Casino Design 2019 Issue

The Art of the Resort

By David Schwartz   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

The “ramping up” period for casino revenue is becoming shorter and shorter. It took 46 years for Clark County, Nevada to break the $1 billion revenue mark. Atlantic City took three years to hit that same milestone. And Singapore, only two years into its gaming career, is poised to catapult over Las Vegas this year, moving into second place on the list of the world’s top gaming destinations.
A big reason for that is the constrained supply of gambling and the huge demand, but without a keen eye for design, Singapore wouldn’t have a casino industry at all, much less a successful one. The Marina Bay Sands is a case study in how casino design, in a post-recession, global gaming economy, can be a game-changer.
The Marina Bay Sands might be the most profitable casino in the world. Each square foot of casino space generates, on average, over $52 of revenue daily, about twice the rate of many Macau casinos and six times the rate of large Las Vegas casinos. Yet it might be the least casino-looking gaming facility on the planet. That contradiction is, in fact, what got the owners of Las Vegas Sands one of the most coveted gaming licenses in the world. It might make billions a year from gambling, but nothing in the Marina Bay Sands design process was left to chance.

The Bid Process

The project had its origin in the November 15, 2005 Request for Proposal, which specified a project that would blend into the master plan for Marina Bay, which the Singapore government sought to develop into a large-scale business destination. That meant a large MICE (Meetings, Incentive, Convention, and Exposition) component, but also amenities that would make the resort a destination in and of itself.
That sounds right up the alley of a company that had already built a Las Vegas resort that raised the bar for integrating convention space and was developing the world’s largest casino in Macau. But Deputy Prime Minister Professor S. Jayakumar, the chair of the Ministerial Committee, who would evaluate the proposals (which served as the Tender Approving Authority, or TAA), made it clear that an off-the-shelf Vegas-style casino resort wasn’t going to play well in Singapore.
Before opening up the bidding process, the Singapore government sent experts to study casinos in Macau, Las Vegas and the Bahamas. According to Kah-Wee Lee, a graduate student in architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, who is also a Singapore native, this study informed the TAA’s decision-making process.
“What they concluded from these trips,” Lee says, “is that casino-resorts in Las Vegas have moved away from the traditional model, which earns the majority of its revenue from casino gambling. Thus, they began to see how the casino industry is tightly woven into the tourism, MICE and entertainment industries. The new model is thus more ‘acceptable’ for Singapore. From this conclusion, you can see how the government has a certain aversion towards the traditional Las Vegas casino. They see it as an industry that promotes vice, excess and crime.
“Of course, Las Vegas casinos were already shifting the bulk of their profit centers to tandem activities in the 1980s. What the government saw in their study trip is not new at all.”
Even if the government’s assessment wasn’t accurate, it fit in with the larger cultural context. During its brief history as an independent city-state, Singapore has struggled to define itself. The government has played moral policeman with its citizens, attempting to dictate many details of daily life. For example, since the 1990s, Singapore has outlawed the import or sale of chewing gum because of the expense and inconvenience of cleaning used gum. In such an environment, a Vegas-style casino, with all of the decadence and frivolity it represents, would not gain traction. Building something along the lines of the Stardust would go against the grain of Singapore’s very identity.
“The government’s moral judgment, Lee says, “about the ‘traditional’ Las Vegas casino can be understood if we are aware of the puritanical stance of the ruling ideology since 1960s. As part of the nation-building project, the state promoted the ideal of the frugal and rugged individual. There were consistent projects to criminalize gambling and stigmatize it as vice.
“When the TAA decided that the new model was acceptable and the old model was bad, they expressed the same ideological stance about vice and nation-building.”
Singapore’s approach demanded that the city have no casinos—instead, it was to host two “integrated resorts,” incorporating to various degrees tourism and MICE elements. The Sentosa Island project (which was opened to bidding after the conclusion of the Marina Bay RFP) would have a greater emphasis on family-style vacation fun, while Marina Bay was to be more business-oriented. Though gaming was to be a critical part of the project and undoubtedly the chief revenue-driver, it was critical that the integrated resort not look “too much” like a casino—a curious dilemma for those submitting bids, which included some of the largest gaming companies in the world.
Not everyone could play by Singapore’s rules. Steve Wynn withdrew from consideration after he publicly criticized the tender process as “unsophisticated.” He claimed that the “control and direction given by people who’ve never done this before” made his entry into the market untenable.
Yet others remained in the running. On March 26, 2006, the committee announced that the RFP was closed. Four groups submitted bids: Genting International and Star Cruises, Harrah’s (now Caesars) Entertainment and Keppel Land, MGM Mirage (now MGM Resorts International) and CapitaLand, and Las Vegas Sands. LVS might have been considered the underdog; Genting was a large casino-owning multinational headquartered in nearby Malaysia, and the other American-based companies partnered with large Singaporean firms.
The terms of the RFP made it clear that more would be needed than local connections, and design would be a big part of the winning proposal. “Given its prominent waterfront location,” the government said in announcing the tender, “the proposers are encouraged to design an IR that is modern, architecturally distinctive, urban and well-integrated.” Overall, “architectural concept and design” accounted for 30 percent of what proposals were judged on.
In addition, the government set a fixed price of approximately $1 billion for the land the resort was to be built on. Instead of having proposers bid on the land and possibly skimp on the resort after they captured the concession, Singapore was keen to get the best project it possibly could on this valuable piece of land.

Winning by Design

On May 26, 2006, the government announced that Las Vegas Sands had won the bidding. It didn’t hurt that LVS had a proven MICE track record and submitted the proposal with the highest development cost, but the project’s design put it over the top.
“The design of the Marina Bay Sands is unique,” the government concluded, “and will provide a memorable image and destination attraction for Marina Bay. The overall composition fits very well with existing and future developments. The setting back of the hotel towers from the waterfront opens up expansive views to the city and the entire Marina Bay.”
Indeed, Las Vegas Sands succeeded where others failed because it grasped exactly what the Singapore government was looking for.
“It must be said that the planners spared no efforts to impress upon the bidders the urban vision they have for Marina Bay. This vision has a specific aesthetic that is drawn from the league of global cities and cultural/financial capitals such as New York, London and Paris. Meeting this vision wasn’t easy. Steve Wynn, for example, simply was not willing to give up his personal branding for the kind of aesthetic desired by the government.”
The resort that Las Vegas Sands proposed in its RFP was a show-stopper. Three hotel towers, subtly reminiscent of playing card decks, supported a modern-day hanging garden: the SkyPark, an elevated garden and observation deck with a 150-meter infinity pool. The ArtScience Museum would have 50,000 square feet of galleries showcasing exhibits from around the world. With plenty of space for the performing arts and numerous restaurants, the project would be a complete tourism destination. Finally, building on Las Vegas Sands’ long history with business travel, the proposal featured a mammoth Sands Expo and Convention Center with 250 meeting rooms.
The design of Marina Bay Sands let Singapore get the best of both worlds: an incredibly profitable casino that looks nothing like a casino. And that fits in with a city-state that’s notoriously strait-laced, with heavy fines for crimes like public spitting and a mandatory death sentence for drug traffickers, but which also created the Singapore Sling. Las Vegas might tout itself as Sin City, but no one’s named a cocktail after it. Marina Bay Sands, since it doesn’t “look” like a casino, made gambling a safe bet for the Singapore government.
Frank Santagata, executive director of development, program management and design for Marina Bay Sands, oversaw the development, program management and design team.
“The MICE element had a major effect on the design process,” he says, “as our MICE product comprises large areas of expo and convention halls that require large horizontal areas to best serve our guests. Locating the MICE element in the plan to provide this large expanse, along with the necessary adjacencies of their support elements (large loading bays, parking, access to taxi/MRT, etc.), required the MICE area to be best located at a prime location within the property. The MICE product was one of the initial items fixed in the plan at the start of the design process. Our numerous tourism elements also would need to be located along easily accessible points on-property to ensure convenient access for tourists, which also drove the design to assign those elements at key areas within the property at the early stages of the design process.”
This is almost the opposite approach that most U.S. casino developments take. Typically, the casino is at the crux of the design process, and most questions of access center on how easily patrons can be funneled into the casino.
Yet, Santagata insists, this difference did not create tension for the design. “There was no real dichotomy between the form and function of the development,” he says.” The RFP was specific in its requirements of creating a modern, world-class development that contained all the essential elements of an integrated resort. Including a casino element within this brief was seamless, as the casino became an integral element within a series of ‘work and play’ environments within the IR.”

From the Basement to the Sky(Park)

Winning the concession was only the first step in a four-year path towards the property’s eventual opening. Getting the project, which pushed the boundaries of engineering in many ways, built would be a challenge. Matthew Pryor, the senior vice president of construction (Asia) since 2006, was responsible for building the Sands Macao and Venetian Macao, and creating the Cotai master plan.
With more than two decades experience in construction, Pryor’s seen just about everything a site can throw at builders. Marina Bay posed some technical challenges, he admits, but proper management kept these from disrupting the building process.
“As we were building a significant portion of the building—approximately 40 percent—below ground, the stability of the ground is a vital factor to us,” Pryor says. “And Marina Bay Sands is situated adjacent to a large body of water, a main expressway and with a new underground train line running through the site—the ground conditions were always kept in check.”
Outside of those specific issues, the very size of Marina Bay Sands raised its own issues. “It was different in terms of scale, speed and site constraints,” says Pryor. “The property was almost four times bigger than anything ever built in Singapore, so securing resources stretched the market, and that itself was already a huge challenge. The engineering was at the limit of what was feasible then.”
Indeed, the mere opening of the Marina Bay Sands, Santagata thinks, is noteworthy.
“Seeing such a complex and visionary project being successfully completed in a high-quality manner within an extremely aggressive time frame,” he says, “makes me incredibly proud.”
There’s no doubt that the design of the Marina Bay Sands got the attention of the TAA. But it wasn’t always easy to take that design from the drawing board to the job site.
“The process is complex,” Pryor says, “as it is built at a height of 200 meters. It took 12 months to just design and another 12 for planning. (Sections) were all fabricated off-site. It was a very complicated installation (lifting) process, and there are only two specialist companies in the world with the right technology to do it. This process took about six months to complete.”
But, Pryor thinks, it was well worth the effort.
“The Sands SkyPark is an architectural masterpiece,” he says. “This 1.2-hectare tropical oasis is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall, and large enough to park four and a half A380 jumbo jets. There is also a 150-meter infinity swimming pool, the world’s largest outdoor pool at that height.”
Santagata agrees. “I believe the SkyPark is the most groundbreaking element, from both a visual and technological standpoint,” he says. “The SkyPark and the ArtScience Museum have become the new icons of Singapore since their opening.”
Piling work started in February 2007, a mere 15 months after the initial RFP went out. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in April 2010. After 38 months of designing and building, Marina Bay Sands was ready to welcome its first customers. And that would be when everyone learned if beautiful, technically challenging designs would truly translate into customer-pleasing—and revenue-enhancing—experiences.
A veteran casino guy (he’s been president of Caesars Atlantic City and CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts, among other positions), Senior Marketing VP Mark Juliano isn’t put off by being tasked with marketing a resort where the emphasis isn’t just on the casino. On the contrary, he views that as a strength.
“As a MICE-led integrated resort, there is so much more to Marina Bay Sands than just the gaming aspect,” Juliano says. “Dining, entertainment, convention space, the award-winning retail offerings and all other areas of our integrated resort allow us to reach out to people who have a variety of interests and reasons for coming to Singapore and Marina Bay Sands.”

Making It Work

The design and construction teams handed the keys, so to speak, over to the management team. Juliano gets to sell the MBS experience to potential customers. And, he says, it’s not a hard sell at all, thanks to the care put into its design.
“The design is very thoughtful,” Juliano says, “to make sure we create unique spaces to cater to our guests’ gaming preferences. We have the private salons which are secluded, and can offer a quiet and discreet place for our high-end customers to play their favorite games. On the other hand, the main gaming floor is designed to create a different level of excitement with a large variety of both table games and slots and lots of action.”
In addition to the architectural and cultural show-stoppers like SkyPark and the ArtScience Museum, Juliano points out that the celebrity chef restaurants, events center and theater have been tremendous draws. This makes running the casino even easier.
“I think having a casino in an integrated resort eliminates a lot of the challenges you might face,” he says, “since we have a multitude of revenue sources from not just the casino. All of the non-gaming aspects of Marina Bay Sands are healthy and profitable.”
In the end, Las Vegas Sands got a project that was ideally suited to Singapore, and Singapore got the integrated resort it wanted.
“This project was developed,” says Santagata, “to cater specifically to the detailed brief outlined by the STB in their RFP, hence this development is especially site-specific. We certainly have other IRs of a similar size and magnitude in various locations. However, the specific mix of uses, the development’s key attractions, and its spectacular and strategic setting on a large parcel of land along the edge of one of the most breathtaking city skylines in the world certainly make Marina Bay Sands unique.”
Those who built and operate it use the word “iconic” quite a bit. And that iconic status is due, in large part, to how the property mixes its unique design with the amenities and brands it offers.
“We are the inspirational property in Southeast Asia, and are on our way to becoming one of the icons of Singapore,” Juliano says. “We have the brands throughout the integrated resort to support a wide variety of customers with different agendas, and that’s why we attracted so many visitors.”
Outside architectural experts agree. “The planners were successful,” says Lee. “They knew what they wanted, and they got it. The completed MBS fits in the vision the government has for Marina Bay. It is designed by a star architect rather than a casino specialist or a theme park expert. It has all the symbolic cache of an architectural icon like Guggenheim Bilbao, not Bellagio Las Vegas.
“The casino is invisible when seen from the outside. To put it simply, the building blends into the existing aesthetic order of Marina Bay.”
It’s ironic, then, that a casino that was designed to be unlike a casino has become, arguably, the most successful gaming destination in the world. But a look at the process that delivered Marina Bay Sands makes it clear that all of this was no accident. In order to gain access to the site, likely the most coveted piece of gaming-entitled real estate in the world, Las Vegas Sands had to submit a design that would exceed the TAA’s expectations and could be a functional integrated resort.
That’s why the phenomenal success of Marina Bay Sands—which has even Steven Wynn admitting he’d love to build in Singapore—is, ultimately, by design.


The $50 Million Budget: Real Renovation

By Klaus Steinke & Jane Lee   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Nobody thinks of $50 million as a small amount, chump change, “peanuts,” or just walking-around money. But when it comes to renovating casino properties, $50 million is often considered a small amount.
Yet, a small amount may be all that a property can manage in the current economy, and if that’s the case, where should the money be spent? Where will it make the biggest impact?
We asked that question of a number of leading design and engineering firms that have done a significant amount of work in the casino industry. Their answers have a general consensus, but some of the responses may surprise you.

The Gaming Floor

Several of our respondents pointed to the gaming floor as a good place to make a big impact with a small budget. Tom Hoskens is a principal of Cuningham Group Architecture, which designed the $44.5 million renovation of the Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi. Hoskens points out, “Even on a small budget, one opportunity for change that does not necessarily involve a large investment of capital is changing the layout of the gaming floor, and the path by which guests experience the gaming environment.
“A different layout will change focal points and add pathways and corridors, thereby encouraging guests to explore and criss-cross the floor to reach certain amenities. While carpet and ceiling treatments need to change to work with the new flow, the impact is substantial, and for less money than what it would take to add floor space.”
Dike Bacon of the Hnedak Bobo Group puts it rather succinctly when he states, “Make your revenue-generators visible.” Hnedak Bobo Group recently applied this principle to the Sycuan Casino, near San Diego, California, in a $27 million renovation.
Brian Fagerstrom of WorthGroup Architects cites the example of his firm’s addition and renovation of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, Oklahoma, as part of the Cherokee Nation. Changes on the gaming floor included the games themselves.
“Another important trend in the U.S. is the dynamic transformation occurring on the gaming floor with the influx of interactive gaming as the future of i-gaming is on the horizon,” Fagerstrom says. “This is interesting from the design perspective as there is a need for maximum flexibility and adaptability with changing amenities and new technologies. Perhaps most appealing in these trends is that their implementation can be accomplished in many properties for relatively reasonable capital investment.”
A note of caution is in order at this point. Many properties have been renovated over the years—sometimes because a concept fails and is replaced with another, and sometimes because an ownership change brings about a new change in focus or direction. This sort of change over time can result in a disjointed environment.
Bacon describes the Sycuan Casino as “suffering from repetitive addition syndrome that resulted in the casino feeling very piecemeal and closed off from one area to the next.”
Ken Kulas of Cleo Design adds, “Over time, many casinos will modify in reaction to specific guest services, changes in technology, or personal taste of the current operator. A property can lose the original focus and build upon designs that are slightly skewed from a brand direction and end up with a disjointed comprehensive interior that can confuse a guest.”
According to Kulas, a solution that Cleo Design has used in several properties—including the Las Vegas Hilton, the Golden Nugget Casino Las Vegas, and the Stratosphere Casino in Las Vegas—utilizes the concept that “surface changes rather than construction can make a huge impact to a renovation, yet are much more friendly to an owner’s budget. Décor—being the most recognizable difference when renovating a casino—can be as easy to understand as its brand.”

