EDITOR’S NOTE: “Vegas Myths Busted” publishes new entries every Monday, with a bonus Flashback Friday edition. Today’s entry in our ongoing series originally ran on July 29, 2022.
One of the most enduring myths of Vegas is that casinos pump oxygen onto casino floors to keep players alert and increase their playing time. Could this be true or based partly in truth? And, if not, how did it start?
A group of oxygen tanks, above. A persistent Las Vegas myth has casinos pumping oxygen onto their floors to keep players alert and playing. (Image: American Society for Health Care Engineering)
“The rumor regarding the pumping of oxygen into casinos is not true,” Tony Cabot, distinguished fellow in gaming law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told Casino.org. And there are several reasons why.
For one, a typical Las Vegas casino contains 1 million cubic liters of air. To raise the oxygen level just a single percent, according to the Arizona heating, venting, and air conditioning company Parker & Sons, would use more than 40,000 cubic meters of oxygen gas every day, an incredible expense.
More importantly, adding more oxygen would create a fire hazard because air with greater than the normal 21% oxygen is more of an accelerant, making any open flame burn hotter, faster, and at lower temperatures. The oxygen itself isn’t flammable.
This would violate all casino fire insurance policies, and if a fire were to occur, the investigation would lead to a public relations nightmare.
“Casinos do a number of things to encourage people to continue to play,” Cabot said. “But pumping in oxygen is not one of them. It’s just one of those myths about Las Vegas that people like to spread.”
Author You Can’t Refuse
This myth springs from the fertile imagination of Mario Puzo, the late author of “The Godfather.”
In Puzo’s 1978 novel, “Fools Die,” casino owner Alfred Gronevelt places a regular 2 a.m. call to his building engineer “to pump pure oxygen through the casino air-conditioning system to keep the gamblers from getting sleepy.”
In the 45 years since the book’s publication, conspiracy theorists have circulated this fiction as fact. Even some legit media sources have joined in. One 2006 BBC article builds the myth up as true to make the point that “such psychological trickery would be banned in Britain.”
Tricks Casinos Do Use
Casinos do fill the air with things to entice players to keep playing. These include loud music, pleasant scents, and freezing air-conditioning. They also don’t display any clocks on their walls.
You’re not going to see clocks in almost any casino because they would alert patrons that it’s time to leave, which is not in the casino’s best interest,” Cabot said. “For the same reason, very few casinos have windows that face the outside, since customers could judge the time of day by the amount of light coming in.”
As for whether casinos make it hard to find the exits on purpose, Cabot replied, “Well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no. But you’ll notice that the exits are such that they don’t allow visible light into where the players are playing.”
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