researchers from Concordia University investigate Vegas Nights Casino in Montréal


Because of the pandemic, the Quebec authorities are understandably cautious: while they are gradually easing the restrictions, famous Casino de Montréal remains off-limits. Sure, it is bad news for local gamblers, but there is always a way – try one of the online casinos that welcome Canadian players.

Casino de Montréal. Source: Go! Montreal Tourism Guide

However, as every gambler probably knows, as convenient as gambling online is, it is nowhere near as exciting as visiting an actual land-based casino. And thanks to researchers from Concordia University in Montréal, we now know why. The article “A Touch of Luck and a “Real Taste of Vegas”: A Sensory Ethnography of the Montreal Casino” documents their findings. As it turns out, the answer to why gambling is more fun offline lies in the sensory experiences associated with land-based casinos.

Who are the authors?

The authors are three researchers from Concordia University: an interdisciplinary scholar Erin Lynch, a sociology professor Martin French, and an anthropology professor David Howes. According to French, the reason why they chose such an unconventional subject for their research is that “pleasurable experiences associated with gambling are under-studied,” and the study “shows how social science can talk about pleasure in the context of gambling but also retain a critical edge.” Unlike most of their colleagues, Lynch, French, and Howes were less concerned with the gambling addiction – a common research topic – than the casino’s impressive efforts aimed at attracting more visitors and keeping them gambling for as long as possible.

Why Vegas Nights?

Vegas Nights were a series of parties organized in Casino de Montréal last fall. Concordia researchers chose them for their ethnographic study to observe the casino at its finest, when it tries to recreate the unique ‘Vegas experience.’ The researchers describe what they saw during Vegas Nights as a “buffet of over-the-top spectacles and sensations” that included everything fun and spectacular one can dream of, from exquisite cuisine and bar to a drag queen show to magicians and beyond. What’s more, Lynch and her co-authors were fascinated by the idea of simulating a simulation: while Vegas is imitating Paris, Egypt, and other far-away magical places (hence the copies of the Eiffel Tower and the Pyramids), Casino de Montréal is imitating Vegas.

What did they find out?

Devil is in the details. Vegas Nights organizers want you never to leave, and they are going out of their way to make sure that you will gamble for hours and hours. Even the tiniest sensory details, such as lines along the carpets ‘leading’ players from one gambling area to another and distinct pleasant scents, matter.

It is not that easy to find an exit. The designers of Casino de Montréal did everything they could to prevent you from leaving, including hiding the exits. The researchers discovered that the space is organized in such a way that it is easy for you to enter the room (be it a poker room or slots area) but difficult to exit it.

Everything is aimed at overloading your sensory channels. Yes, it is true that Casino de Montréal’s Vegas Nights are a true delight for your eyes, ears, nose, and taste. But this delight is unlike anything else – throbbing neon lights, a cacophony of smells, and sounds from everywhere. Why? To ensure that you are enjoying the experience and having fun, sure, but also to make you lose your focus.

So, is Casino de Montréal worth a visit?

Yes, it most definitely is. It is not like you didn’t know that casino owners want you to gamble your money away, right? After all, this is exactly why we go to casinos. No need to deny yourself this pleasure simply because a team of researchers has supported your assumption about being manipulated. So, once the lockdown is over, give Casino de Montréal a chance, ideally, on one of Vegas Nights.

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