Make Every Part Contribute

Many renovations are initiated when an amenity, for whatever reason, doesn’t attract customers. A certain ethnic food, for example, may not find many fans in one part of the country.
Mike Stewart of YWS International gives us an overview: “Typically opportunities exist in unused, non-revenue- generating space or space that can be adapted for another use once its primary use is closed, such as a race and sports book. After analyzing the competition, the facility infrastructure and the customer needs, we can typically develop new concepts, including new F&B venues, potential brand partnerships, or retail/entertainment amenities, which can become new revenue opportunities for the owner.
“One project we recently completed was the buffet remodel at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Not only did this project completely change the look and feel of the buffet but it also incorporated unused space to increase seating capacity by approximately 20 percent.”
SOSH Architects had a similar experience with the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. According to Tom O’Connor, “SOSH started with a successful $25 million interior renovation which translated into an extensive $11 million Boardwalk improvement renovation. SOSH was able to introduce a number of retail and F&B venues with access directly off the Boardwalk to ‘activate and celebrate the public access.’”
Another danger with amenities is the underperforming one—one that may do well at certain times but is relatively dead at other times. David Nejelski of Thalden Boyd Emery points out, “During off-peak times, center bars create a ‘dead zone,’ an area that does not contribute to a guest’s experience or the property’s revenue. An isolated venue as well can be empty for a majority of hours in a day—or even days.”
Nejelski cites, as an example of successful renovation, the Commerce Casino in Commerce, California, where a new River Bar made an impact even during off hours: “The alignment of the bar with the new ceiling element is all that is needed to create a space. It has the added advantage of never feeling empty, as people are always walking past. Being completely open, many of those people stop to get a drink. After opening, beverage revenues property-wide increased by nearly 20 percent.”

A Strategic Balance of the Amenity Mix

Amenities—bars, restaurants, spas, pools, retail and entertainment venues—are an important part of the appeal of going to a casino. Guests will go to a casino more readily if there is more to do than just visit the gaming floor, and more attention is being focused on having the right mix of amenities in the right location than ever before.
“We are seeing considerable strategic thought go into the selection of amenity mix at properties that are finely tuned to customer appeal,” Fagerstrom explains. “Abundant attention over the past year has infused the amenity mix with highly popular retail brand names—whether a famous chef, the hottest reality show, or most popular country singer.”
Hoskens of Cuningham Group echoes this view when he explains how changes in the amenity mix helped rejuvenate Palace Casino.
“The dramatic renovation and changing the mix of amenities allowed Palace to evolve to a more upscale market,” Hoskens says. “In doing so, it appeals to those seeking a destination and entertainment experience, not just a place to gamble. Palace capitalized on the trend of giving guests more reasons to stay longer, spend more and return again.”
Illuminating Concepts is a lighting and media design firm that has done a great deal of work in casinos. Michael Shulman of Illuminating Concepts explains his firm’s philosophy towards the gaming environment:
“There are many ‘features’ that we design and collaborate on for all of our projects,” explains Shulman. “We remain consistent that the entertainment strategy is not to create or deliver one feature but instead many elements, features and experiences to create a ‘must feel’ environment. We do utilize lighting and media to heighten the visitor expectation and try to instill a sense of personal belonging and interest into the space.”
Another element in creating the right mix of amenities is to go after the non-gaming guest. The Sycuan Casino saw a potential market in non-gaming customers and asked Hnedak Bobo Group to help exploit the opportunity.
“Many of our clients are focusing on non-gaming customers as an untapped potential revenue-generator,” Bacon says. “The Sycuan Tribe is a primary sponsor of area professional sports teams, the MLB Padres and NFL Chargers, so their new 6,500-square-foot, blue-and-gold-themed food and beverage venue was a natural fit as a sports bar that targets a younger demographic. It’s quickly become one of the hottest bars in San Diego County.”
The non-gaming customer is also drawn by nightclubs, specifically designed to attract younger customers.
“We are celebrating a new demographic, the Generation M, the Net Generation, those who have spent their entire lives with the World Wide Web,” Michael Mangini of SOSH Architects explains. “We are designing nightclubs that enliven and energize through the use of communications and media technologies—an immersive club experience. Casino properties are looking to capitalize on the extremely prosperous business of a nightclub while singularly identifying and branding their property as the ‘place to be.’”

Improving the Experience

Few gaming equipment, gaming floors, and a great amenity mix can still fall short if your guest has an unpleasant experience in the visit. With smoking being banned in more and more locations, people do not have the experience typical only a few years ago, of coming home reeking of cigarette smoke.
Most casinos still permit smoking, and most guests tolerate it—but the less smoke they experience the more they enjoy their stay. Greg Peterson is a mechanical engineer with AE Associates, a mechanical, plumbing and electrical engineering firm that has worked on several casino renovations.
“By far, the biggest reason we come across to improve a casino’s MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) system is that it does not adequately remove cigarette smoke,” says Peterson.
Bacon makes a similar observation: “Give customers what they want. Many of Sycuan’s customer’s requested a non-smoking casino environment. Leveraging this kind of feedback, Sycuan built a 400-slot, 10-table boutique casino within a casino dedicated solely to the non-smoking gaming customer. Often, an attainable increase in returns can be found by raising the perceived level of quality of the facility by just enhancing the gaming experience itself.”
Peterson points out that one of the best times to upgrade the mechanical systems is when an overall renovation is taking place. Of a current project on the boards Peterson explains, “During conceptual design, ownership quickly realized the renovation was not addressing all of their customers’ needs, as the No. 1 guest complaint is cigarette smoke. As part of the renovation project, we are improving the HVAC system’s ability to remove cigarette smoke. When the renovation project is done, not only will the casino have a new, fresh look, but the air will be a lot fresher too.”
Of course, the environment in a casino is more than just the quality of the air. One simple addition to the gaming environment that provides energy and excitement has been used successfully by Cleo Design.
“A current trend for the gaming area to add energy and excitement for relative low cost is the use of the video monitor,” Kulas says. “Placed in highly visible public areas, a variety of content including promotions, directional information, sports and music entertainment can add that layer to help animate and update a vibe.”
Turns out that you can do a lot of things with “only” $50 million! Alter the gaming floor, improve the amenity mix, make better use of available space and venues, and clear the air are only a few items that a property can do to improve its appearance and attract more guests. But don’t neglect other areas, such as the guest room experience, and the valuable use of pools—all day long and into the evening.
There are many options open to a property, and some will make more sense based upon local conditions than will others—but there are also a number of solid design professionals to help you reach your goals.


Designing Forward

By Frank Legato   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

So one would argue that technology has changed the nature of the slot machines that cover casino floors. However, despite all the changes in the way slots look and are played, the basic design of a casino has changed little over the decades.
Until very recently, that is. The advent of multi-game and multi-denomination slot machines has lowered the number of physical machines needed to satisfy play requirements—the newest casinos and re-designed floors have wider aisles and a more comfortable environment for slot players than the factory-floor setups typical of casinos designed more than a decade ago.
Electronic table games are another development creating new types of spaces in casinos. The new Revel in Atlantic City has a “digital pit” comprised completely of multi-player electronic table games; other casinos are making way for the electronic table games as well, devoting less space to the live versions.
Even with these changes, the basic design of the casino floor remains relatively unchanged. However, the casino industry’s premiere architects agree that as technology marches on, the new generation of players and operators may require that the look of a casino be different.
“The casino floor 10 or 20 years from now will certainly look different than it does now,” says Brad Schulz, vice president of Bergman Walls and Associates. Schulz, who has been designing casinos and resorts for 30 years, says the nature of slot play will probably dictate a significant change in casino design in the coming decades.
“If we were to jump ahead 20 years, I think you’re going to see a definite change in the casino floor layout, especially when it comes to slot machines,” Schulz says. “You’re probably not going to see the endless banks, rows and rows of machines, that we see today. A definite generational change that’s happening is that the younger people today are much more accustomed to their hand-held devices. They are much more accustomed to mobile technology than the older generation.”
The new Hard Rock casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma, contains what may be a harbinger of how casino design could change with technology—a mezzanine section with e-games surrounding a “media bar,” a casual seating area with graphic and interactive displays, all centered around social media.
Spaces designed like this may become commonplace in the coming decades, predicts Schulz. “As (today’s young players) get older and start gaming more, they’re going to want the immediacy and intimacy of doing it on their own device,” he says. “The technology is already there, but certainly, 10 or 20 years from now it will be something we take for granted.”
Schulz says one way this type of gaming will affect design is with more intimate gaming areas. “The casino of the future is going to have more of a lounge feel,” he says. “It’s going to have people being able to play their games on their hand-held devices in much more intimate settings. They will literally be able to gamble anywhere on the property. You’ll still have slot machines, but the atmosphere of rows and rows of slot machines is going to go away.”
Longtime casino architect Paul Steelman, founder of Steelman Partners and 2010 recipient of the Sarno Award for lifetime achievement, points to Wynn properties like Encore in Las Vegas and Wynn Macau, and former Wynn properties like the Mirage, to demonstrate how these intimate spaces are likely to be accomplished—“structures within structures.”
Casinos will be “designed smaller” in the future, he says, or, “if big is required, it will be designed to look small and personal.”

The Social Aspect

While there may be more subdivisions of casino space in the future, none of the gaming will be done in isolation, notes architect Brad Friedmutter, another Sarno Award recipient who has long been known for casino projects.
Friedmutter says social interaction is important to the younger generation of gamblers, even if hand-held devices are in play. “The nature of people is the same as always,” he says. “Formerly, if someone hit a jackpot on a slot machine, there were bells and whistles. It was loud, and you would hear the coins coming down. What that did was attract attention. Here’s a winner—and everyone sees and hears that, and comes running over to see who won. Everybody likes to see a winner.
“Tomorrow, or 10 years from now on hand-held devices, people are going to tweet that a jackpot was hit, or the casino will send the message, including where it was hit. The delivery of the message is going to be different, but the (social) nature of people is always there.
“People want to be around the winners, and where the good luck is, and where the action is. The energy. It’s the (message) delivery system that technology is going to advance, but there are still segments of people who want to be together.”
Albie Colotto, director of design for the Friedmutter Group, adds that the social aspect is perhaps more important to the younger generation of gamblers than to today’s majority of players weaned on huge slot floors where everyone minded their own business. The X and Y generations and beyond, who spend a lot of time in nightclubs, need a “see-and-be-seen” atmosphere, Colotto says.
“The X and Y generations are the same gamer, going to nightclubs and similar kinds of entertainment venues,” says Colotto. “You’ll still find those kinds of entertainment venues to be very open. Even in clubs, when they try to close them off too much, you don’t get that social interaction people still want when they’re doing entertaining kinds of things—of which gaming is definitely a strong part.”
Friedmutter cites the newest electronic hybrid table games—systems linking one live wheel or table to hundreds of individual, slot-like wagering terminals—as examples of what combines the solitary and social aspects of the casino experience that are important to younger players. “What they’ve done through technology is to give what counts as two or three games the ability to have perhaps 150 people playing,” he says.
Adds Colotto, “What we’re starting to see even on the slot machines is that the younger generation, even when they’re gaming at home, like the social aspect. The younger generation wants to be on games together. In China, you’ll see one dealer but 200 people playing at a time. That will change design, in that more people will be playing a game at one time.”
Friedmutter sees the social aspect of gaming extending to future hand-held play as well. “People say that communicating on hand-held devices means less face-to-face interaction, and yet, on the game side, people play against each other around the world,” he says. “They might not see each other face-to-face, but they’re used to playing against each other. So there is, on the one hand, isolation, yet at the same time there is interaction.”
He says this will translate into a casino design that allows social interaction along with game play. “The whole notion of coming to a casino, in addition to the gaming aspect, was always the social aspect,” says Friedmutter. “Coming to the casino, hanging out at the bar, having dinner, going to a show—a whole nighttime experience.”
He says future design will reflect this basic fact, but Friedmutter is not ready to say the current casino model is going away. “I don’t have a crystal ball, and as they say, everything old is new again. I don’t think there’s a straight line of technological progress. It’s an evolutionary process. Things are going to develop in technology and in the social interaction of people that might be hard to trend.”
Schulz also is hesitant to predict the demise of the current casino model, but says a change is definitely in store. “There are so many things that happen in a casino today, with the more traditional lights and sounds that have always been there,” he says. “You’re going to have to keep those for a number of years. However, the more comfortable people become with their hand-held devices, the more the game itself may be changing.
“Until the older generation is gone, there will be those who feel more comfortable sitting in front of a slot machine. But certainly, 20 years from now, the majority of players are going to want to play on their individual hand-held devices, or devices issued to them by the casinos, instead of these floor-mounted machines.”
He stresses that the table game element of casinos, unlike the slots, is likely to remain relatively the same as it is now. “Most people who play table games like the atmosphere that surrounds the tables themselves,” Schulz says. “A craps table is fun because of the atmosphere—the excitement of the game, the crowd. I think you’re going to see table tames around for a long time. But slot machines are headed for much more intimate lounge areas; it won’t even necessarily feel like you’re in the casino itself.”
Like Friedmutter, Schulz stresses that his predictions assume an evolutionary process that may or may not happen within the next few years. However, he notes that a basic principle of casino floor design is adaptability.
“As architects, what we try to do is create spaces that will lend themselves to flexibility,” Schulz says. “We minimize the amount of things that are intrusive into the space—columns, structural braces—which, as things progress, would make it difficult to renovate a space. We try to leave the gaming area as open as possible, to allow for as much flexibility as possible—in the physical layout, in how the electronics work.”
That includes going wireless, which Schulz sees as a probable trend. “As we see wireless progressing, 20 years down the road, even the hard connections may be going. The technology will be there to make everything wireless if the gaming companies choose to do that. How that changes in the next 20 years is anybody’s guess. It could fundamentally change how we look at casinos altogether. That’s the part nobody knows for sure—how far this could go.”
Steelman stresses that that regardless of whether or not casinos go wireless, or how many lounge-style areas may evolve in the modern casino, or whether or not the rows and rows of slot machines will remain a staple of the casino floor, the focus of the casino space will remain the same—gambling. “There may be lots of new ideas and attractions, but casinos will always be focused on gambling,” Steelman says. “Throughout the history of casino design, when unusual entertainment attractions were placed on a casino floor, they did not work. I can cite 10 examples of Disney-like attractions that have come and gone on casino floors.”
As far as the gambling, Friedmutter adds that casino floors will adapt to a mixture of the old and the new. Referring to Aristocrat’s new slot based on the 1978 Superman movie, he says, “Interestingly, here is modern technology, and here they are talking about Superman! I think there will always be this mix of the old and the new in the future. People try things, and some of them stick. And as they mature, people naturally evolve with it.”


The Technology Revolution

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Like most other industries in the world, the casino design business has been deeply impacted by the rapid advances in technology. What were once dense drawings with pen and ink have now become large computer files, showing every detail and nuance of a design. Owners can now “see” their completed project in 3D before ground is even broken.
Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs returns to this year’s Casino Design magazine with her annual discussion with leaders in the field. This year, the topic is how technology has changed the way architects, designers and builders do their jobs, and what it means to the owners, the customers and the experience.

Technology is impacting every part of our lives. What has been the biggest impact technology has had on casino design and construction over the past five years?

Dike Bacon: From a design standpoint, that would have to be BIM. A key component of our document delivery process is our expertise using building information modeling (BIM), and specifically Revit technology. We’ve been using BIM for quite some time now. The system coordinates and produces design and construction drawings, renderings and models using Revit Architecture 2019, an integrated BIM program that automatically synchronizes all building information modeling and project documents in real time (on an IBM/Microsoft Windows-compatible platform).
BIM is a huge contributor to the accuracy and efficiency of our work, and its ability to fully reconcile program data with design documentation is unparalleled. 

Michael Calderon: For architects, building information modeling has forever changed design and construction. Although increasing the time it takes to turn design into construction documents because of the steep learning curve, it has decreased construction time and dollars because of the fact that through the design process and model-building, many potential unforeseen problems have already been worked out before the construction phase begins. Creating 3D visualization models using SketchUp and incorporating 3D models created with Autodesk Revit helps our clients to better understand and visualize design intent.

Richard Emery: Technology’s impact on the world in the last five years has been significant, especially in casino design and construction. By far, the use of BIM opens up exciting new ways of working in the casino market for all team members. Here are some examples of how BIM changes everything:   

• Designing in 3D—not relying on 2D Plans. Building a virtual project in 3D before breaking ground.
• 4D—scheduling/time enabled by the BIM models.
• 5D—cost control—quantities are taken directly from the BIM models, and cost factors are linked with a database to the BIM models.
• Communicating the design with all stakeholders with new digital tools. Video conferencing and Smart Boards save time and money for meetings, and allow all participants to see the 3D virtual building in a live context, and add comments with graphic tools in a virtual group setting.

J.F. Finn: For Gensler, BIM has allowed our clients to assess their priorities: speed to market, cost control, flexibility, procurement, etc. BIM has allowed us to have a powerful tool with multiple channels for project delivery.   

