Casino Style Magazine 2022

Page 30

the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers 2022 Going for the Gold Can smaller casinos use the elements of integrated resorts to succeed?
Why design that moves influences customer visits
Style Art For Art’s Sake LAS VEGAS’ EL CORTEZ | HOW CASHLESS IMPACTS DESIGN | BRIGHTEN UP YOUR CASINO FLOOR
Official Publication of
Emotion
CASINO

designed to inspire.

www.sosharch.com
architecture • interiors • planning

20 Cover Story Art at the

Heart

The use of fine art as an integral part of casino design continues with pioneering properties like the Bellagio, but also has served as a key design element for a variety of resorts that have embraced the attraction of renowned works of art for the benefit of patrons and the artistic community.

FEATURES:

16 Integrating Resort Elements

While the term “integrated resort” typically applies to massive, all-inclusive casino resort properties, elements of the integrated resort roadmap are increasingly defining design in properties of all scales.

26 Cashless Style

The variety of ways cashless wagering is being introduced to casinos is resulting in various new elements on the physical casino floor.

30 The Emotion of Design

The most effective architects and designers of casino resorts are the ones that use physical space to tap into the emotions of patrons.

36 The Modern Gaming Floor

The art of designing a casino floor that is both efficient and aesthetically pleasing has evolved as the industry has changed to meet new challenges.

2022 CASINO STYLE 3
CONTENTS COLUMNS: 40 Purchasing Bridging the Skills Gap Carl Long 47 The Big Picture Master Planning 101 Paul Heretakis DEPARTMENTS: 4 Publisher’s Letter 6 Building Excitement A roundup of the year’s most innovative and unique casino design projects Style Spotlight 42 HBG Design 43 Cuningham 43 Gary Platt Manufacturing 44 Signature Systems Inc. 44 R2Architects 45 SOSH Architects 45 ANC 46 TBE Architects 46 Vaask 48 Classic Hotels The El Cortez, Downtown Las Vegas By Patrick Roberts 2022 GGB publication a CASINOStyle
On the Cover: Andy Warhol’s “$(9): One Plate” from the Cordish Collection. Above: Suzi Cordish

In Praise of Parking

This magazine, Casino Style, and its predecessor, Casino Design, celebrate the design, construction and renovation of new or existing casinos, and the ones featured in this year’s annual edition certainly are no exception to that rule.

But often you have to demolish to begin again, and that’s what has happened up and down the Las Vegas Strip and in other areas of the country. It seems that some casinos have a “use by” date and no matter how much renovation you put into an existing casino, it’s not enough and it must come down.

Funny thing, however. After almost every demolition, one thing remains and one thing only—the parking garage!

We’ve long heard and reported in the pages of this magazine about the advantages of choosing to build a parking garage versus almost any other expansion project—the chief one being that the return on investment is by far the best. The worst? A golf course, according to all the experts.

But now we see that parking garages are survivors. Let’s look at Atlantic City, where parking garages are really a necessity since there are few places for patrons to park on that small island.

It all started with Harrah’s, which built a modern parking garage when it opened in the early 1980s featuring free parking—all other casinos in town charged at least $5.

Then in the rush to build parking garages, there were some mishaps. The Claridge casino went for years without a parking garage but finally managed to build a very nice one. The first day it was open, a woman drove through the retaining cables on a high floor and killed herself and her passenger. A few years later, the rush to build a parking garage at the Tropicana saw several floors collapse using a new concrete composite, killing four workers.

So it’s probably a little surprising that when the Sands was imploded in 2007 for a new, never-built casino, the parking garage was left intact, and sits like a sentinel over the property to this day. Same thing happened when Trump Plaza was destroyed last year. The parking garage remains.

Earlier this year in Las Vegas, Station Casinos decided that it would not reopen four casinos that closed during the pandemic, and to make sure of the deed restriction barring any other casinos to be built there after the land was sold, the properties came down. The three that had parking garages, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station? You guessed it. The casinos are no more but parking garages remain untouched.

