12 May 2011

Gambling stinks: Food odors could encourage punters at casinos in Macau

Casinos in Macau are experimenting with scents to encourage gamblers to stay longer.

While top casinos already use their signature scents in the ventilation systems to augment ambience, the future may see a more focused use of scent specifically to enhance risk-taking behavior in gamblers.

"Our sense of smell is the only [sense] that circumvents our rational sense of thinking and connects directly to the emotions," Sudhir Kale, marketing consultant for many casinos in Macau such as City of Dreams and Star World, told the South China Morning Post.

So that "gut feeling" you think you have about the next round of roulette? It's just the chocolate perfume they're pumping from the air-cons.

Las Vegas has been using scent marketing for years. According to the SCMP, Dr. Alan Hirsch, neurological director of the US-based Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, conducted the world's first experiments with smells in a casino at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1994.

Hirsch says the smell of vanilla may be popular in the United States but won't work for China, since scent-preference is culturally-specific.

Smells should "remind people of their childhood or induce a feeling of safety and security that would be more appropriate for Macau than Las Vegas."

So Hirsch's suggestion for casinos in Macau and the mainland? Jasmine tea and cooked rice, of course.

Zoe Li