In particular, we have seen a significant growth in design-assist or variations of design-build. BIM has provided a common platform for the designer to work with the engineers and fabricators in developing details and evaluating conflict/clash detection, as well as reducing schedule by taking design development drawings straight into shop drawings.

Brad Friedmutter: For the past several years we have been utilizing 3D modeling and building information modeling as our standard practice in architectural design. This is a tremendously important advance from hand drafting and 2D CAD software. Now, all of our projects are created in a 3D format from conceptual design through construction.
During the initial design phases, the exterior and interior design are fully modeled and rendered to provide the owner with a photorealistic image of all the major project components. Additionally, the model is used to develop a video animation and “fly through” to fully convey the design intent. This 3D development has been revolutionary in creating designs that allow owners to review and evaluate a multitude of options quickly, efficiently, and with confidence and understanding of future impacts, thereby reducing what historically was often a lengthy owner’s approval process.

Ken Kulas: Technology today has placed many demands upon the interior designer not only for improved usability of a space but aesthetically as well. In high-profile public spaces, the desire to create some animation and energy is typically a directive. Specifically, audio and visual sensory entertainment. A larger-than-life feature of video display can not only be that source of energy, but can also be used to help in navigation to understand a facility, provide promotional content, or be an interactive icon by itself.

In casino design, the opportunity to provide a guest with multiple entertainment options is of great importance. While playing cards at table game, the multitasking gambler may also wish to watch a race or other sporting event. The availability of video display can provide that connection as well as add to the ambiance for other guests.

Jack Mohn: Our guests are expecting more information and more interactivity every day. As we move forward, everything from way-finding to restaurant menu boards to the gaming devices themselves are becoming more interactive. Something as simple as a way-finding map of the property has become a touch-screen video panel that provides information at levels never before seen. In addition to these fixed informational systems, there is a new demand to be even more connected with applications for smart phones and personal devices that bring this information directly to the guest.

Tom O’Connor: Technology has impacted almost every aspect of casino design—everything from sketch-rendering software to Revit documentation, lighting products to sustainable finish materials, even smart phones. In our profession and as it relates to design, documentation and construction, the biggest technological impact today has been the ability to model the buildings in 3D—to be able to coordinate across all disciplines of design thus minimizing the contractor’s request for information (RFI) process during the construction phase of the project.

Nick Priest: From our perspective, the biggest impact has been the way in which design and construction projects are managed and facilitated. The continuous evolution of project management technologies and web-based information-sharing capabilities has allowed us to manage projects internally with greater efficiency and to collaborate throughout the design and construction process in a more seamless manner.

Dick Rizzo: The biggest impact technology has had on casino design and construction is the ability to coordinate and resolve conflicts in a virtual environment. Using CAD software, the design and construction team can sit in an office and literally walk through the entire project, viewing it at every major phase of construction in 3D. Before construction ever starts, we have already resolved and actually improved design plans for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural portions of a facility. Streamlining major systems in the pre-construction phase eliminates unanticipated problems in the field, which in turn accelerates the project schedule. Technology not only exponentially increases project efficiency; it promotes innovation and fosters creativity. Planning in a collaborative atmosphere, especially on complex integrated systems, generates new ideas that ultimately improve processes and quality, and lower cost.

Is technology impacting the cost of construction in either a positive or negative way?

Emery: In a very positive way. Lean building techniques using BIM are helping eliminate waste on the jobsite by pre-determining quantities of materials from the virtual/BIM models. Cost estimates and construction schedules are produced from the BIM models from conceptual stages all the way through construction, keeping the project on budget and on schedule. Large cost and time savings can be realized. These new abilities are made possible by our use of the newest and best technologies available on the market. We are continually striving to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to using high-tech and cutting-edge tools for the betterment of a project.

Finn: Historically, I think it’s often a wash. Technology allows savings in many areas, while costs go up in others. What we have continued to see is that the technology itself, combined with the constant need to accelerate learning of new product lines, infrastructure and training within the construction professions themselves, makes the cost go up. In other aspects of construction—fabrication, for example—costs can go down. The key is to leverage best practices for the highest value back to your client.

Kulas: If you compare to even a high-cost performance video monitor to a traditional framed piece of artwork, a designer can actually cut costs when applied to an accessories portion of an interiors budget. Easily priced at $10,000 for a 72-inch piece of custom framed art, a monitor of that size could be very cost-effective in its place. Depending upon the décor, technology can be a designer’s biggest ally.

Mohn: These new systems are requiring more data at higher speeds. The basic infrastructure of the facility must be capable of handling these increased demands. As the basic player systems transition from traditional wired networks into high-speed ethernet systems, the requirements increase substantially. These new technologies not only change the networks, but also require increases in the spaces to support them. 

O’Connor: On the construction management side, the cost of construction is impacted by the minimized RFI process and thus fewer change order requests have helped control cost overrun on the project.
On the design side, our clients are embracing the latest media technologies to promote their identities and brands. For the most part, we’ve found construction budgets are being increased to allow for these sought-after media. The impact of media technology in casino design translates directly into increased revenue.

Priest: The ability for the entire project team to work within one 3D model simultaneously during the design process helps to ensure close coordination between consultants and fewer gaps in scope. This process also allows for project costs and budgets to be established and monitored with great accuracy.

Rizzo: Technology is a definite positive. It saves time and money by resolving major conflicts in preconstruction. It also simplifies how information is documented, distributed and stored. Perhaps most importantly, technology vastly improves communication. Gone are the days when project managers had to take a picture, go back to the office, write notes, and so on. Today’s project managers are armed with iPads and tablets. When a manager spots an issue in the field or has a question, he pulls out his electronic device, snaps a picture, types his comment, and sends it to a subcontractor, consultant or architect. This leads to real-time decisions, improved efficiencies and better documentation. 
How has new technology—server-based gaming, player loyalty clubs, ticket-in-ticket-out, bonusing, etc.—impacted how a casino is designed?

Emery: Server-based gaming has the potential to completely redesign the casino floor as we know it. How you play the game and where you play it will start to transform as the technology advances. As the server room takes control of the gaming, then, the design of the slot machine and its location can dramatically change.   

Ticket-in-ticket-out, self-redemption kiosks, cashier cages, count rooms and surveillance rooms have all been part of a transformation that has occurred over the last 10 years. Technology has allowed designers to make many of the casino support areas smaller in size, while the need for data rooms and servers has increased. 

Finn: Technology is changing the way we communicate and interact so fundamentally, that the whole definition of space is being redefined. People don’t have to go to an office to do their work; we can buy and sell from the comfort of our living room. This creates a much more acute need to connect and be a part of human activity. A well-planned, dynamic gaming environment can capture that “energy pulse” of gaming. The casino environments now must be able to not create and hold the excitement. Amenities such as F&B, shows, music and spontaneous events together with dynamic media can support, feed, interact and integrate with the gaming environment.
There is a real revolution going on in the current design of casinos. The key for guests and for owners is around flexibility and choice. Technology has provided so many different ways of delivering the gaming experience, the competitive differentiators have become more about the gaming environment, the amenities, and how they are integrated into the overall resort experience.

Friedmutter: The operator’s ability to provide convenient customer service “touch points” at satellite self-serve locations (kiosks) throughout a property has greatly increased the demand for multiple location kiosks throughout a property, and, at the same time, reduced the demand on the traditional cage operations. As a result, the required space for the cage has decreased. On the other hand, the additional locations for self-serve kiosks have resulted in a more complex and widely distributed infrastructure to support these features throughout the casino floor.

O’Connor: Casino resorts are designed with customer service in mind. New technology has strong customer service impact, in that it offers patrons what they want, when they want it—which is immediately.
• Server-based gaming allows casino operators to gauge patron interest and immediately update their gaming offerings to meet patron demand.

• Ticket-in-ticket-out and redemption kiosks promote an instant gratification to patrons for cashing out and collecting their winnings by way of self-service. This also affects design by requiring smaller cages, with fewer cashier windows and associated queuing areas to accommodate long lines at the redemption booths.

• Player loyalty clubs and player reward cards allow patrons to immediately redeem club admissions, special services and comp rewards, by real-time tracking of casino play and resort purchases. In the past are the days where players wait for offers by “snail-mail,” rewarding them for their play on a former visit.

Priest: These technologies have had quite an impact on the way in which we design signage for server-based gaming environments. Rather than producing signage that is themed to align with a specific game, our creative and production teams are creating signage to in-house, network-based LCDs that is much more architectural and in line with the surrounding interior design aesthetic. Control and programming of the kinetic lighting and content that we incorporate into the signage features is closely coordinated with the gaming manufacturers to enable flexibility and proper synchronization with whatever game is in use, along the surrounding games to enable reaction and support to events such as jackpot payouts.
Has “green” technology played a role in improving the design and construction process? Do you encourage your clients to employ green technology in their projects?

Bacon: Our HBGreen initiative works by establishing a platform or framework to engage and inform our clients about sustainability and introduce key concepts that can help their facilities perform better and more efficiently. It’s a core strategy of our design philosophy and our corporate operations. Encouraging energy-efficient practices is not something we just “add on” to a project to make everyone feel good. Put simply, the appropriate sustainable practices and initiatives are integrated where feasible into every project, as well as our own daily operations.

Emery: “Green design” is no longer a new concept. Clients ask for it, manufacturers are creating it, and we are implementing it into our designs. When green technology does not cost more it is easy to convince clients to use it, but, when the initial costs or the payback periods are excessive, it is difficult to justify on a project. We will not see 100 percent participation of the use of green technology by architects, engineers, contractors and owners until the building codes make it mandatory.

Friedmutter: Owners are eager to incorporate green technology and sustainability into project design where feasible and appropriate. Improvements and methodology within specialty disciplines vary widely, however. Smoking continues to be the biggest hurdle in true green design, but a number of opportunities and certification processes are available, and we are sharing these opportunities with our clients.

Kulas: Several clients have initiated a project without the directive to be specifically “green.” Once the design development begins, the frequency of the “green” reference by the architect and interior designer begins to open a door to the possibility of easily meeting some of the standards. Quickly, the client learns the verbiage and responds positively with some of the options that may be presented. During presentations, a designer can suggest a specific material that has green characteristics. That often helps “sell” the design to the client.

Mohn: As an owner, we have a company-wide green initiative. All existing properties as well as new projects work to address these issues. We are continually evaluating the best ways to incorporate green methods and technologies in our new facilities as well as how to retrofit the older properties with these new ideas. It is becoming more common to see sustainability requirements in several of the new gaming jurisdictions as part of the licensing requirements.

Rizzo: Although construction will always be labor-intensive, technology has improved almost every aspect of the industry, including going green. Certainly, as a corporation, Tutor Perini advocates green technology as do most clients. The drawback to going all green is cost. If a client can afford green technology or realizes ROI in a timely manner, they either go full bore or make smaller, strategic investments to reduce energy costs and improve the environmental impact of their property.  

How will advancing technology improve the design and construction of casino resorts in the future? What will a casino resort look like 20 years from now?

Bacon: With some measure of an internet gaming experience looming on the horizon, it’s very hard to make predictions about the long-term future of the bricks-and-mortar portion of the industry. We like to believe this kind of technology will ultimately be leveraged from a marketing and promotion standpoint to get a whole new breed of gaming customer through the physical door. The challenge for the design industry, of course, will be to respond and meet the expectations of this digital-age demographic once they enter the facility.
The real-time use of the “mobile wallet” could transform the transactional process for all purchases throughout the facility from check-in to comp redemptions to guest room customization. As an example, the hotel lobby of today may not look anything like the hotel lobby of the future. In this kind of environment, operations will immediately know what the customer is looking for at any given time and be able to deliver it. Real-time transactional data will become the most valuable asset on the property. 

Calderon: Firms that are well-versed in BIM and have gone through the steep learning curve as this new technology continues to advance will be able to provide significant improvement on detail, design and discipline coordination.

Emery: New digital design tools and BIM technologies such as Autodesk Revit enable architects and designers to create very exciting and dramatic forms which were impossible in the past with traditional tools. These designs can be output to digital fabrication tools which allow highly accurate construction in a controlled, high-tech shop environment. Components are then delivered to the site and installed as pre-fabricated units, saving time and money.

Finn: The gaming business is becoming more ubiquitous, with almost every state and country legalizing it; it’s less about a place you have to go but where you want to go.
The casino of the future will continue to evolve to become more and more immersive and experiential. The integrated resort, mega-resort and mixed-use development models will continue to be drivers for innovation and for dynamic environments. The technologies we are seeing are blurring the lines between different uses and activities. The casino of the future may not be recognized as a “casino” but as a high-energy, dynamic and varied entertainment center.

Kulas: The advancing opportunities of how technology can support the environment specifically to the aesthetics must be balanced with any possible negative connotations. In an instance of public area venues, too much “self-serve” or automated functions can reduce the perception of customer service. It can, however, be an advantage allowing guests to have more “one-on-one” service now that some of the employees’ functions have been supplemented by that automated technology.

O’Connor: In terms of what a casino resort will look like 20 years from now, this will directly be linked to how a casino resort will be experienced—either as a “physical” place or possibly as a “virtual” re-creation. Visiting a resort could be the latest “app” beamed to your as-yet unimagined device (possibly even an implant). The casino resort of the future could very well be either a three-dimensional destination or a holographic mind meld. A lot can happen in 20 years.

Rizzo: Casinos in the future may look much different than today. They might start taking on the appearance of electronic arcades with more interactive machines, potential of holographic environments and fewer traditional slot machines.
Technology can create sweeping changes or can have a more subtle effect. For example, the elimination of actual coin on the public floor when playing table games saves money in the design and construction of facilities. Although it is a minimal impact, the floors in public areas no longer need to support heavy loads of coin moving across them. As a result, lighter structures are the norm today. While not all technology is trendy like an iPad or 3D software, the savings and efficiency add up.

We can’t predict the future, but in general, the overall use of casinos will remain the same, only we anticipate more electronics infused into the public experience. From a contractor’s perspective, we embrace technology to improve communication, streamline processes, lower costs, and improve the environment.

If you could choose one technological advancement/creation that has significantly improved the way you do business every day, what would it be and why?

Bacon: The biggest technological advancement for us is still the immediacy of the mobile internet. From the transfer of huge quantities of data, to conducting remote meetings, communication, and presentations, to the infinite opportunities for research and development, the mobile internet still dramatically affects almost everything we do. 

Calderon: I believe one of the most invaluable technology tools today is the internet. We use it for research and testing new software by download and installing trial versions of potential new tools. It is also a very helpful research tool for new products. It allows for immediate access to our clients and consultants via video conferencing. It also expedites the sharing of data through a multitude of file-sharing tools such as project portals, FTP and online storage and transfer solutions.

Emery: “The Cloud”—which enables mobile computing and communication—has by far been the biggest breakthrough in technology and has vastly improved and changed forever the way we do business, as it enables mobile users, home and remote office users, clients, jobsites workers, owners/clients, and all other stakeholders to gain instant and up-to-date access to information about the project.

Kulas: If there is to be one significant positive element that can be contributed to the accelerated design and production in the 24/7 design world, it is the lack of time available to have all the information, in the physical paper form, created for presentation, manipulation and storage. Working faster, cleaner, and increasingly more efficient, our role is forever a wonderful challenge.

O’Connor: If we had to single out the one technology advancement/creation that has significantly improved the way that we do business every day, it would have to be digital visualization software. Packages such as Sketch-up Pro and Autodesk’s Revit have enabled designers to quickly model in 3D and clients to quickly comprehend the elements of a project at remarkable speed and with quite dramatic results.

Priest: Personally, the technologies that have improved the way in which I work every day are Wi-Fi and air cards, web-based meetings and screen sharing. These real-time/anywhere technologies enable me to remain in close contact with my colleagues, wherever we may be.

Rizzo: As design becomes more intricate and projects grow in scope and size, calmly solving challenges and creating new solutions in a 3D environment is a phenomenal benefit for everyone on a project. Eliminating conflicts before construction starts positively impacts every major component of a project.


Dike Bacon is a principal and director of planning and development at Hnedak Bobo Group, Inc., a planning, architecture, and interior design firm. In this role, Bacon is focused on influencing and aligning the firm’s expertise, disciplines and national presence with client vision. His professional practice experience spans 32 years and supports his leadership balancing dynamic programmatic development objectives with market-focused economics. His project experience includes major gaming/hospitality/entertainment resorts throughout the U.S., and his client list includes some of the most recognized and successful commercial gaming companies and Indian gaming tribes in the industry. Bacon is a very active sponsor and associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association, and serves on the Global Gaming Expo Conference Advisory Board and the Global Gaming Business G2E Casino Design Awards Advisory Board.

Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, moderator, is president and CFO of Lifescapes International, Inc. A senior principal with Lifescapes and a team member for over 30 years, Brinkerhoff-Jacobs focuses on guiding the company’s growth through strategic planning, marketing and sales. She is a frequent speaker at industry events and has authored numerous articles on real estate and demographic trends. A graduate of Cal State University Sonoma, Brinkerhoff-Jacobs is actively involved in organizations such as G2E, the Urban Land Institute (member of the Entertainment Development Council) and International Council of Shopping Centers, and sits on the advisory board for Global Gaming Business magazine, among other boards. She also is the co-founder of HomeAid America, established in 1989 to provide shelter for homeless families, returning veterans, women and their children.