It turns out that parking garages are a mix of art and science, but no matter how they are built, they endure. The image of parking garages as dark tombs where you scurry to the elevators to avoid predators has pretty much been dissipated. The new Circa, which opened last year in Downtown Las Vegas, made parking a centerpiece of its marketing campaign. The “Garage Mahal” at Circa features bright lights, colorful murals and crystal clear signage. Any casino parking garage now has to have a façade that blends into the property.

The science part comes in with the durability of the materials used. Parking garages have to “breathe,” and you sometimes can feel that motion as you drive up and down the access ramps.

And designing that access is scientific as well. Whether you can enter a tight winding ramp to exit or the architects can have you blissfully following signs to the exit without worrying about losing control of your vehicle is clearly a mind game, as well as an efficient exit plan.

In Las Vegas, where most casinos now charge for parking, a new element has been added to the equation. Little lights hovering over each space glow either red (occupied) or green (open) so drivers can distinguish the ability to find a space. Unfortunately, there has been something of a backlash—at least among locals—who bristle paying for something that was free for so long.

So those long-overlooked parking garage architects and designers have something to be proud of. They have outlasted the casinos they were built to serve, emphasizing the importance of efficient and effective design and operation of what might be the most important part of your casino complex.

A GLOBAL GAMING BUSINESS PUBLICATION 2022

Roger Gros, Publisher | rgros@ggbmagazine.com twitter: @GlobalGamingBiz

Frank Legato, Editor | flegato@ggbmagazine.com twitter: @FranklySpeakn

Jess Marquez, Managing Editor jmarquez@ggbmagazine.com

Monica Cooley, Art Director mcooley@ggbmagazine.com

Terri Brady, Sales & Marketing Director tbrady@ggbmagazine.com

Becky Kingman-Gros, Chief Operating Officer bkingros@ggbmagazine.com

Lisa Johnson, Communications Advisor lisa@lisajohnsoncommunications.com twitter: @LisaJohnsonPR

Columnists

Paul Heretakis | Carl Long

Contributing Editors

Dave Bontempo twitter: @bontempomedia Pamela Jones | Marjorie Preston | Patrick Roberts

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD

Rino Armeni, President, Armeni Enterprises

Mark A. Birtha, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Hard Rock International

Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, President, Lifescapes International

Nicholas Casiello Jr., Shareholder, Fox Rothschild

Jeffrey Compton, Publisher, CDC E-Reports twitter: @CDCNewswire

Dean Macomber, President, Macomber International, Inc.

Stephen Martino, Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer, MGM Resorts International, twitter: @stephenmartino

Jim Rafferty, President, Rafferty & Associates

Thomas Reilly, Vice President Systems Sales, Scientific Games

Michael Soll, President, The Innovation Group

• Katherine Spilde, Executive Director, Sycuan Gaming Institute, San Diego State University, twitter: @kspilde

Ernie Stevens, Jr., Chairman, National Indian Gaming Association twitter: @NIGA1985

Roy Student, President, Applied Management Strategies

David D. Waddell, Partner Regulatory Management Counselors PC

Casino Connection International LLC. 1000 Nevada Way • Suite 204 • Boulder City, NV 89005

702-248-1565 • 702-248-1567 (fax) www.ggbmagazine.com

The views and opinions expressed by the writers and columnists of GLOBAL GAMING BUSINESS are not necessarily the views of the publisher or editor.

Copyright 2022 Global Gaming Business LLC. Boulder City, NV 89005

GLOBAL GAMING BUSINESS is published monthly by Casino Connection International, LLC. Printed in Nevada, USA.

Postmaster: Send Change of Address forms to: 1000 Nevada Way, Suite 204, Boulder City, NV 89005

Official Publication

4 CASINO STYLE 2022
PUBLISHER’S LETTER

DESIGNING EXPERIENCES THAT ARE TRANSFORMATIVE

Gun Lake Casino Aquadome and Hotel Wayland, Michigan Rock & Brews Casino Braman, Oklahoma Four Winds Casino Resort Hotel Tower South Bend, Indiana

On a Carousel

Bally’s Carousel Bar, Bally’s Atlantic City

When Twin River Holdings bought Bally’s Atlantic City in 2020 for only $25 million, it was going to be the flagship of the company, and actually became the company’s raison d’etre as it bought the Bally’s brand from owner Caesars Atlantic City just a few months later. The inexpensive price indicated that lots of renovations needed to be done, and to date, the company has poured over $100 million into the property.

