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Criticized Vegas resort stops pumping scents into casino

Melissa Kaplan Jul 19, 2010

Whether or not gamblers want to admit it, control is an illusion at the casino; patrons must leave themselves at the mercy of any manipulation that will keep them there, whether it be contorting a visitor’s sense of time by removing clocks from the walls, pumping gamblers with free drinks or pumping a faint, alluring odor into the room.

According to research, the latter works surprisingly well, which is why filling casinos with specific scents is a common practice on the Las Vegas strip. Except it didn’t really work for the Palms, which spent $3,200 on a trial run pumping the scent of Teakwood into its casinos. Tourists began leaving critical online reviews about how badly the place smelled. “I’d almost rather smell the smoke,” said one critic. The Palms pulled the scent in late June.

Research has proven scent marketing can have a powerful effect on the consumer. Cinnabon doesn’t hide the fact that it uses an artificial cinnamon smell to lure customers. For gamblers, pumping a scent into the casino helps them connect with the room on an emotional level, putting them at ease and encouraging them to stay longer. One early experiment, conducted over 15 years ago by a Chicago neurologist at the Las Vegas Hilton, found gamblers spent 45 percent more money at the casino when surrounded by a pleasant smell.

Teakwood, the offending Palms smell, is a tropical birch native to Southeast Asia. Smells that linger in other Vegas casinos include coconut and a lemon/ginger blend.

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