Michael Calderon has been the information technology and CAD manager, and a principal for Lifescapes International for the past 18 years. Calderon was originally hired as a consultant to train the office in the use of computers and CAD. His ongoing overview of new systems and the training of both design and administrative staff are essential to the firm’s continuing growth.

Richard Emery, AIA, earned his architecture degree from Kansas University. He joined Thalden Boyd Emery Architects in 1982 and leads design and production for all projects in the office. His design talent has inspired the firm in its design of award-winning projects throughout the years. In the past 26 years, Emery has designed hotels and casinos in gaming markets throughout North America and overseas. Aside from his vast knowledge in casino and resort design, Emery has been at the cutting edge of CAD technology and building information modeling (BIM). With his extensive experience in fast-track and phasing, Emery has designed projects collectively worth over several billion dollars.

J.F. Finn is the managing director of Gensler’s Las Vegas office. He recently was Gensler’s lead principal on MGM Resorts International’s CityCenter, an $8.4 billion Las Vegas urban metropolis and the largest privately funded project in the U.S. For over 30 years, Finn has been instrumental in the success of a wide range of planning and architectural projects, from the full range of hospitality projects to large-scale community master plans to transit facilities, civic buildings and mixed-use developments. His unique experience brings a balanced, creative and conscientious philosophy to the design and planning process. Since joining Gensler in 1988, he has focused on large-scale, multidisciplinary projects and land-use planning, combining long-range vision with a bottom-line approach to the public and private sectors’ planning goals and objectives.

Brad Friedmutter, AIA, is founder and CEO of Friedmutter Group. Friedmutter is a registered architect in Nevada and 43 additional states, holds an unrestricted Nevada gaming license, and has worked exclusively in the hospitality industry for more than 35 years. Friedmutter worked as vice president of design and construction for Steve Wynn and Mirage Resorts, Inc., and as vice president of design and construction for Bally’s Inc. Friedmutter Group was incorporated in 1992 and provides full service from offices in Las Vegas; Newport Beach, California; and Macau. Friedmutter is frequently honored for his contributions to the industry. Recent honors and awards include induction to the 2009 Hospitality Design Platinum Circle, honoring career achievement in the hospitality industry; the 2008 Hospitality Industry Network Lifetime Achievement Award; and the prestigious 2007 Sarno Lifetime Achievement Award for Casino Design.

Ken Kulas is principal and co-owner of Cleo Design in Las Vegas. Cleo Design is one of the leading interior design firms in hospitality and gaming, working with industry giants such as MGM Resorts, Wynn Las Vegas, Seminole Hard Rock and many more. Kulas has been a member of the Las Vegas design community for more than 25 years and has been involved in virtually all facets of interior design.

Jack Mohn is vice president of design and construction for Ameristar Casinos. He is responsible for overseeing all aspects of project design and construction for the company’s eight properties, including the new Ameristar Lake Charles. Under his guidance, the company has recently completed renovations at two of its properties. Mohn joined Ameristar in November 2006 as vice president of design and oversaw the design of the Ameristar Casino Resort Spa Black Hawk’s 33-story luxury hotel and day spa, and the 2008 expansion of Ameristar Casino Resort Spa St. Charles. Mohn also oversaw the rebranding of Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago and the expansion and luxury hotel renovation of Ameristar Casino Hotel Vicksburg. Prior to joining Ameristar, Mohn was the principal of EwingCole’s West Coast Sports and Entertainment practice. He holds a bachelor of science degree in architecture from the University of Southern California. 

Thomas O’Connor has spent more than 30 years acquiring experience in the design and realization of a variety of architectural and master planning projects ranging from hospitality, gaming, entertainment, destination resorts and retail town centers to high-end residential work. As one of the founding partners of SOSH Architects, O’Connor has seen the company grow to a national powerhouse achieving projects for the country’s best-known hospitality, gaming and entertainment clients. With offices both in Atlantic City and New York City, O’Connor and his partners are working on projects coast to coast as well as the Caribbean, the U.K., Europe and the Middle East. O’Connor received his bachelor offine arts and bachelor of architecture from the University of Notre Dame with graduate-level continuing education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Nick Priest is director of special projects for YESCO, the gaming industry’s leading sign provider. Priest directs YESCO’s special projects team, focusing on collaborating on the design and seamless integration of dynamic signage, media displays and unique features into projects of all sizes.

Dick Rizzo is vice chairman of Tutor Perini Building Corp (formerly Perini Building Company). Rizzo joined the corporation in 1977 as a project engineer and quickly rose through the ranks. Past positions include project manager and president of Perini Building Company. Currently, Rizzo is responsible for new business development and company growth. Other notable accomplishments include receiving the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Humanitarian of the Year Award as well as numerous awards from philanthropic and diversity organizations.


Renovation Nation

By Marjorie Preston   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

In 2005, the Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi, was due for a renovation. On August 29, Hurricane Katrina hastened the plan and also handled some of the demolition.
Katrina roared up the Gulf Coast with winds of 120 mph and a storm surge that at times reached 30 feet. The casino’s hotel tower survived, but a 250-foot dockside barge was set adrift and ended up more than a mile inland. A second casino barge nearly capsized, and the walls of the land-based parking garage buckled. When the storm was over, sections of the nearby Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge jutted out of the water like a partially submerged, shuffled deck of cards.
State law at the time mandated that all gaming take place on water. As a result, all of Biloxi’s 12 casinos were damaged or destroyed, and a $1.3 billion industry sputtered to a halt.
Soon after the storm, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour signed a law that would enable the casinos to rebuild on land, and officials at the Palace wasted no time picking up the pieces. Operations were transferred “from the back yard to the front yard,” says General Manager Keith Crosby. “We were temporarily operating in the hotel lobby, and put the buffet in the hotel ballroom.”
Just four months later, on December 30, the Palace was first Gulf Coast gaming hall to reopen after Katrina. A large-scale renovation and expansion of the property would not begin for another five years. And that time, an economic storm dictated the terms.  
The Great Recession, Crosby wryly observes, “has a great ability to focus your attention on the bottom line.”

Form and Function

By 2010, three years into the historic downturn, the Palace was trying to “adjust our growth to reflect the position the market was in then,” while proceeding with a much-needed renovation. “People were very careful of what they were spending and what they got for it. We needed to look hard at the longevity of our investment.”
Not surprisingly, at the top of the list for the property was durability and weather resistance. Crosby also wanted any additions to meld seamlessly with the existing structure.
“I’d seen enough properties in this area—the old Grand Casino is a perfect example—where it looked like one shoebox was set next to another shoebox,” he says. “There was not a lot of architectural continuity, and you can see the phases. This had to integrate.”
He also wanted a property that was “practical, functional, serviceable.”
“Designers have a tendency to live in a form-first world,” Crosby says. “I wanted them to know I would be on the side of functionality, 100 percent of the time.”
His collaboration with Cuningham Group Architecture of Minneapolis was lively and occasionally tempestuous.
“We were like warring factions,” says Crosby with a laugh. “I got hung up on function first and I repeated it again and again to the architects.”
“Yes, Keith was functionally oriented,” agrees architect Tom Hoskens. “Did that make it interesting? You bet. It was that good yin and yang, that push and pull, that got us to where we need to be.”

Design Composition

The $50 million renovation encompassed 110,000 square feet and added 64,000 square feet of new facilities, including a 40,000-square-foot gaming floor. The bones of the tower remained, but the designers did away with the quasi-Moroccan theme in favor of a handsome, streamlined Art Deco look.
“I learned a lesson from Steve Wynn in Atlantic City,” says Crosby. “The building is white and gold; it looks clean and modern. Like a new car, our goal was to keep it looking as good as the day we bought it. And we brought the same concept inside.”
Hoskens took his cues from the lines of the existing tower as well as the casino’s maritime backdrop. “We incorporated nautical elements—white, pristine boats and curved sails—and took the rhythms and shapes and forms of the tower and put them in the façade, inside and out.” Hoskens likens good design to a great orchestral piece, in which varying moods and movements serve to develop a prevailing theme.
“There are variations on the rhythms,” he says, “but it is all part of the same symphony.”

Everything Old is New Again

At the new Palace, the excitement begins with the “entry experience,” which Hoskens says must be established even before a guest sets foot on the property.
“We say spend your money on your arrival sequence,” Hoskens says. “Excitement does sell, and if you get them excited as they drive up in the car and ascend into the space, that is money well-spent.”
Once people are inside, the sights and sounds of the gaming floor generate more excitement, along with “interesting pathways through the experience, from amenity to amenity and from amenity to destination,” says Hoskens.
The goal at the Palace was to surprise and intrigue guests at every turn by presenting those amenities in an unfolding sequence. Three restaurants and a lounge are set in what Crosby describes as a “storefront” configuration around the casino floor, so gaming is no longer the ultimate destination, but one step in a longer journey.
The former lobby, with its red and ivory color palette, circular skylight and incongruous swaying palms, has been replaced by a two-story atrium dominated by a back wall with twinkling lights behind layers of brass bars. One striking architectural element—a large scrolled letter “P” towering above the lobby desk—“creates a new paradigm of what the Palace Casino is—a modern, unique and alive resort,” says Hoskens.
The lobby carpets include tones of royal blue, caramel and brown in a swirled pattern. “You can see our desire to keep the natural warm tones and play off it with deeper colors,” Hoskens says. “There is the play of the carpet pattern from large scale to small scale and back, and that happens throughout the casino as well.”
The upper levels are accessible from the lobby by both a grand staircase and an escalator, and a computerized readerboard informs guests about entertainment and other leisure options. The atrium also houses the concierge area, VIP check-in, a gift shop, spa and fitness center, business center and motor coach lounge.
When it came to a new cage-cashier and guest-services area, Crosby says he conserved money by dispensing with unnecessary signage.
“The décor in that area is the employees themselves,” he says. “We spent the money on uniforms to make them look and feel good. Our guests would see them and say, ‘I see humans over there. They must be there to help take care of me.’”

A Whole New Game

The casino floor, with 26 table games and 1,100 slots, is characterized by vivid colors and layered ceiling lights. The lights “create a texture that adds warmth and excitement to the space,” Hoskens says. The fixtures are actually engineered to move slightly overheard, as if in a mild breeze. The kinetic effect is “pleasantly surprising” for guests, and the “warm, reddish-orange and lemony colors add a real warmth and friendliness,” says Hoskens.
The pre-Katrina sports bar had theater-style seating facing a bank of giant flat-screens TVs. The new Contact Sports Bar “is a hybrid of sports bar and performance area,” says Hoskens, “with a really interactive bar that goes into the casino area itself and serves as an invitation to take a break, come in, take a look.” Built-in links among venues guide patrons to take advantage of all the Palace offers; changes in décor from one space to another—as in the ultramodern Stacked Grill—give patrons “a mental break” that refreshes them and reinvigorates them for the rest of their journey.

A Whole New World

Crosby says the new Palace is “a complete departure from what we were before;” he proudly points out that the casino property is “100 percent smoke-free.” (There is a $1 million smoker’s lounge.)
“That set the tone, because it will have no impact on the building,” he says. “Culturally we said we’re not going to impact our associates by allowing smoking, and at the same time it will save our building.”
Both form and function are served in the new Palace, Crosby adds. “My definition of a good deal is when both parties go away mad. If neither of us gets everything we want, we probably both got what we need.”


Golden Transformation

By Marjorie Preston   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

The $150 million renovation of the former Trump Marina and Hotel in Atlantic City has added new luster to the city’s waterfront—the luster of gold.
“The crowds are good, and the people here are enjoying all the improvements we’ve made,” says Jeff Cantwell, senior vice president of development for Landry’s, the Houston-based hospitality company that bought the Marina in 2011, and in less than a year transformed it into the new Golden Nugget.
As one of Trump’s lesser Atlantic City properties, the Marina suffered years of benign neglect. After Trump Entertainment declared bankruptcy, Landry’s acquired the complex for just $38 million (at the top of the market, the price tag was considerably higher, at $234 million).
Landry’s team of in-house designers and architects went to work on the dilapidated property along with David Solner, principal with Cuningham Group Architecture of Minneapolis. The design template was already in place: the new Golden Nugget would recall the flagship location in Las Vegas and a second property in Laughlin, Nevada.
“It was really just taking an old and outdated property, bringing it into the 21st century and making it more engaging,” says Cantwell. “People used to liken this building to a hospital.”
The exterior’s masonry tiles and spandrel glass were covered with eye-catching gold-tone stucco, and a spectacular animated LED sign now covers the side of the building that faces the highway. Inside, ’70-era décor like brass and mirrors was ripped out and replaced with mirror-polish stainless steel appointments, decorative lighting and back-lit acrylic finishes to add light and energy to the space.
The most surprising change may have been in the atrium, which once was dominated by outdated mauve marble. “Instead of ripping it out, we applied a 3M peel-and-stick vinyl finish” in sophisticated black and brown that both fools and pleases the eye. “It’s an illusion,” says Cantwell, “but nobody can tell. But anything guests can touch—stone tops and counters, light fixtures—is a big expense, and you get the best quality possible. All the gaming chairs were reupholstered, because all that can be seen and touched.”
Landry’s CEO Tillman Fertitta looked for economical solutions wherever he could find them. “There’s a value-engineering mentality at Landry’s,” says Cantwell. That approach was reflected in the room redesigns, which cost $25,000 per key, as opposed to renovations at the nearby Borgata, which cost $50,000 per key.
“But we touched every single finish in the rooms and gutted the bathrooms,” says Cantwell, adding contemporary vanities, light fixtures and glass shower doors.
The ambiance in the hotel rooms says ‘home’ rather than ‘hotel,’” he adds. “There’s a nice sofa area, not chairs with a table in the middle, because people don’t stay in to dine very often.”
The porte-cochere has been transformed from grim to glowing with a bank of shimmering gold overhead lights. And one of the Nugget’s chief attractions—that beautiful marina—has been thoroughly refreshed with new awnings, carpet, paint, finishes and wall coverings. “We needed to put some capital dollars there,” Cantwell says.
One welcoming venue, and a vast improvement over its fusty predecessor, is Vic & Anthony’s steakhouse. Designers achieved “an Art Deco, masculine, Rat Pack-y flair” with fine wood and marble finishes. A clunky millwork wine cellar has been replaced with one of skeletal steel for a modern twist.
Ongoing ease of maintenance—one way to save money over the life of a renovation—was top of mind during the 10-month overhaul. “We don’t build for the operator and turn it over—we are the operator,” says Cantwell. “When you look down low, you’ll see real wood and stainless steel. Up high it’s vinyl and veneer.”
The once-threadbare casino and hotel, “a second- or third-tier property” in Cantwell’s view, is now “first class. It’s a nice building, and the physical plant was in good condition. It was a good canvas. It just needed to be finished.”



Casino Design Awards 2020

By Casino Design Staff   Wed, Jun 05, 2020

The Casino Design Awards are the only honors that specifically recognize excellence in the field of casino resort design and construction.  The awards will be presented during a cocktail reception at G2E 2020, September 22-24 at the Venetian in Las Vegas, where winners will be presented with the “Gaming Vision” award. The Sarno Lifetime Achievement Award, named in honor of casino industry legend Jay Sarno, also will be presented.


Architectural firms, design companies and construction companies involved in the design, construction or architectural planning of a casino resort property are eligible to enter. For #10 Best Specialty Consulting/Innovation Performance Award, any company involved in the design, construction or architectural planning of a casino resort property are eligible to enter.

Entries will be accepted for 2019-13 (for facilities that opened Jan. 1, 2019- June 1, 2020).

Entries must be submitted online only (see form below). Video Presentations should not exceed two (2) minutes in length for each entry and be under 20MB.

Submissions must list all the companies, including the consultants that worked on the project and must be submitted as a team. The #10 Best Specialty Consulting/Innovation Performance Award, will be limited to one discipline.

The format for submission includes a typed description (max. 1000 words) of the project/entry in the box provided on the online form.

All entries must be received no later than Friday, August 9, 2020.


Each entry will be judged on its own merits by a panel of five distinguished individuals selected for professional expertise in design, planning and construction.  (Judges may re-categorize an entry if they believe it has been entered in the wrong category or it is better suited to another category.) Each entry will be scored on a scale of 1–10 (“1” being “Poor” and “10” being “Excellent”) using set criteria. One prize will be awarded to the entry in each category with the highest average total score compiled from each judge on the panel (except in cases of a tie).

Judges will evaluate each entry based on the following criteria:
• Unique and original thinking
• Compatibility and harmony of the project to its environment
• Consideration of geographic and climatic conditions
• Use of appropriate or innovative building forms and materials
• Inclusion of meticulous and inventive detailing
• Striving for special and unique design solutions to the positioning aimed at and the success achieved


Entries will not be accepted without payment. The fee for each entry is $150 for the first entry and $100 for any additional entries. Entry fees are non-refundable.

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover are accepted. If paying by check or money order (U.S. funds only) please make payable to “Casino Connection International LLC.”