But like most properties, it needed a focal point—and what better place than the hotel lobby? The Bally’s lobby is much larger than most, so the canvas was unlimited. When casino executives turned to SOSH Architects, there was an immediate connection, and a proposal for the Carousel Bar was born.

The first of its kind in New Jersey, Bally’s rotating Carousel Bar is one of the latest hospitality attractions to hit Atlantic City, and has become a must-see venue since its inaugural spin over Memorial Day Weekend 2022.

Inspired by boardwalk amusement parks, the design captures the nostalgia and whimsy of summer fun at the shore. Every aspect of the Carousel Bar’s sophisticated design, from the light and neutral color palette and warm wood tones to the custom curved color-changing LED light fixtures over the bar and pops of red accents, ties into the local environment, lending a subtle nod to the world-famous Atlantic City Boardwalk and iconic speakeasy era.

The immersive lobby bar captures the essence of a carousel ride through its central feature—an elevated 24-seat rotating bar. Guests get a 360-degree view of the adjacent casino and newly renovated hotel lobby on the revolving bar, which moves at a pace of 2.5 to 5 revolutions per hour, making it simple for guests to walk on and off. The surrounding glass rail defines the space to make it feel private yet visible, grabbing the attention of visitors while adding a sense of exclusiveness to the space. The overall design of the elevated bar and surrounding lounge area embraces a classic elegance with a modern twist to delight and immerse guests in a truly unique and playful experience.

The Carousel Bar is an integral part of Bally’s overall transformation, and brings a one-of-a-kind experience to the Atlantic City casino scene. Other Bally’s improvements include The Yard, built in the courtyard of the Dennis wing of the hotel, which can be enclosed during the winter months and open to the elements during the warmer seasons. Live music, specialty drinks and food are other attractions. Other Bally’s additions include several new food-and-beverage options and a new FanDuel sportsbook.

Carousel Bar

6 CASINO STYLE 2022
BUILDING
Bally’s OWNER: Bally’s Corporation DESIGN AND ARCHITECT OF RECORD: SOSH Architects Photos by Don Pearse Photographers, Inc.

Return to Nature

Tachi Palace Casino Resort

Inspired by the traditions of the Tachi-Yokut Tribe as well as the ever-impressive Southern California landscape, the Cuningham Group’s remodel and 30,000-square-foot expansion of the Tachi Palace Casino Resort is an example of casino design that seeks to modernize the gaming experience while also making connections to nature as well as the rich history and culture of the tribe.

Perhaps the most notable and eye-catching example of this outdoor inspiration is found directly overhead on the ceiling—Cunningham worked in conjunction with Moz Metals to create a brand-new iridescent finish that reacts differently as the light reflects off of it, and according to the firm, this was intended to recreate the shifting effects of sunlight as one walks through nature.

As opposed to standard finishes, lighting fixtures or other pre-set forms of viewing media, this finish is highlighted by mirrors placed throughout the casino floor that accentuate the changes in light, giving guests a unique perspective, one that even changes from floor to floor within the property.

Similarly, the materials and floor layout were also carefully designed to incorporate elements of the tribe’s ancestral lands, paying homage to the wetlands and sloughs that flow through the surrounding areas. These connections are made apparent starting with the front lobby and guest entrance, and are intertwined with the rest of the floor as well.

Another example of this can be found near the table games area, which for many represents the heart of a casino. Tule fog, which is a thick, moist ground fog that is common throughout much of Central and Southern California, allows for a healthy amount of mushroom growth. These mushrooms have long been an important food source and cultural symbol for the TachiYokut people, and so Cuningham incorporated lighting fixtures that mimic the shape of the fungi and even appear to spring up out of the ground. The

overhead lights bring clarity to both table players and passersby navigating the floor, which is extremely important for both smooth play and foot traffic.

In 2022, no casino project would be complete without food and beverage options, and Tachi Palace is being outfitted with a new sports bar that features both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as an expanded food market, replacing the previous buffet that was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of the vacated space will also be used for a new high-limit room.

