Those greedy casinos… If you listen to the rumor mill, you may have heard just about every outrageous conspiracy theory imaginable leveled against them. Some of these crazy stories are perpetuated by movies.
In the Oceans films, starring George Clooney, the con team used weird tech like an electromagnetic pulse generator and a tunnel-digging machine to create fake natural disasters. In one movie, the casino used a computer system called The Greco to analyze gamblers’ emotions as a defense against cheating.
Casinos have been using facial recognition technology for about 10 years. Rumor has it that governments around the world were using it before then. But just how far can a typical casino go toward invading your privacy and influencing your decisions to gamble?
They are allowed to give you free alcohol in most jurisdictions around the world. They can hide the clocks, play mind-numbing music, and paint the walls in weird colors to disorient you.
The way some gambling writers describe casino methods for getting people to gamble, you’d be safer running from an axe-murderer in a house of mirrors. But are casinos really allowed to pump oxygen into their open spaces? Do they do that? What would the effects of pumping oxygen be?
People have been asking these questions for years. Here are real-world answers from experts who would know the truths.
The Snopes fact-finding site took on this question directly in an article about casino lore. They asked Jim Mundy, then-Director of Corporate Communications for Casino Windsor.
Mundy claimed that pumping any gas or fragrance into the gaming area to induce people to gamble more or to gamble more recklessly “would be a felony.”
Really, you’re talking about doping hundreds or thousands of people. You might as well accuse casinos of putting something extra into those free alcoholic drinks they give out to all the adults in the room. A massive Mickey Finn from the air vents wouldn’t just affect the players, it would affect the croupiers, dealers, and pit bosses.
Unless you want to believe the casinos are vaccinating their employees against the oxygen, of course. But there is definitely no “vaccination” to prevent the detrimental effects of oxygen.
The Snopes article says that there was an experiment in Atlantic City casinos where a researcher studied the effects of exposing patrons (and staff, presumably) to different scents. The study produced inconclusive results.
That hardly sounds like a compelling business case for risking a felony investigation and possible loss of gambling license. But maybe a good movie plot can come out of it.
Why does NASA use oxygen in its rocket engines?
It’s not because the chicken wants to get into outer space. It’s because oxygen is an accelerant for the chemical reaction that we call “combustion,” or fire in layman’s terms.
If someone were to light a fire in a casino (like lighting a cigar or cigarette) and a stream of oxygen were to hit the flames from the air conditioning vent, one would expect the flames to burn a little brighter.
In reality, oxygen dissipates into the air very quickly. One emergency medical technician described on Stackexchange how smokers walking into vented oxygen streams experienced no ill effects and didn’t catch fire. In other words, you need a LOT of oxygen to cause a disaster, although there is a reason why oxygen storage tanks are kept away from fires.
In the event of an uncontrolled fire, pumping oxygen into the air doesn’t make a lot of sense. Surely, the local fire marshals would complain about such a practice. And it would take time to cut off the flow of oxygen, assuming there was no dead-man switch.
The way oxygen affects your judgment is that it causes euphoria, just like oxygen deprivation does. That means casinos would have to regulate the flow of oxygen to prevent people from staggering around like drunken sailors at the end of a three-day pass.
Oxygen is a light element. It may be everywhere, like water, but the process of concentrating oxygen into a liquid form is expensive. Oxygen concentrators, such as the ones people use in their homes, cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Portable concentrators cost even more.
So, how much would it cost a casino to install oxygen concentrators large enough to influence thousands of people? Well, a lot.
The larger casinos would have to spend millions of dollars on this equipment. That sounds like a huge expense for a product that has marginal effects on people and which, in large concentrated quantities, would be considered dangerous.
Everyone knows that jet manufacturers install emergency oxygen systems into their planes. When you take a commercial flight, the flight attendants are required to demonstrate how the emergency oxygen masks drop down.
According to the Oxygen Plus site, airplanes’ emergency oxygen is created by a chemical reaction. They cannot carry enough oxygen on a commercial jet to keep everyone breathing for long.
If it’s too expensive for the airlines and home oxygen users to store, or generate massive amounts of oxygen, then it’s unlikely to be cost effective for casinos to do this.
Commercial air systems are incredibly expensive. It doesn’t make sense for a large building to install a system that concentrates one type of gas into the gaming halls.
Those air systems pump a LOT of atmosphere through these large buildings. Even if there were a reason to mix oxygen into the system, think about how quickly it would dissipate into the general atmosphere because the fans pumping the air are blowing it with considerable force.
Do you remember when a group of terrorists took hundreds of people hostage in Moscow in the early 2000s? The Russian government pumped a mysterious gas into the theater to end the crisis. Over 100 hostages died from exposure to the highly toxic gas. The government claimed they used a derivative of fentanyl in the gas.
Fentanyl is such a powerful opioid that even a very small amount can kill you. The Russians had to use such a toxic chemical cocktail because the gas would disperse so quickly it would lose its effectiveness within a short time.
Since oxygen is far less dangerous than fentanyl-laced gases, it would pose little danger to people in a gaming hall if added to the air conditioning system.
In addition to the house edge, every gambling game you find in a major casino is designed and time-tested to be fun and engaging. In other words, people want to play these games. They drive or fly hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles with the intention of gambling.
This oxygen conspiracy theory implies that gamblers are about to change their minds about betting their money. That makes no sense. Players have already made the decision to put their money on the table when they step foot into the casino.
If anything, risking the negative publicity that a scandal about pumping a drug-like substance into the air should discourage a casino operator from even considering such an option. And that assumes there is a country where this practice would not be illegal.
Add to that the fact that they keep the alcohol flowing. Alcohol is a well-documented drug. It’s the only legal drug casinos are allowed to serve.
If they’re going to drug you, they don’t have to concoct expensive, illegal schemes to do it. All they really need to do is hire attractive servers, put them in flattering uniforms, and send them out onto the floor with trays loaded with free drinks.
Conspiracy theories are fun for everyone but the people who believe them. Maybe the real question we should ask is why anyone would concoct these stories in the first place.
You don’t have to look far to see how casinos are tempting players to be a little more loose with their money. They don’t need subtlety when they’re doing this right out in the open with no holds barred.
The gaming industry may be guilty of a few sins across the years, but they aren’t stupid. They’ll do what they must to make a profit. But there are so many legal options for them that their investors would never accept a crazy, inefficient, downright illegal, and expensive plan like pumping oxygen into the building.
That’s a gamble not worth taking, and no casino operator likes to lose.
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