Send all checks to:
Casino Design Awards
Global Gaming Business Magazine
ATTN: David Coheen
6625 S. Valley View Blvd. Suite 422
Las Vegas, NV 89118


: Optimum use of land; creative use of space planning to create easy flow of traffic; adherence to architectural themes throughout property; use of color, texture and other design elements for maximum effect. Firm must exhibit superior expertise at every design threshold.
Particular attention to providing creative solutions for challenging opportunities. Dollar figures refer to total investment including land and construction.

1) Best Architectural Design for a Casino or a Casino Resort under $$100 Million*

2) Best Architectural Design for a Casino or a Casino Resort over $100 Million*

3) Best Architectural Re-design and/or Expansion for a Casino Resort*


: Superior use of space, textures, color and materials clearly identifying with property and/or specific use. Scale and scope of each project also will be considered.

3) Best Overall Interior Design for a Casino or a Casino Resort

4) Best Interior Design for a Casino Restaurant or Nightclub

5) Best Interior Design for a Casino or a Casino Resort Venue (all locations excluding the restaurant/nightclub category, including, but not limited to casino, retail facilities, spas, VIP Lounges and/or sports books) 

6) Best Landscape Design for a Casino or a Casino Resort


: Successful implementation of a casino or casino resort with adherence to the architectural design and the owner’s vision for the property. Particular attention to unique construction solutions. Sensitivity to completion timing, budget and maintenance of a clean site. Optimum adherence to standards and procedures commensurate with a world-class construction entity. 

7) Best Overall Construction Project for a Casino Resort under $100 Million*

8) Best Overall Construction Project for a Casino Resort over $100 Million*


9) Best Native American Casino Facility (Category limited to casinos and casino resorts designed and built for tribal government gaming. Judging will evaluate all aspects of design and construction.) 

10) Best Specialty Consulting/Innovation Performance (including, but not limited to engineering, signage, lighting, mechanical, IT, environmental. Award will be presented to nominee with the most innovative and creative solution to the task.) 


Jay Sarno literally invented the “new” Las Vegas 20 years ahead of his time, opening Caesars Palace in 1966 and Circus Circus Hotel Casino in 1968, the first two themed casinos in the world. His properties became instant icons on the Las Vegas Strip and although Sarno was unable to operate them profitably, he remained a player on the Las Vegas scene until his death in 1984. Sarno has come to be known as the “P.T. Barnum” of Las Vegas. For his vision and foresight, he was awarded posthumously with the first Casino Design Awards’ lifetime achievement award and since that time the prize has been named in his honor.


Entries submitted become the property of G2E. Information contained in an entry may be displayed, shown, duplicated, published or disposed of as G2E deems appropriate.


A cocktail reception and presentation honoring the Sarno Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and Gaming Vision award recipients will be held at the Venetian during G2E 2020.


For questions please contact David Coheen at 1-702-248-1565 x227 or [email protected]


Best of the Boardwalk

By Robert Rossiello   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

There have been a lot of casino hotel projects in Atlantic City over the past 34 years, though none have matched the anticipation and expectation of Revel. It took over three years, more than 70 design teams, and the backing of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for the $2.4 billion project to see completion. With its debut in April, Revel has become Atlantic City’s first true destination resort and a lifestyle icon on the Boardwalk.  
From the start, Revel aimed to differentiate itself from other casino properties. Its emphasis was on creating a luxury “lifestyle experience,” where gaming was just one component of the overall asthetic. Bernardo Fort-Brescia, principal at Arquitectonica, the firm appointed as design architect of Revel, said that Kevin DeSanctis, the CEO of Revel Entertainment Group, had a “clear idea” of what he wanted to create. Fort-Brescia said the building reflects a “nautical sensuality and memory of the ocean beyond.”
With 6.3 million square feet of space, the smoke-free Revel takes full advantage of its beachfront location. The mirrored façade captures the rippling ocean and the curved lines give the building an organic, wave-like appearance. In fact, there is hardly a straight line to be found on the property. The 47-story tower, topped by a giant light ball that can be seen for miles, is the second-tallest building in New Jersey and the second-tallest casino tower in the U.S. Floor-to-ceiling windows in all the 1,898 hotel rooms—from an Ocean Room to a View Suite—offer sprawling views of the sea.
“Arquitectonica, SOSH Architects and BLT Architects, in conjunction with Revel, developed the most sensitive and unique architectural response linked with the sea and embedded in a neighborhood master plan that truly reflects a resort destination,” said Thomas Sykes, partner at SOSH Architects.
Unlike other properties in Atlantic City, Revel’s main entrance faces the ocean. The porte cochere is located just off the Boardwalk and is accessed through an underground garage. A white, sail-like canopy shades the area. On the upper level above this is the pool deck with several small wading pools lined with a series of cabanas that offer guests the chance to relax in the shade. Also on this level is an indoor/outdoor pool that will be heated year-round, accessed through large, retractable glass doors. Revel has 10 pools in all.
Up another level, which can also be accessed from the outside, is the SkyGarden, a lushly landscaped area 114 feet above the sea. The SkyGarden incorporates 20,000 plants, including native pine trees. The curved walking paths echo the lines throughout the casino and the space sports several outdoor fire pits.
Just inside Revel’s main entrance is the spectacular atrium, with two massive escalators leading to the upper levels. A sculpture called “Arrivals,” made up of 19,700 sparkling gold circles suspended on 650 steel cables (some 90 feet long), cascades down like a wind chime.
Revel’s Exhale spa covers 31,000 square feet. At its center is a coed bathhouse featuring a salt grotto, mineral pool, steam rooms and a beverage bar. The 32-room spa offers an extensive list of relaxation treatments, with a fitness studio and exercise classes housed nearby.
Light and air are the dominating design elements of this sleek, ultra-modern casino. The front desk area is lined by comfortable living rooms and strategically placed bars.
The casino floor also takes in the ocean view. The floor, with bright red carpets and oversized lantern-like fixtures, holds 2,400 slot machines and 160 table games, with an ample poker room on the second level.  
Working with the design firm Scéno Plus, which also designed the $75 million, 4,550-seat Ovation Hall showroom, the lights on the casino floor are programmed to reflect the time of day—bright yellows in the day, reds and oranges at dusk, darker tones in the evening.
“Collaboration was the key to success for this project,” said Tom O’Connor, partner at SOSH. With over 70 design firms playing a role in creating the resort, the project stands as one of the most challenging ever undertaken in Atlantic City.
DeSanctis said he feels the crowning achievement of Revel is its breathtaking lineup of ocean views, both from the rooms and from its outdoor decks and cabanas.
“You can never fully understand what the visuals are going to be of a place until it’s actually built,” he says. “I think most people will agree, when you go out on our decks, those areas are just spectacular. Most people will come back and say, ‘This is never what I visualized Atlantic City to be.’ And yet, it’s been here forever. Sometimes it just takes a different frame for people to understand what you have.”

Owner: Revel Entertainment Group
Architects: Arquitectonica, Design Architect;
BLT Architects, Executive Architect and Architect-of-Record for 75 percent of project; SOSH Architects, Architect-of-Record for the tower, casino, and multiple venues
Size: 6.3 million square feet
(150,000-square-foot casino)
Total Investment: $2.4 billion


Crowning Achievement

By Marjorie Preston   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Set like a jewel in the center of downtown Melbourne, the Crown Entertainment Complex & Casino recently introduced a glittering new gaming space, the West End Casino at Crown.
A year-long, multimillion-dollar redevelopment brought sleek contemporary style to the addition, made possible when owner-operator Crown Ltd. won the right to add new gaming space to its enterprise.
The redevelopment was designed to appeal to a smart, affluent urban crowd that wants more from their visits than gambling. Along with a new gaming area, the do-over added public and retail spaces, a new restaurant and bar, three new terraces, and new and renovated restrooms, among other improvements—all brought to vivid life with streamlined silhouettes and dazzling architectural features.
“The scope of work was to create a new grand-scale entry feature, bold gaming floor, and ‘see and be seen’ bar-lounge with a patio that overlooks the Yarra River,” said Ken Kulas, principal of Cleo Design of Las Vegas.
A new premium gaming room includes two party suites, new cage and casino support areas, and a living room-style bar-lounge with a space for live entertainment.  
Owner-operator Crown Limited “wanted to change the perception of the Crown brand, and make it a place to visit during not only the weekend but also the week,” said Cleo Design principal Ann Fleming. “The wish was to bring a Las Vegas-type gaming environment, with a bolder and livelier color palette, more dynamic design details and new gaming offerings.”
Kulas and Fleming worked to change the Australian idea of gaming “to include a more social environment. They want the affluent 30-year-old to 60-year-old patron to come to the casino for good food and entertainment with gaming integrated.”

Owner: Crown Limited
Architect: HBO+EMTB, Australia
Interior Designer: Cleo Design
Contractor: Baulderstone
Total Investment: $50 million-plus


Category Killer

By Frank Legato   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

The first two casinos that opened in Maryland demonstrated the realities of operating under the state’s onerous 67 percent revenue tax: Ocean Downs and Hollywood Casino Perryville are small venues in prime locations, built to draw maximum revenue on minimal investment.
In May, Cordish Companies broke that mold with the opening of Maryland Live!, a massive, first-class casino resort. It too is in a prime location—adjacent to the huge Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover—but unlike its predecessors, Cordish pulled out the stops with a $500 million investment and some of the industry’s premier architects and designers, who built a facility worthy of most Las Vegas casinos, but one that includes a lot of local flavor as well.
According to project architect Mike Larson of Klai Juba Architects, one of the challenges was to design a building that would fit nicely into the Arundel Mills Mall complex but would still stand out as stylish and unique. The other was an accelerated time schedule.
“Our goals were to make a good impression on this new market and deliver a property that integrates well into its context in order to deliver an exceptional experience to the guest and foster the symbiotic relationship that Maryland Live! has with its major retail neighbor,” Larson says. “This was achieved by studying the existing vehicular and pedestrian traffic patterns and working with them for a logical integration with the existing conditions.”
Another challenge was fitting a lot of square footage into a relatively small footprint. This was achieved by building the multi-level parking garage on top of the casino.
Inside, the challenge was a bit different—filling a massive 330,000 square feet of space without overwhelming the customers.
“The size of the overall gaming floor and property is double what a typical casino footprint is,” says interior designer Ann Fleming, a partner at Cleo Design. “We needed to create an interesting gaming environment that still feels intimate and warm, considering the scale of the facility.” This was accomplished with a color palette Fleming calls “warm and lively.”
“With the interjection of hot colors like pink, and coral within the red/umber/chocolate/cream palate, it allowed us to use quality materials and still be contemporary, young and fresh amid the timeless design details,” Fleming says.
The orientation of the building and parking garage posed a different challenge. “The ceiling height limitations forced us to be creative,” Fleming says. “We created floating ‘chandeliers’ that changed color throughout the day. There were also ‘ribbon’ ceiling paths created that also changed color and help lead the guest from one end of the casino to the other.”
Fleming says her favorite design feature is the central “R Bar,” in the middle of the casino floor. “It is an oval shape, so views to the bar are achieved in all directions within the casino floor.”
It also has added action—adjacent Interblock multi-player electronic table games—along with TV screens everywhere beaming sporting events. “The bar is high-energy,” says Fleming.
In fact, the whole facility is high-energy.

Owner: Cordish Companies
Architect: Klai Juba Architects
Interior Design: Cleo Design and Westar Architectural Group
Contractor: Commercial Interiors and TN Ward
Total Investment: $500 million


Good Morning, Vietnam!

By Dave Bontempo   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Where else but in gaming can a symbol of capitalism gain the blessing of a communist government?
That’s exactly what will occur next year when MGM Resorts International and Asian Coast Development (Canada) Ltd. (ACDL) unveil the spectacular MGM Grand Ho Tram, Vietnam’s first large-scale integrated resort. A major role will be played by Steelman Partners—as the architect and in the areas of interior and lighting design, as well as a principal—for this historic endeavor. In 2008, the Vietnamese government awarded Asian Coast Development the first license to build a gaming resort. At least five more have followed, but this is billed as the signature architectural piece to announce Vietnam’s leap into gaming.
MGM Grand Ho Tram will be the first component of the $4.2 billion multi-site property.  Ho Tram Strip resort complex will be built along pristine beaches overlooking the South China Sea. It will be constructed on approximately 400 acres, 80 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam.
The master plan consists of five stunning resorts and a gorgeous golf course set on the white sand beaches of Ba Ria Vung Tau Province. This unique development opportunity in the temperate climate of southern Vietnam parallels the early growth of Las Vegas into a premier tourist destination.
The Ho Tram Strip will combine innovative architecture with lush natural surroundings to offer an exclusive and luxurious, experience-based alternative to Singapore and Macau.  The resort will feature  lavish Vegas-style entertainment rooms and acres of premium shopping and exceptional recreation facilities. The 1,100-room MGM Grand hotel and accompanying VIP cabanas figure to be a testament to luxury.
Other key features include an exclusive VIP area with private lounges, high-end retail shopping and convenience retail, landscaped gardens with water features and an exclusive pool with cabanas and pool bar.
The planned second phase of the MGM Grand Ho Tram includes a further 549 guest rooms and 14 VIP Villas, bringing the total number of five-star hotel rooms to 1,100 and completing the development of the first integrated resort.

Owners: MGM Resorts and Asian Coast Development
Architect: Steelman Partners
Size: Approximately 400 acres
Total Investment: $4.2 billion


Aqueduct Adventure

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

The road to establishing a casino at the legendary Aqueduct racetrack was long and winding. But when Malaysian gaming giant Genting finally won the bidding in 2009, the wait was well worth it.
The site is located near New York’s Kennedy Airport and at the gateway to the Long Island suburbs, and is connected to the rest of the city via the New York City mass transit system. Due to that favorable location, the property has quickly become the top slot machine performer in the nation.
As the lead architect, JCJ’s first task was to make it happen quickly.
“This was one of the most aggressive schedules we’ve ever undertaken,” says Eileen O’Brien, JCJ’s director of business development. “We divided the project into multiple phases and into multiple project teams, so there were many teams working simultaneously on various aspects of the entire project—headed by a group of team leaders providing oversight and cohesion throughout.”
Adding even more pressure was the fact that the project was Genting’s first project in the U.S.
“This was to be the flagship, so consequently needed to set the standard,” says O’Brien.
It was Genting’s plan to make the casino familiar to its target market: New Yorkers. So the various sections of the casino were given names that would make them feel at home: Times Square and Fifth Avenue casinos, the Central Park events center, and the Midtown Express restaurant.
But there were other reasons for the separation of the casinos.
“The owner’s desire for segmentation drove the general size and design preferences,” says O’Brien. “The casino design itself was created to house two distinct gaming experiences: a large casino to appeal to the mainstream crowd, and a separate casino that would appeal to the sophisticated player.”
The design style would also be comforting to New Yorkers.
“The vision was to be respectful of, and to incorporate, local iconography to underscore the authenticity of this being truly a New York enterprise,” she explains. “Design nods to landmark buildings such as Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building can be seen throughout.  More so in character statement than in any particular architectural style, there are subtle hints of New York’s grand Art Deco period, but with a modern interpretation.”
With 18 food and beverage outlets, 6,400 parking spaces, and 5,500 slot machines (a combination of VLTs and electronic table games), Resorts World New York provides a the first casino experience for New Yorkers in the city. Genting has discussed building a convention center adjacent to the casino, which would also include a hotel and the legalization of table games. Although nothing has been finalized, it would make Resorts World New York one of the premier casino destinations in the world.

