A casino is a place where champagne glasses clink and locals and tourists mingle, creating an incredible buzz that’s just as much about socializing as it is about trying your luck. Casinos are designed to look visually appealing and inviting, luring in customers and encouraging them to spend more time gambling and more money. Colors and design elements play a key role in the environment, as do lighting and visual media such as video screens.

Bright lights flash and music blares as players spin the reels of slot machines or shuffle cards on poker tables. When someone wins on a machine or at a table, cheers arise, making other gamblers feel as though they’re likely to experience the same kind of success. This is the power of the sunk cost fallacy at work: the sting of losing a bet makes it harder to stop gambling, even when you know you’re likely to lose more.

Adding to the excitement of playing at a casino are the scents that waft through the ventilation systems, making gamblers feel as though they’re in the middle of a gourmet food court or the lobby of a high-end hotel. Whether it’s the smell of freshly baked cookies or rich cigar smoke, the scents create a feeling of indulgence and euphoria that can make you forget how much you’re losing to the house edge.

It’s easy to see why casinos are so addictive. But is it fair to make people who work hard for their money and make reasoned financial decisions on a daily basis throw hundreds or thousands of dollars away based on the roll of a dice or the spin of a wheel? Casinos aren’t charitable organizations that give away free money; they have built-in advantages that ensure they, not the gamblers, will win.