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Feeling Lucky: How Scent Marketing Heightens the Casino Gaming Experience

Mandalay Bay, a premier resort and casino in the MGM Resorts portfolio, already had a stunning property to delight their guests. Every detail of the resort had been attended to. Mandalay Bay was well appointed with flowing water, lush foliage, and exotic architecture. The resort was a tropical paradise tucked in the Las Vegas desert. But they wanted more.

If there’s one industry that knows the power of activating human senses, it’s the gaming industry. The flashing lights and pulsating sounds keep players captivated in an echo chamber of stimuli. But until recently, casinos were failing to harness the power of scent.

Sure, they knew they had to combat malodors. It’s easy for smoke and body odor to get trapped on the gaming floor. But scenting a casino is more than deodorizing.

Humans are most receptive when all five of their senses are stimulated at the same time. The more senses activated at once, the more guests are involved with a brand in the moment. By stimulating players’ sense of smell, scent marketing heightens the gaming experience for players, giving casinos a new way to create spectacle and wonder for their guests.

It’s All About the Experience

Casinos have always been about creating an experience for their players. They occupy a unique space in the entertainment industry. It’s not just a show, it’s an experience. By adopting a scent marketing strategy, casinos have been able to create environments that lend to the gaming experience.

Scent marketing has revolutionized the way brands connect with their customers. Casinos have a unique opportunity to harness the power of branding with scent. Given the highly stimulating environment already in play, a scent marketing strategy will be even more impactful. Casinos can reach their players at a deep, instinctual level by tapping directly to the pleasure center of the brain through scent.

Scent is closely tied with memories. And memories associated with scent tend to have more staying power in our brains than memories without an associated fragrance. A scent marketing strategy allows a casino to stay with their players long after they leave. The power of scent helps players remember not just the thrill of the game—but the thrill of playing at a particular casino.  

Many casinos are taking the opportunity to send players home with a piece of their brand. Guests often notice the enticing fragrances casinos use to brand their property and clamor to purchase the scent. Products like ScentAir ScentSticks allow casinos to package their branded scent and make it available for patrons to purchase. Not only does this provide additional revenue for the casino, but it’s a powerful branding tool. When guests bring a branded scent home, it keeps the casino top of mind. The branded scent serves as a powerful reminder of the amazing time the guest had—not at just any casino but the particular casino who’s fragrance is wafting through their foyer.  

For the team at Mandalay Bay, implementing a scent marketing strategy into their business model was a clear next step. They were fully devoted to the ambiance of the space and had already invested in the appeal of the property. Mandalay Bay was a tropical oasis complete with lush vegetation, flowing water, and exotic décor.

To create a complete sensory experience, they requested the help of ScentAir. The 135,000 square foot casino began using the aroma of Coconut Spice. The fresh, tropical scent was the perfect fragrance accent to complete the ambiance and bring the lush, tropical experience of Mandalay Bay to life.

Research from the Gaming Floor

Over the years, casinos have refined the spatial, visual, and auditory gaming experience to underscore the thrill players feel as they take their chances with lady luck.

The evolution of casino design has seen the maze layout give way to the playground layout. The long rows of slots were swept away in favor of slot clusters. Updates in casino layout lead to improved player perceptions which kept them playing longer.

But scent marketing has added a new layer to the playground.

Once scent marketing came to the forefront of the casino marketing landscape, it didn’t take long for research to emerge. Studies have shown that a well-chosen scent can do more than brand a casino or add to its ambiance. Scent marketing enhances the captivating effect casinos have worked so hard to achieve.

A 2009 thesis published through the University of Nevada, Las Vegas uncovered that fragrances significantly affect coin-in of slot-machine players in a casino setting. The research found that the two fragrances which had the greatest effect on player behavior we labeled by the manufacturer as refreshing and soothing, respectively (Hancock, 2009). The author theorized that the results found may be caused by a similar effect to that of skewed time perception in retail patron exposed to a pleasant scent.

One of the most ubiquitous studies surrounding the use of scent in casinos is a 1995 study conducted by Dr. Alan R. Hirsch. In the study, researchers spend one weekend scenting two slot-machine areas within a Las Vegas casino. A third slot-machine area was left unscented and studied as a control area. Before, during, and after the experiment, data were collected on the amount of money gambled in each area.  

The results showed a 45% increase in the amount of money gambled in scented area one. Further, the increase in amounts gambled rose when the concentration of the fragrance was higher. On the Saturday of the experiment, researchers intensified the fragrance concentration resulting in a mean increase in spend of 53%. Compare this to Sunday, when researchers lowered the fragrance concentrations. The data showed a mean increase in spend of 33% on that Sunday (Hirsch, 1995).   

Making Waves Across the Gaming Industry

It’s clear that scent marketing has the power to be beneficial for casinos. But casinos are just the tip of the gaming iceberg. A sound scenting strategy can be impactful for many different areas within the gaming industry.

Spaces like racetracks, bingo halls, and any sort of video gaming center could benefit from the science of scent. Areas where lottery transactions take place could benefit as well. Even arcades, which fill its own niche within the gaming world, could (and do) benefit from scent marketing.

Any space that allows guests to be active participates in their surroundings will benefit from the stimulation of excitement and adrenaline rush scent marketing adds to the environment.  

As for Mandalay Bay, we checked in with them to see how they were doing with their ScentAir system. They were happy to report success with their scent marketing system. According to their General Manager, scent marketing has added another dimension to their guests’ experience at the resort and casino. They’ve had positive reactions from both guests and staff who are delighted by the tropical scent.

If you’re ready to find out what a ScentAir scent marketing system can do for your casino or gaming facility, click here to fill out our new business inquiry form.

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Sources Cited

Hirsch, A. R. (1995). Effects of ambient odors on slot-machine usage in a las vegas casino. Psychology and Marketing, 12(7), 585-594. doi:10.1002/mar.4220120703  

Hancock, G. D. (2009). The Efficacy of fragrance use for enhancing the slot machine gaming experience of casino patrons (Master's thesis, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2009). Las Vegas: Digital Scholarship@UNLV. doi:05/14/2019