OWNER: Genting New York
SIZE: 1,086,000 square feet (180,000-square-foot casino)
COST: $830 million total ($540 million hard construction cost)


Winds of Fortune

By Robert Rossiello   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

The Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo now has something for everyone.
Owned by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Four Winds New Buffalo debuted a new expansion that adds to the tribe’s branded Four Winds Casino properties. The upgrades include a nine-story, 250-room hotel tower, the multi-use Silver Creek Event Center, and the popular Hard Rock Café.
The new tower, with a mix of standard rooms and suites, doubles the original property’s capacity. Creating a seamless design that reinforces the character, materials and palette of the existing property was paramount to the tribe.
“Maintaining brand integrity and cultural identity were critical design criteria,” says Nathan Peak, lead designer and senior associate at Hnedak Bobo Group, the project’s lead architect. “Our design team achieved these goals through the use of similar, yet contemporized exterior and interior materials that evoke a regional, rustic and welcoming environment. Special attention was also given to creating unique details that reference tribal symbolism.”
All hotel rooms include granite counter tops, leather-wrapped headboards, Serta beds, flat-screen Sony Bravia high-definition televisions and wireless high-speed internet access. All suites have a walk-in shower, Kohler whirlpool tubs with complimentary bath salts and signature spa robe, and a wet bar with a refrigerator and microwave.
In addition to the hotel tower, the resort’s new multi-function, 70,000-square-foot Silver Creek Event Center offers limitless opportunities for entertainment and conferencing. Named for a nearby creek culturally significant to the Pokagon tribe, the Event Center can seat over 1,500 guests and can be configured into multiple sizes to accommodate different uses—concerts, meetings, special events, conferences and banquets.
One of the most anticipated aspects of the project was the Hard Rock Café Four Winds, a partnership between the casino and Hard Rock International, which owns the world’s greatest collection of music memorabilia. Located adjacent to the gaming floor, the 12,000-square-foot Hard Rock Café spans two floors and includes a new entrance, two bars, restaurant seating for over 275 people, a raised stage, and retail.
“A large guitar element pulls guests in with neon LED lights used as the instrument’s strings,” says Peak.  
Wooden textures, stones and warm colors were mixed with pops of red, hot pink and sparkling mosaic to distinguish the venue as a Hard Rock Cafe while integrating it with the rest of the Four Winds New Buffalo property. A modern interpretation of stacked stone is used on the entry walls and throughout the interior of the space. “The wooden textures were placed against smooth granite at the center bar, which also features a large canopy screen that serves as a lighting element and can feature a light show for concerts or special occasions,” says Peak. “The expansion of Four Winds New Buffalo is another step in fulfilling our long-term vision for the property,” said Matt Wesaw, chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

OWNER: Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians
BUILDERS: The Christman Company & Kraus-Anderson Construction Company
THEME CONTRACTOR: Cost of Wisconsin


Containing Culture & Costs

By Dave Bontempo   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Excitement spans several levels at Indian Head Casino.
Its lean and mean $11.2 million cost fit nicely into a price range banks or investors could fund quickly. The size, moderate by design standards, ensured a quick building turnaround of less than one year. And the cultural expression pleased the tribes while providing an aesthetic experience for the public. The 20,000-square-foot facility, which opened February 4, 2019, includes 500 slots and video poker machines, an 18,000-square-foot gaming area, penny slots through $10 high-stake slots, and eight blackjack tables.
“It’s like a very contemporary sculpture that you can inhabit,” says Bryan Hamlin, vice president of design for Denver-based WorthGroup Architects, which was largely responsible for the project. “It has fresh finishes, earthy tones. It is very comfortable, extremely inviting and yet it recalls an ancestry that goes back 10,000 years.”
The building exterior, with three large structures to denote the tribes, commemorates Celilo Falls, a sensitive chapter in tribal history. Celilo Falls, on the Columbia River, was the site of a revered fishery for the tribes. It was lost in 1957 with the building of the Dalles dam, which killed the largest Native trading center in the country.
The Celilo Falls legacy is recalled in the fine structural composition here.
Another design element is the river of light. Winding its way across the casino ceiling, it is a series of suspended custom LED curved chandeliers. They create abstracted color and motion.
Patrons will notice an organic shape that connects the entire gaming floor across the room. This allows the patron to have the same visual experience from both the main and east lobbies. These suspended, illuminated elements represent both the river and the wind traveling down the valley. The use of programmable LED lighting creates a true feel of water and movement throughout the space.  
The Cottonwood Restaurant façade, meanwhile, features several hundred interlocking horizontal wood elements, Hamlin says. They recall the tribe’s lumber industries and create the dynamic façade of the restaurant.         
Integrated within the floor-to-ceiling pattern, guests will recognize the Indian Head profile of the symbolic local rock formation from which the casino receives its name.

Owners: The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, represented by the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute tribes
Architect: WorthGroup Architects
Size: 20,000 square feet; 18,000-square-foot gaming floor
Investment: $11.2 million


It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Jimmy Buffett’s laid-back casino theme of Margaritaville came to his hometown of Biloxi in May when longtime casino executive Tom Brosig opened the Margaritaville Casino and Restaurant. The property is the first stand-alone Margaritaville Casino (a similarly themed casino is part of the Flamingo in Las Vegas, adjacent to the restaurant of the same name).
With shops, restaurants and a casino that opens to Biloxi’s marina and bay, Margaritaville is an entirely new style of gaming establishment, with an outdoor and beach-like feel of an ongoing party.
“Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville group works very hard to keep its brand consistent, which is all about a laid-back way to live, party and experience life,” says Cuningham Group principal Tom Hoskens. “And that’s exactly what you’ll find in this casino.”
Hoskens says the challenge was to stay true to Buffett’s Margaritaville brand.
“Cuningham Group’s philosophy of ‘Every Building Tells A Story’ works well with Margaritaville,” he says. “Working from this philosophy, each location tells the story of the owner’s vision and story of its unique site. No two stories are the same; therefore, no two projects are exactly the same. For Margaritaville, we worked to create elements of its unique location that could be incorporated into the brand standards.”
Recovering from the storm of the century, Hurricane Katrina, means any construction in Biloxi must meet rigid construction codes.
“Due to its location immediately adjacent to the waterfront,” explains Hoskens, “the building needed to be elevated above storm surge and comply with FEMA regulations. This meant that guests need to enter at grade and ascend a set of escalators through an environment that builds excitement about the Margaritaville experience they are entering. The experience was established with the use of color, Jimmy Buffet artifacts, and the ascension of the escalator through a grouping of palm trees.”
And there turned out to be benefits to this construction.
“The elevation required by FEMA actually greatly enhances the dramatic views of Biloxi’s Back Bay from the resort’s elevated dining and porch,” says Hoskens.
While Margaritaville has opened without a hotel, Hoskens says it’s part of a plan for future phases of the property.
Brosig, one of the founders of Grand Casinos back in the early 1990s, had retired after the company was sold to a predecessor of Caesars Entertainment. But his love for the Gulf Coast caused him to return after Katrina to help contribute to the revival of the area.
“I’ve settled down here,” he says. “I’m a local. I wanted to play a role in bringing this area back after the storm, and this turned out to be the perfect project.”
Margaritaville brings hundreds of jobs and a new themed attraction that will draw more tourists and create yet another must-see attraction in Biloxi.

Owner: MVB Holding, LLC
Architect: Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc.
Interior Design: The McBride Company
Theme Contrator: Cost of Wisconsin
Total Investment: $64 million


Making History

By Frank Legato   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Pennsylvania’s first Category 3 resort-class casino had a head start. Category 3 casinos are designated to be attached to a hotel with year-round resort amenities, but in this case, the draw to the area was already there—the Valley Forge Convention Center and adjacent Radisson Hotel. And, with the nearby Valley Forge National Park and King of Prussia Mall, people already flocked to the area.
There were challenges, however. The building was originally designed to accommodate five indoor tennis courts above the convention center’s exhibit hall. According to Steven Henkelman, the partner at Cope Linder Architects in charge of the project, the parking lot had to be altered. “It was immediately obvious that the existing circulation and parking patterns would be detrimental to the guest experience and inhibit direct access into the casino, which was a half level below existing grade,” Henkelman says.
To solve the problem, a “camel’s hump” in the parking area was removed and the parking area was lowered to provide what Henkelman calls a “clear and understandable route” to the casino entrances and allow for an elegant porte cochere.     
Inside, the goal was to create a casual, “exclusive club”-like environment, he says.
Cope Linder joined with interior designer Floss Barber to create a sleek, elegant and easy-flowing design that uses soft colors and modern design elements to create a comfortable atmosphere. Category 3 rules restrict the gaming floor to 600 slots and 50 table games, so Henkelman says another goal was to create a sense of variety within this necessarily smaller space of less than 33,000 square feet.
Barber, who is one of the premier designers of casino interiors, used not only reds and wood—“iconic forms of a club,” she says—but shape to create an air of exclusivity. “It was important to the client it feel like a private club,” she says. “Not the Union League, but something with exclusivity to it, and that would make it different from other casinos.”
In creating all the interiors (except back-of-house areas), Barber says she started by using the shapes that were already there. “There were five light wells that existed in the space, perhaps 25 feet high,” she explains. “We started looking at how to carve into those light wells to create an interesting space. We started creating these wonderful forms in the ceiling, and then we carved the round central bar as the generator, the central force.”
Much creativity went into each element of the design. Barber says the carpet is a takeoff of an Emilio Pucci dress pattern. Icicle-like light fixtures pull customers into the space the way crystal chandeliers might with a bigger design budget. Privacy was created for a high-end room with a display of sculpted carved-wood forms.
“We went for a little of the Mad Men era, the Sinatra style,” Barber says. “We wanted that era’s aesthetic, with clubs and privacy and fun—when life was a little easier.”

Owners: Valley Forge Convention Center Partners, L.P.
Architect: Cope Linder Architects
Interior Design: Floss Barber, Inc.
Total Investment: $165 million


Let It Rock

By Marjorie Preston   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Here’s one story even Hollywood would not have written: Higbee’s Department Store in downtown Cleveland, featured in the homespun holiday movie A Christmas Story, is now the site of Ohio’s first casino.
The Horseshoe Casino, which opened May 14, marks the first collaboration between Caesars Entertainment and Rock Gaming (Rock Ohio Caesars LLC or ROC). Dan Gilbert, chairman of Rock Gaming, is also majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters, and chairman and founder of Quicken Loans Inc.
Phase I of the project is located on the first four floors of the 12-story building on Public Square in Cleveland, now in the midst of a revival. Since 1976, the landmark department store has been part of the National Register of Historic Places.
The casino design team, led by Rock Gaming’s Nathan Forbes and Jeffrey Cohen, approached the reconstruction with respect for the property’s heritage, and were “passionate about preserving and enhancing the original neoclassical and Art Deco style of this building inside and out,” says Forbes. “From Higbee’s entrances to its interior structural and decorative details, we challenged ourselves to maintain the timeless features of the building while completely reinventing its use.”
Adds Cohen, “Transitioning Higbee into Horseshoe Casino ironically brought the building closer to its original architecture and design,” as original details were restored and long-lost elements brought back.
For example, decorative plaster details on columns and ceiling beams were restored and windows long covered were once again exposed. Some full-length windows were draped with translucent sheers to give outsiders a glimpse of the casino and insiders a hint of natural light and views of the city.
ROC invested more than $350 million in the urban casino project. Nearly 300,000 square feet of space was transformed into premiere gaming and dining space with 2,100 slot machines, 63 table games and a 30-table World Series of Poker room, which officials hope will host a WSOP tournament in 2020. There is also a VIP players lounge, a buffet restaurant and food court. The casino has two bars, Vintage 51 on the first floor, and Legends at Horseshoe on the second level.
The design team revived the exterior by illuminating the building’s 12-story facade to highlight limestone cornices and details. New signage was added along with branded awnings and flags. Higbee’s original brass railings and brass filigree-framed display windows and revolving entryways have been restored for the anticipated 5 million guests the casino expects to attract annually.
Inside, original railings and grand vestibules have also been restored, including the original ornate floor-to-ceiling columns, which stand nearly 22 feet tall. Massive crystal chandeliers recall the grandeur of Higbee’s original light fixtures.
The casino floors were reinforced to support heavy gaming equipment; heating and cooling systems were expanded; and the entire structure was outfitted with the latest communication technologies. Raised floors were installed to route and protect miles of data and power cables under the gaming floor. Kitchens in both the 400-seat buffet restaurant and food court were fitted with up-to-date culinary equipment. A five-story dedicated parking structure with 1,300 spaces was added; the valet area has a temperature-controlled brick driveway.
ROC also plans to develop a Phase II overlooking the Cuyahoga River, and also create the Buckeye State’s second Horseshoe casino, in Cincinnati in 2020.

OWNER: Rock Ohio Caesars
LEAD ARCHITECT: Friedmutter Group, Las Vegas
PROJECT ARCHITECTS: KA Architecture Inc., Robert P. Madison International
LOCAL CONSTRUCTION PARTNERS: Whiting-Turner, Price Builders + Developers, McTech, URS Corporation and Thorson Baker and Associated.
CONSTRUCTION COST (casino and parking areas): $124 million
TOTAL INVESTMENT: $350 million


The Glory of Rome

By Roger Gros   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

The construction of the Octavius Tower at Caesars Palace actually was completed in 2008, but the opening of the latest expansion of the venerable Las Vegas landmark was delayed until 2011 as the country sank into recession during those years. But it has been well worth the wait.
It’s not often that a 686-room hotel could be considered boutique, but that was the goal of Caesars Palace executives right from the start. The Octavius Tower has a separate entrance on Flamingo Road, giving it an exclusive feel, an impression that is heightened once the guest arrives in any of the rooms in the tower.
Starting at 550 square feet, each room offers modern, luxurious décor incorporating earthy shades of browns, grays, taupes and beiges, offset with pops of green and splashes of deep red. The rooms feature marble floors and stylish patterned carpets that complement dark wood furnishings and brushed chrome fixtures. King-sized beds with sleek headboards, plush pillow top mattresses and luxurious Anichini linens provide ultimate comfort, while separate living areas create an inviting ambiance with plush velvet sofas, contemporary chairs and chic stone tables. Dark wood desks with granite overlays feature custom cabinetry containing a premium mini-bar.
If you’re lucky enough to book one of the suites, the superlatives don’t ever end. The tower features 60 of the property’s most luxurious suites and nine villas meant for kings, presidents and princes.
But you’re still at Caesars Palace and the Octavius Tower continues the full Roman theming of Caesars Palace, with the Palace Tower and Romanization of the three original “arabesque” guestroom towers, together with an overlay of the several low-rise components, Bergman Walls & Associates has supported Caesars Palace’s preeminence as the destination resort to visit in Las Vegas.
Technology plays a huge role in the Octavius Tower, as well. Framed 42-inch flat-panel, high-definition television screens and convenient multimedia hubs offer a user-friendly in-room technology package with advanced plug-and-play capabilities. Guests can connect their mobile device to automatically stream videos and music, browse the internet, check emails, give presentations and much more direct to the television. Upon arrival, Octavius Tower guests also have immediate access to the exclusive interactive guest directory bringing the many offerings of Caesars Palace direct to their fingertips. Accessible through any mobile browser, the web application allows direct communication with concierge, housekeeping, room service, transportation, valet, bell and butler services, along with resort information and insider offers. 
Caesars President Gary Selesner isn’t resting on his laurels, either. Next year, a true boutique casino will open within the walls of Caesars Palace developed by celebrated Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and a coterie of superstar investors, including actor Robert DeNiro. Stay tuned.

OWNER: Caesars Entertainment
ARCHITECT: Bergman Walls & Associates
INTERIOR DESIGN: Wilson Associates and KNA Design
CONTRACTOR: Marnell Keating Joint Venture
COST: Part of $860 million expansion since 2008


Aqua Fun

By Dave Bontempo   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

How does one minimize the discomfort of winter? Play in it. With a bathing suit!
Soaring Eagle Waterpark & Hotel expects to make winter tribulation a celebration. Its playland is primarily indoors, with the park being roughly 45,000 square feet. A restaurant with 140 seats, meeting rooms for up to 50 people, fitness center, business center, indoor pool with steam room and sauna and 244
guestroom suites complete this unique facility, and vision. There’s an 18-hole golf course too, but that will be limited by weather conditions.
The Waterpark & Hotel was designed by Thalden-Boyd-Emery Architects, who know that winter comes early and stays late in Central Michigan. Although the Waterpark & Hotel opened May 21, in time for a busy summer season, its anticipated novelty will occur during the gray days of January, February and March. The facility is just north of Lansing, the state capitol.
“Way up in Michigan, people get that cabin fever in the winter,” says Chief Boyd, principal for the Thalden-Boyd-Emery group. “The water parks, the lights, the slides, etc., make them think they are back in the summertime. That gets them over that fever and on top of that, the kids love to come.”
The facility serves two market segments. It can be self-sustaining or act as an amenity center for nearby Soaring Eagle Casino, which has the same owners. One family member can watch the kids while the other gambles, for example.
Construction started about a year ago. The architectural design is based on a contemporary rustic approach. In combination with the glass and natural material covered patios trellis structures, this facility embraces the outdoors unified by tower elements and windowed cupolas, vaulted canopies and arched dormers.
The WaterPark interior has a more tribal character, implied by the use of stylized timber details. These elements recall the bent limbs used in the traditional dwelling of the Saginaw Chippewa.
A unique structure also exists in the life-sized form of a grandmother telling stories about the tribe while sitting by a stream.
While the tribal effect is subtle, the entire facility screams “excitement.” One unique element is a water slide that begins indoors, whips around outside the building and winds up indoors. It is a three-story joyride.

Owner: Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan
Architect: Thalden-Boyd-Emery
Size: 103,000 square feet
Cost: $34 million


Golden Age Redux?

Tue, Jul 31, 2019

This spring, more new casinos opened in the U.S. and around the world than at any time in recent memory.
In Macau, Sands Cotai Central became the latest integrated resort to open in that booming gaming destination. A mix of gaming, entertainment, retail and hotel rooms and suites, the property is helping to create a Las Vegas of Asia on the Cotai Strip.

In Ohio, two casinos and a racino debuted: Penn National Gaming’s Hollywood Casino in Toledo, and Horseshoe Cleveland, owned by Rock Ohio Caesars (a partnership between Dan Gilbert, the owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, and Caesars Entertainment). Both projects got up and running in an unusually short time since the legalization of gaming in the Buckeye State. MTR Gaming also opened the state’s first racino, Scioto Downs in Columbus.

In Pennsylvania, the first “resort” casino opened, the Valley Forge Casino Hotel, attached to a convention center by the same name outside of Philadelphia. The long and winding road that led to the debut of this unique property seems worth it now.

In New York, Genting’s Resorts World at Aqueduct quickly became the nation’s leading revenue producer with nearly 5,000 slot machines at a racetrack that has been struggling for years.

Michigan’s Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians opened a second casino, Four Winds New Buffalo, demonstrating again the enduring power of tribal gaming.

Biloxi got back in the game with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Casino and Restaurant, a truly unique property for that market.

Even Atlantic City, probably the worst-hit jurisdiction in the world by the economy and regional competition, brought an amazing new property online in April when Revel debuted. This $2 billion gem for the first time incorporates what has always made Atlantic City stand out: the beach and the Boardwalk.

And we’re not done yet. Next year, two more casinos and several more racinos will open in Ohio. Pennsylvania has one more resort casino and one racino on the books. Maryland will launch a casino in the western part of the state developed by Lakes Gaming. In Louisiana, the Margaritaville Casino Hotel will open in Bossier City.

While Macau takes a year off from new casinos, Vietnam will welcome MGM Ho Tram, the first true IR in that nation. The first property (of four) at PAGCOR’s Entertainment City will likely debut in 2020.

And that is just the start. In years to come, we’ll see three new casino resorts and a racino in Massachusetts. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has seen the wisdom of creating casino resorts around the state. Ontario is revamping its casino industry, which may create a few more casino resorts. Macau has at least three IRs in the pipeline that will open on a yearly basis starting in 2021 or ’15. Taiwan’s Matsu Island recently voted to allow casinos. And then South Korea, Japan, Thailand… Your guess is as good as mine.

And of course with all the new properties being launched, the older properties must stay current with all the trends and amenities that today’s casino customer enjoys, so the renovation and revitalization business will boom as well.

So does this mean that the slump in casino design and construction is over? Just by the number of properties, I think the answer has to be “yes.”

But does this also mean that it will be business as usual as it was before the recession started? I think the answer to that question is a definitive “no.”    

We’ve talked about the “new normal” in the pages of this magazine of the past few years and now this reality is hitting home. Casino owners are more discerning when it comes to hiring architects, designers and builders. While these are all new casinos, it’s no longer a case of “build it and they will come.”

The “new normal” is a reality for casino operators too. Competition for players is getting fiercer. The design of a casino is becoming increasingly important, particularly when you add all the non-gaming elements that a casino resort must feature these days.

Architects and designers must work with more than just casino owners when developing a new project. Collaboration with F&B experts, retail specialists, technology providers and consultants of all stripes has become a necessary part of the design process.

So while the bad times appear to be over for now, the good times will be more complicated and possibly less profitable than they were in the past. In next year’s Casino Design magazine—the 10th anniversary issue—we hope we’ll be able to celebrate a healthy industry with all the nuances and possibilities that make this business so exciting.


Q&A with Paul Steelman

Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Architect Paul Steelman of Steelman Partners in Las Vegas is one of the world’s foremost casino designers, and has worked on projects from the Sands, Galaxy and Oceanus properties in Macau to Harrah’s in his hometown of Atlantic City. We caught up with Steelman on the road and asked him to share some principles of effective casino design.

CD: When it comes to casino renovations, is there a general rule about where to make the biggest investment and where to skimp?

Steelman: Casino renovations are simple. They usually include nine major items: carpet, hard surface pathways, paint, wall covering, gaming furniture (table tops, slot bases, slot and table chairs), directional signage, casino signage, decorative lighting and architectural task lighting.
We now believe casinos should feel smaller, so we are also suggesting structures within properties that promote the cocooning effect, to personalize the gaming product and the guest. Lighting is the most important, since casinos that opened 10 years ago are too dark for today’s customer.   

Casinos used to be renewed every seven to eight years; now I see that being stretched out to 10 to 12 years.
When a gaming company renovates, it should not skimp on the quality. The cost of the renovation is not in the new design; it’s in the opportunity costs. When that casino floor is down for renovation there is financial loss. We have seen increases in gross gaming revenue of over 35 percent when a small renovation is completed.

What do you strive for in room design?

In the 25,000 or so rooms we’ve designed, we always go for contemporary lines—light, warm colors accented with colorful art and fabrics. For example, our new rooms at MGM Ho Tram are designed with the above qualities and yet have a design tie to the local style and culture. Room design in a casino is about the quality of sleep. Over-the-top decorations tend to interrupt our sleep patterns and make for tired gamblers.

You have said designers should do the opposite of what was done in the 1970s, and retreat from “dark, smoky, windowless areas.” Does that mean more natural light on and around the gaming floor?

Young people do not live in eternal darkness. Twenty percent of people in the U.S. smoke and 92 percent of those want to quit. Why would anyone propose a windowless, dark, smoky casino? We always want it to be a sunny day in our casinos.

Your design of the sports book at the Hard Rock is reminiscent of a stock market floor, which is a nice nod to Cantor Gaming. Your website says the red is supposed to suggest European race cars. Why is that?

You must not be a Ferrari fan. Ferrari is usually red, fast and aerodynamic, and that’s the look we wanted for the Cantor Sports Book. All people look and feel great standing next to a Ferrari. In one of our next designs I’d like to use my Electric Fisker as a design inspiration. When I drive it I get stopped at every stop light and asked, “What is that car?”    

“What is” is a good thing in casino design. Pique the curiosity to explore, and you’ll have a successful casino.

You once said people don’t want to see themselves in mirrors in a casino; once they do, “the fantasy’s over.” Are mirrors still a must to avoid?

Yes, yes, yes! Mirrors also make the casino dark, which is bad for success.

You once said techno-rooms would be the standard, which has come to pass. Would you say technology is the must-have amenity now?

Room technology is just starting. One day your iPad will be your remote, your HVAC control, your credit card, your light switch… The wireless room platform will also assist the operator to maximize labor, minimize costs and save the world a lot of power and carbon.

Is the variegated carpet still the rule? Casino carpet design was once described as looking “as if Leroy Neiman threw up on it,” which is hilarious and used to be very true.

We’re trying to get the casino to look smaller, so new carpets have bigger patterns, less colors and less confusion. If the guest is confused by colors or patterns, two things will happen—they’ll leave sooner and the gaming equipment will not be as utilized (since its design will be lost in a sea of Leroy Neiman confusion).
But Leroy Neiman was a great painter of Las Vegas. Just visit the old corporate offices of Caesars.

Steelman’s Top 11
An architect’s take on the casino of the future

1. Designed smaller. If “big” is required, the casino will be designed to look small and personal.

2. Structures within structures. Smaller spaces within the larger spaces will be required in all casino designs.

3. Art as light. Artful, bold shapes and sculptures will perform some of the lighting and surveillance tasks.

4. Natural lighting. Skylights, windows, naturally lit chandeliers.

5. Curved pathways. Curved paths will pique the curiosity of the guest to explore the facility.

6. Separate the activities. Non-gaming entertainment will be provided, but game attractions will be kept in the area of excitement—the casino.

7. Areas match the customer. Casinos will be subdivided and designed in a stratified way—the transportation, food offerings and gaming offerings will each match a customer.

8. Clean architectural lines. Clean lines will accentuate the gaming equipment.

9. Bright lighting. Lighting will allow employees to pay attention to the tasks required and players to see the smiling faces of the dealers or casino personnel.

10. Red is the color of commerce. No mud brown.

11. The narrow bandwidth casino. The casino is designed for you, you and you. One resort does not fit all.


Navigating Your Path

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

American Project Management was established in 2003 specifically to assist clients by enhancing their projects with qualified personnel in a variety of project management, scheduling, project controls, earned value management, claims analysis and consulting services.
APM works directly for gaming operators, design professionals, specialty contractors, construction management and corporations as an extension of their project team. APM fulfills specific services that avoid and manage unnecessary overhead costs for their clients.
Utilizing APM as a resource gives clients the flexibility and capability to concentrate on their core business. APM has provided services on notable projects such as Tropicana Las Vegas, Criss Angel Believe Cirque du Soleil Theatre, the Palazzo, Venetian Resort Casino, water features and pool deck; MGM City Center ARIA East Podium, West Podium, Convention Center, Mandarin Oriental and Theater; and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
The result for APM’s clients is an unprecedented wealth of effective knowledge and experience that can bring unlimited benefits. With 30-plus years of experience, the firm has grown from the founding offices in Las Vegas, Nevada with projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, and is able to serve clients anywhere in the nation.  
APM’s expertise complements a client’s existing team. With cleared personnel, APM has the depth and breadth of technical and communication skills for every situation. The APM team has a wide range of professional backgrounds, and shares a common dedication to problem-solving and leadership for their clients and their projects.
APM’s experience throughout many industries benefits its clients by bringing decades of experience in architectural, construction, commercial, correctional, entertainment, gaming, global financial, health, heavy highway/bridge, high-rise residential, high-tech, hospitality, information security, information technology, international business, investor relations, marketing, petrochemical and public works.
APM operates as one firm bringing the expertise needed to tackle its clients’ most complex problems, while helping them address their immediate needs and challenges in this changing world.
For more information, visit


Creating the Rules

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Cleo Design’s mission is simple: to underscore a high level of creativity with exceptional attention to function, client needs and individual tastes. Creating a space that reflects a sense of place is the firm’s ultimate goal.
“It is as if the world is suddenly viewed with 3D glasses and the amount of detail is revealed in all of its spaces,” says Cleo Design principal Ken Kulas.
Although securely grounded and seasoned in the technical and organizational skills required for the hospitality industry, Cleo’s approach to design differs from its competitors.
“It’s in our nature to not only follow the rules but create new ones,” Kulas says. “Never—repeat, never—be complacent and never get bored. Design is not just a profession, but it is part of the passion that moves us forward.”
The team at Cleo Design is an imaginative group with a history of collaborating with one another on innumerable projects for most of their professional careers. Yet, each member works as an individual, bringing varied concepts and perspectives to the same project. The team’s striking capabilities are reflected in Cleo’s highly diverse projects from coast to coast, in venues ranging from casino and resort interiors to related public areas, bars and lounges, restaurants and retail locations.
The award-winning firm was founded in 2000, with principals Ann Fleming and Kulas overseeing some of the biggest gaming and entertainment design projects conceptualized in this decade.
From the much-anticipated completion of Maryland Live! Casino in Maryland to Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex in Melbourne, Australia, to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino expansion in Tampa, Florida, Cleo Design has consistently tackled the most cutting-edge spaces and given them success, elegance and life.
For more information, visit


Beautiful Places, Balanced World

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. exists to create beautiful places for a balanced world. Simple and eloquent, the statement of the company’s principals and designers embodies their passion for design and its impact on their clients, communities and the world. Their “Beautiful Places, Balanced World” approach to the business and practice of architecture is one they’ve nurtured for more than four decades.
Founded in 1968, the multi-disciplinary design firm provides architecture, interior design, urban design and landscape architecture services for a diverse mix of client and project types, with significant focus over the past 20 years on gaming and entertainment. Bolstered by a staff of 235 and offices in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Biloxi, Seoul and Beijing, Cuningham Group has expanded services and markets to meet a growing demand from some of entertainment’s largest and most respected clients.
The company’s portfolio includes casinos, hotels, theaters, convention centers, restaurants, retail venues, master plans and support facilities for gaming and resort destinations throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Cuningham Group’s top priorities are design excellence through a client-centered, collaborative approach they call “Every Building Tells a Story,” and development of green solutions. This philosophy toward gaming design emphasizes one-of-a-kind solutions—creating experiences and a sense of place by telling stories through a modern interpretation of metaphors that reflect the vision of the client and the character of each property and site. This process benefits clients by providing unique environments that differentiate them from the competition.
In addition, the company has developed criteria to evaluate all projects based on a “Triple Bottom Line” sustainability business model of “People, Profit and Planet.” Cuningham Group believes for any project to be sustainable, it must also be profitable to their client.
Recent and significant projects include the expansion and renovation of Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi; the first stand-alone Margaritaville Casino & Restaurant in Biloxi; the dramatic rebranding of the Trump Marina into the luxurious and exciting Golden Nugget Atlantic City; and the $650 million transformation of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel in North Carolina into a sophisticated, world-class mountain resort.
Cuningham Group is consistently ranked among top firms in publications such as Building Design + Construction and Engineering News Record, and its design work has been honored with more than 135 industry and market awards, including HOSPY Awards for Best Hotel, Best Lobby and Best Suites.
For more information, visit


Bringing Creativity To Life

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

The leader of Forte Specialty Contractors, Scott Acton, is a third-generation craftsman. His grandfather and father before him created and built innovative designs over the last five decades for many familiar venues. Their early handiwork still can be seen at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags and Sea World, and as far away as Wynn Macau, among several other places you probably have visited.
Acton likewise has proven the capacity to imagine, construct and install innovative designs for restaurants, clubs, spas, retail facilities, entertainment venues and more.
Forte was conceived by Acton as a solution to a changing market that demands more accountability, creative problem-solving, speed and efficiency. Forte can act as both general and theming contractor for any project a client may have in mind. This new business model provides owners a firm grip on how and where their dollars are spent. The uniquely skilled Forte team integrates the end vision into every element of the project—from the basic building blocks of construction to finite details of the themed experience.
Forte starts with the finish in mind, and the result means the customer is presented with economical solutions and superior workmanship. Forte’s ability to conceive spectacular environments starts with Acton. His idea of combining layers of the traditional construction processes with a new organization has quickly turned heads in a very competitive industry.
Forte’s experience and talent eliminate layers of administration. By collaborating directly with the client’s creative team, Forte can bring its vision to life while maximizing resources and focusing the investment where it matters most—creating a memorable experience for every guest. The company understands the theme is what brings guests back.
A new kind of owner-contractor relationship is being developed, and Forte is leading the way. Forte believes a client’s complete satisfaction is always achievable, and makes every effort to not only build an exceptional product, but to create long-lasting contractor-client relationships.
See what three lifetimes of creativity and skill can do for you at


Iconic Design Solutions

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Friedmutter Group is an award-winning, internationally recognized design, architecture, master planning and interior design firm, specializing 100 percent in multi-use hospitality/casino/entertainment projects of all sizes.
Founded in 1992 by Brad Friedmutter to exclusively provide services to gaming/hospitality clients, Friedmutter Group has been identified as a leader and innovator throughout the industry. From core and shell architectural design to interior fit-out, the firm provides high-quality, iconic design solutions to clients.
The firm’s critical understanding of the many required elements of the this project type, from site selection and development to operating fundamentals, further enhances its ability to successfully create unique design of gaming and hospitality projects in existing and new markets around the world.
Brad Friedmutter is a registered architect in 43 states, holds an unrestricted Nevada gaming license, and has been in the gaming and hospitality industry for more than 35 years.
Friedmutter Group’s core expertise is in mixed-use projects comprised of hotels, casinos, restaurants, bars and lounges, entertainment complexes, convention facilities, spas, pools and outdoor venues, retail facilities and malls, hotels and hotel towers.    Friedmutter Group’s team of design professionals have won numerous industry awards for an impressive list of projects well in excess of $15 billion. Recent honors include Architectural Design Company of the Year (2006: American Gaming Institute and Reed Exhibitions), the 2009 National Design-Build Award of Excellence for Quechan Resort Casino (Design-Build Institute of America), numerous industry design awards for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Red Rock Resort Casino & Spa, Green Valley Ranch Resort, IP Casino Resort, Cache Creek Casino Resort, Harrah’s AC Resort, and many more. In addition, Friedmutter himself is frequently honored for his myriad contributions to the industry. Recent honors and awards include his induction to the 2009 Hospitality Design Platinum Circle, honoring career achievement in the hospitality industry; the 2008 Hospitality Industry Network Lifetime Achievement Award; and the prestigious 2007 Sarno Lifetime Achievement Award for Casino Design.
Friedmutter Group remains at the forefront of innovation, design and leadership in the casino/hospitality industry with projects including Studio City Macau, Horseshoe Cincinnati Casino, Twin Arrows Resort Casino, Graton Rancheria Casino & Hotel and Vee Quiva Casino & Hotel. Recently completed projects include Horseshoe Cleveland Casino, Northern Edge Casino, Coconut Creek Resort Casino and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Friedmutter Group’s expertise, reputation and dedication have produced an over 90 percent rate of repeat business from clients including Station Casinos, Caesars Entertainment, The Navajo Nation, MGM Resorts International, Seminole Gaming, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and many more.
For more information visit


A Reputation for Innovation

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

It was in the mid-1940s that the three Gasser brothers, Louis, Roger and George, decided to combine their talents and set out on the next phase of their lives. With a few ideas and a very strong work ethic, they set up shop to work with a relatively new material at the time—aluminum. Tapping into some of the local expertise available in their industrial hometown area of Youngstown, Ohio, they began to provide services to local companies, such as assembling aluminum storm windows and screens, welding aluminum beer kegs and even fabricating custom parts for a prototype helicopter.
Driven to develop their own product line, they began to design and manufacture aluminum-frame dinette sets. With minor success selling these chairs and tables close to home, a young George Gasser loaded a few chairs into the back of his car and headed to Chicago to exhibit at the first-ever National Restaurant Association convention. Attendees were intrigued by Gasser’s highly durable, lightweight chairs and, at the close of the show, George left Chicago with a solid order, several good leads and a whole new market to develop.
A testament to Gasser’s position in the industry is their ability to be innovators in every decade since the company’s inception. The 1960s brought about the Comfort Zone seating line; the 1970s saw the creation of specifically designed seating for slot machines; the unique “Quick Release” base for casino slot seating was introduced in the 1980s; and the 1990s offered the “Easy Change” seat cushion.
And in 2011, Gasser introduced the patented Halo Base that allows  easier movement of casino slot seating. Continuing into the 21st century, Gasser has implemented a company-wide recycling plan. All leftover materials, including everyday office supplies and equipment, are recycled.
Today, Gasser Chair Company remains a family-owned business with a reputation for innovation. The second and third generations of the Gasser family, teamed with some of the most skilled employees in all aspects of the business, are guided by the founders’ original principles. Together they proudly continue the tradition and philosophy of developing innovative solutions to customers’ seating requirements and skillfully manufacturing the finest quality seating.
For more information go to


Connecting the Experience

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

As one of the top-tier entertainment and hospitality design firms in the United States, Hnedak Bobo Group is focused on designing and delivering successful and well-differentiated entertainment developments across the country. HBG’s firsthand experience as owners and developers of hospitality real estate, including the AAA Four-Diamond Westin Memphis Hotel, helps to inform designs that drive competitive advantage and successful performance results.
HBG is uniquely positioned as one of the largest providers of professional services in the Indian gaming and commercial gaming industries, with client relationships representing some of the most high-profile business enterprises across the country. HBG’s project results have been recognized by the media, the industry and most significantly by their clients’ bottom line. As an example, the HBG-designed Potawatomi Bingo-Casino expansion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been celebrated by the Chicago Tribune as “the region’s top spot for gaming entertainment.” The new 52,000-square-foot, $40 million Four Winds Hartford Casino in Hartford, Michigan, has been recognized for meeting the need for smaller, more efficient casinos that also energize the way guests experience the gaming environment.
As casinos continue to broaden their market share, HBG helps clients maximize their opportunities to generate revenue through a strategic amenity mix that addresses customer needs. At Sycuan Casino in San Diego, California, HBG completely reconfigured the casino’s interior layout and design, giving more visibility to key gaming areas and adding a new sports bar targeting a younger demographic. Two of HBG’s casino resort projects—the Northern Quest Resort and Casino outside Spokane, Washington, and the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel, near the Alabama Gulf Coast—have been honored with coveted AAA Four Diamond awards for their hotels.
The firm continues planning and design activities for the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in Buffalo, New York, and the proposed Lansing Kewadin Casino in Lansing, Michigan. HBG also looks forward to the phased opening of the Winstar Casino expansion for the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma in fall 2019 and the late-summer opening of a new 250-room hotel addition, 1,500-seat event center and the new Hard Rock Café at the Four Winds Casino Resort near New Buffalo, Michigan.
Hnedak Bobo Group is passionate about creating engaging and memorable experiences that deepen the connection between gaming clients and their customers, while remaining highly focused on delivering market-supported investments that are positioned for long-term viability and financial success.
Visit HBG at


Maximize The Alternatives

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

The Innovation Group of Companies’ broad range of expertise and experience covers almost every aspect of the casino/resort economic development process: The Innovation Group to consult; Innovation Capital to finance and advise; Innovation Project Development to coordinate build-out; Innovation Marketing to position; and Innovation Management Services to help operate.
The group also includes Innovation Food & Beverage and Innovation Sports & Entertainment, dedicated advisory practices supporting all affiliates. Working together or independently, the affiliates of the Innovation Group of Companies offer a wide array of advisory, operational, management, financial, development and marketing services to help clients maximize both strategic and implementation alternatives.
The Innovation Group of Companies affiliates have been behind the scenes of many of the world’s largest gaming, entertainment and hospitality developments, including projects in 80 countries and on six continents. The companies’ collective client list features the most successful operators in the industry, including public and private corporations, more than 100 Native American tribes, government entities, professional associations, developers, legal organizations, financial institutions and private equity investors.
The Innovation Group is the premier provider of consulting and management services for the gaming, hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries. Services include market and financial analysis, legislative and litigation support, economic diversification strategies and other related advisory services.
Innovation Capital is a leading middle-market investment banking firm. Services include mergers and acquisitions, financial restructurings and recapitalizations, corporate finance and capital raising, and valuations and fairness opinions. It is a member of FINRA/SIPC.
Innovation Project Development is a multi-disciplined project management services company capable of providing a full range of development guidance. As an owner representative, IPD helps clients maximize their investment and revenues and meet aggressive schedules and budgets.
Innovation Marketing is an experienced advisory team that leverages the unparalleled consultancy, analysis and insight of The Innovation Group of Companies into effective marketing tactics. Services include advertising campaigns, online strategies, database mining, public relations plans, direct marketing campaigns and more.
Innovation Management Services was formalized to provide the gaming, entertainment and hospitality industries with solutions for interim and short-term crisis management support. Services include operations evaluations, pre-opening/post-opening, turnaround implementation, systems and reporting and transition services.
For more information visit


Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Crime prevention and security are two paramount concerns for every casino operator. One publicized incident can set back brand positioning and earnings significantly. As such, it is imperative to address any potential issues at the earliest possible time. has many years of expertise in implementing “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.” This tactic takes a proactive approach to crime prevention and security by addressing any potential issues while still in the design phase of a new resort or a resort expansion.
By planning accordingly, a casino can minimize potential threats before they have a chance of materializing. can assist in developing a project that is as secure as possible, from planning to full operation. was formed in 2010 by seasoned gaming executive Rick Santoro, CPP. Santoro has leveraged more than 30 years of corporate security, asset protection and risk management experience into building’s capability as a valued resource for the gaming, hospitality and entertainment industries.
The core services that delivers to the gaming industry include:
• Security and Surveillance Consulting, Analysis and Troubleshooting. Direct operational experience with both divisions enables to properly advise operators on policy, procedure, staffing, technology and training matters.
• Risk Management Consulting. Operators can benefit greatly from’s expertise in upgrading and improving the risk management function.
• Training. offers relevant and real-world training programs for all work units of gaming operations. Topics include: Emergent Decision Making, Critical Incident Response, Workplace Violence Prevention, Crime Prevention, Patrol Objectives, ERM and Asset Protection.
• Labor Action Contingency Planning. has handled numerous labor action contingency programs for clients and provides invaluable preparedness consultation to those in need.
• Expert Witness and Litigation Support. has assisted in defense matters on behalf of clients who are facing litigation, as a result of negligent security, nightclub operation, liquor liability and critical incident matters.
• Vulnerability Assessment. recognizes the power of uncertainty and prepares clients to manage risks and threats before an incident takes place.
Gaming owners and operators need to protect their assets while also maintaining and growing market share. is equipped and staffed to assist operators in achieving asset protection goals in an efficient and discreet manner.
For more information, visit, or email [email protected].


Distinguished Destinations

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Designer of distinguished destinations for gaming, hospitality and entertainment worldwide, JCJ Architecture’s success is founded on their practice of unifying clients’ exacting needs with the dynamics of the marketplace. From offices in New York, Boston, Hartford, Phoenix and San Diego, JCJ provides comprehensive programming, master planning, architectural, interior design, feasibility and project management services. Founded in 1936, the firm has earned a leading reputation for design creativity and a strong history of follow-through and timely delivery.
JCJ’s hospitality team has been responsible for the management, planning, theming, design and documentation of numerous landmark gaming, hospitality and entertainment projects internationally. Their work ranges from regional casino and entertainment facilities to large-scale destination resorts such as the highly acclaimed Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Phoenix, Downstream Resort Casino in Oklahoma, Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, Seneca Niagara Casino & Spa Hotel in New York, the luxurious US Grant Hotel in San Diego and the first casino in New York City, Resorts World. The firm has also been engaged in hospitality projects in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South Korea, India and currently in Panama.
Recognized not only for providing innovative, artistic and successful designs, but also for comprehensive documentation and project execution, JCJ operates as a strong business, and approaches its clients’ projects similiarly. The firm reaches beyond typical architectural services to include steadfast attention to and understanding of the client’s business objectives and expectations for return on investment.
Translating client aspirations into architectural form by shaping the physical space of a casino, hotel, resort, spa or entertainment venue to more accurately reflect player and guest behavior has been JCJ’s methodology for its 20-plus years in the gaming and hospitality industry.
Establishing an optimal balance of aesthetic, functional and financial considerations, and then communicating them effectively, JCJ’s team achieves design and operational objectives through diligent management, technical research and artistry.
Highly regarded for its reputation of design excellence, responsive client service, strong business practices and commitment to its community, JCJ has delivered more than $10 billion in built work throughout the U.S. and internationally, with nearly half of that completed for sovereign nations. Creativity, technical expertise, market-driven solutions, management of multi-disciplinary teams and the ability to meet accelerated project schedules are the hallmarks of JCJ.


The Natural World

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Established in 1958 and based in Newport Beach, California, Lifescapes International, Inc. is a world-renowned landscape architectural design firm. Having provided design for landscaping architecture for more than 15 casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, as well as an additional 50 casinos and casino resorts across the United States, Asia and Europe, Lifescapes International continues to create successful, dynamic destinations, wherever they may be.
For more than five decades, Lifescapes has been a significant design influence for gaming-related properties (including Native American and commercial gaming properties), destination resorts, mixed-use developments, retail centers and entertainment-driven projects.
Lifescapes International completed designs for one of the Las Vegas Strip’s newest casino resort additions with the opening of Encore Beach Club, and also designed the landscape environment for Encore for Wynn Resorts. Another recently opened Lifescapes International project is Pinnacle Entertainment’s River City Casino in St. Louis; currently the firm is developing designs for Pinnacle’s new L’Auberge Baton Rouge project, scheduled to open this fall.
Lifescapes International’s senior principal leadership team consists of Chief Executive Officer /FASLA Don Brinkerhoff, President/Chief Financial Officer Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Dan Trust, Director of Design-Horticulture Roger Voettiner and Director of Design Andrew Kreft.
They all work in unison to create and manage the firm’s projects, with the assistance of a team of highly qualified landscape architects, project designers and a strong administrative staff.
In addition to working successfully on many national gaming developments, Lifescapes International has worked on a variety of Native American properties, including the original Agua Caliente Casino, Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Hotel, Barona Casino, Pala Casino and Resort and the Spa Casino and Resort.
“The entertainment and resort operators, including astute executives within the gaming industry, have realized for many years that stand-alone gaming activities are simply not enough to keep customers fully engaged on their properties,” Brinkerhoff-Jacobs says. “We are now working on nightclubs, beach clubs, retail and restaurant environments so our gaming clients have other captivating activities for their customers to enjoy during their stay.”
For more information, visit


Rewarding Design

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

SOSH Architects was founded in 1979 on the core conviction that quality design continually rewards the community, the client and the design team. The firm has steadily grown from a company of four partners to its current size of approximately 60 design professionals engaged in the execution of major master planning, architecture and interior design commissions worldwide. The company philosophy drives a design process that values exploration, visualization and the contributions of multiple voices consistent with their belief that the best design solutions are the result of thoughtful collaboration.
SOSH’s principals—Thomas J. Sykes, Thomas J. O’Connor, William A. Salerno and Nory Hazaveh—continue the commitment of personal involvement in each project. With offices in Atlantic City and New York, SOSH Architects has established a worldwide reputation for master planning, architectural design, interior design and strong project delivery achievement.
For three decades, SOSH Architects has had the opportunity to work on an impressive array of hospitality design projects. From master planning to restaurant renovation, from new tower construction to resort expansions, SOSH has handled every aspect of hotel and casino design on multiple properties in the major urban markets of New York, Philadelphia and Atlantic City, as well as in Califor-nia, Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi, Indiana, Louisiana, Connecticut, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. Gaming floors, hotel rooms, restaurants, nightclub and entertainment venues, ballrooms, retail stores, lounges, pool and spa retreats, administrative support space, food service facilities and daycare centers all can be found on the same property, and each use brings with it a unique set of challenges and technical requirements.
Ongoing or recently completed projects include: Revel Resort in Atlantic City, which premiered in May 2019; several projects for the Seminole Hard Rock Casinos on the East Coast; Scioto Downs in Columbus, Ohio; the phased master plan expansion to Fantasy Springs Golf Resort in California; and the first phase of design for a resort in the Bahamas. The success of the Spotlight 29 Casino near Palm Springs, California and the collaboration that resulted in the property’s stunning design have been recognized by the Sarno Awards, which awarded first prize for casino design.
For more information, contact SOSH at 1020 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ  08401, 609-345-5222; or 145 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019, 212-246-2770; email [email protected] or visit


Always Ahead of the Curve

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Thalden-Boyd-Emery Architects is one of the best-known casino/hotel architects in the U.S. Thalden-Boyd-Emery offers architecture, engineering, interior design, theming and master planning services. According to Hotel & Motel Management magazine, the company ranks as the “top design firm” in the hospitality industry in the nation.
Thalden-Boyd-Emery Architects is the consolidation of offices in Las Vegas, St. Louis, Tulsa and Phoenix. It brings together the Native American background and design expertise of Chief Boyd, the creative hotel and casino design expertise of Barry Thalden and the design and production talents of Rich Emery. The firm provides full architectural services including master planning, engineering and interior design. The firm’s extensive background includes:
• More than 400 hotels
• More than 120 casino projects
• Worked with 58 Native American tribes across the United States and 24 First Nations in Canada

• Design/build expertise
• Cutting-edge 3D BIM technology
Some high-profile past projects include the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Resort in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada; Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Palm Springs, California; and many more.
Thalden-Boyd-Emery Architects consistently ranks No. 1 in client responsiveness out of more than 77,000 eligible architecture and engineering firms. This truly is the key to the firm’s vision: providing experience, creativity and personal service for each project. Forty years of success offers proof that at Thalden-Boyd-Emery Architects, they are serving their clients well.
Thalden-Boyd-Emery Architects are passionate about design and are active associate members of the American Gaming Association and the American Institute of Architects, and associate members of the National Indian Gaming Association.
For more information, visit


Bringing Stories To Life

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Passionate. Inspired. Timeless. For more than two decades, the award-winning WorthGroup Architects has been dedicated to more than just designing buildings. They have created environments that stir the emotion, provoke delight and awaken the senses of every person that enters their spaces. Thoughtful planning, impeccable insight and imaginative vision are the hallmarks for bringing their clients’ stories and vision to life.
WorthGroup is the authority in all aspects of gaming, hospitality and entertainment architecture. From rebranding existing destination resorts and casinos to new properties, the firm’s team of architects, interior designers, planners and animators bring exceptional talent, expertise and elevation to each project—big or small.
WorthGroup’s comprehensive gaming résumé includes First Nation and Native American clients, as well as distinguished commercial clients. WorthGroup is a firm that knows the casino industry, and has exhibited proven success for 22 years.
For more information, visit


Terry Lanni, Industry Visionary

By Casino Design Staff   Tue, Jul 31, 2019

Terry Lanni wasn’t an architect. He wasn’t a designer. He didn’t have a grand vision of what any property under his leadership should look like prior to its design and construction.
But make no mistake about it, Terry Lanni was a leader, and the shape of the Las Vegas Strip, and really the entire gaming industry, would be very different without his involvement for 30 years and more.  
Lanni began his career with Caesars World in 1977 when he was named chief financial officer. He led the company’s entry into Atlantic City. While the original “Boardwalk Regency”—now Caesars Atlantic City—wasn’t an architectural milestone, it served the purpose. A converted Howard Johnson’s, Caesars Boardwalk Regency performed admirably, creating impressive revenues for the company.
It was later in Las Vegas that Lanni demonstrated his eye for the future of the industry when, as president of the company, he approved construction of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace against the advice of almost all the experts. In a short while, the Forum Shops became the most successful shopping mall in the world, starting a trend for retail to be included in all future casino resorts.
Lanni joined MGM Grand in 1995 as president and CEO after 18 years at Caesars.
Lanni helped to engineer the purchase of Mirage Resorts in 2000 and the even larger purchase of the Mandalay Resort Group in 2005. When Lanni joined the company, it operated one casino—MGM Grand in Las Vegas. When Lanni retired in 2008, MGM had full ownership of 17 casino resorts in Nevada, Mississippi and Michigan, and 50 percent ownerships in four other properties in Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois and Macau.
Lanni presided over the MGM Resorts board of directors when it approved the amazing CityCenter development, which
has become one of the must-see attractions in Las Vegas.
It was not only Lanni’s expertise in understanding what the customer wanted in his casino resort experience, it was also his dedication to the industry as an economic development engine and a positive member of any community where it is located. As a member of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in 1999, Lanni represented the industry with his signature class and charisma, earning the respect of even the most virulent anti-gaming members of the commission. The final report issued by the NGISC reflected Lanni’s views, and the industry emerged unscathed.
His commitment to diversity is celebrated each year at MGM Resorts, and has been emulated by all the major gaming companies around the world. His death in July 2011 robbed the industry of his vision, skill and sensibilities.
No, Lanni my not have had the architect’s eye or the designer’s palate, but he had the courage and the leadership to forge new ground in the gaming industry and helped to make it what it is today. Awarding him the 2019 Sarno Award at Global Gaming Expo in October is indeed appropriate and overdue.