In tune with the shifts in consumer expectations, the casino is being retrofitted with a new air purification and HVAC system—contactless features and larger spaces between tables and machines will also be utilized. As far as the exterior, the existing stucco finishes have been redone, and a new LED screen and lighting elements will give the property a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Originally opened in November 1983 in Leemore, California as the Southgate Bingo Palace, the Tachi-Yokut took ownership of the casino in the mid ’90s and rebranded it to its current name in 2005. In March, California Governor Gavin Newsom ratified a new gaming compact between the tribe and the state.

Tachi Palace Casino Resort

OWNER: Tachi-Yokut Tribe DESIGN AND ARCHITECT OF RECORD: The Cuningham Group

2022 CASINO STYLE 7

‘Agrarian Industrial’

Rock & Brews Casino

The first-ever Rock & Brews Casino and Restaurant opened for business in Braman, in north central Oklahoma, on May 10. The project features an expertly curated interactive rock-inspired entertainment experience that only Rock & Brews—and its co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of iconic rock band KISS—can provide; and a distinctive “agrarian-industrial” architectural and interior design by national Top 5 casino design firm HBG Design.

Owned by the gaming entity of Oklahoma’s Kaw Nation and developed in partnership with Rock & Brews, the project is a 67,000-square-foot expansion and 4,000-square-foot renovation to the Kaw Nation’s existing casino operation.

The new branded casino and restaurant thoroughly delivers on Rock & Brews’ promise for a high-octane experience.

The entertainment is wrapped in distinctive contemporary architecture by HBG Design. The exterior design visually ties into the highly structural barn buildings found in the surrounding rural Oklahoma locale.

The 71,000-square-foot exterior geometry is animated by gable pitched rooflines, and ribbed metal, wood and glass materiality, and features a six-panel sliding glass door that opens to provide indoor/outdoor Rock & Brews restaurant dining and access to a grand event lawn.

A cohesive interior palette serves as a canvas for bold rock ‘n’ roll elements. The Rock & Brews brand and venues are noted for their heavy integration of rock ‘n’ roll imagery and iconography. HBG Design’s overall interior design palette became an ideal canvas for these bold elements.

The design palette helps achieve visual cohesion from the existing casino to the new casino expansion area. Reds, grays and purples give an edginess to the vibrant walls and patterned carpeting. A mix of color, pattern and texture complements the design intent.

Determination of the appropriate music-related graphics and design implementation within the gaming areas was a team collaboration between Rock & Brews, Kaw Nation and HBG Design.

Across the casino and restaurant, murals of rock bands and performers—including a large KISS mural—adorn the walls and ceilings, lending a casual rocker lair vibe. Guitar fret patterns are etched into columns. Vinyl records with names of recording artists add dimension and variation to the floor patterns at the Grab and Go. A cymbal-look ceiling element hangs overhead.

Ceiling elements help with wayfinding between the Rock & Brews Casino gaming floor and Oklahoma’s first-ever Rock & Brews restaurant. A large guitar pick inscribed with The Beatles’ logo and band member signatures looms above the brick rotunda entryway to the Rock & Brews bar and restaurant.

The host stand is created from identifiable “roadie boxes” with a backdrop art piece crafted from industrial metal chains to add true rock ‘n’ roll ambiance.

To maintain the authentic brand experience that Rock & Brews restaurant and bar is known for, the design team consulted the company’s brand manager for in-depth guidance on the specific, and proven, layout, finishes and materials required in the entry, bar and dining room designs.

Inside the large, vaulted Rock & Brews brew house, practically every inch of ceiling space is covered with theatrical banners and backlit framed graphics showcasing signature rock ‘n’ roll graphics. The graphics are framed by a dramatic performance stage lighting truss hanging from the pitched ceiling, painted the signature Rock & Brews-branded red. Colorful murals enliven brick walls. Plank wood-effect tile helps subdue and contemporize the floor plane around the dining and bar areas.

The new Rock & Brews Casino rock ‘n’ roll vibe fully immerses guests in a concert-style environment and high-quality audio and visual experiences, all designed to celebrate the defining moments of rock ‘n’ roll.

The Kaw Nation and Kaw Gaming, Inc., owner/operator of Southwind Casinos throughout Oklahoma, partnered with Rock & Brews to develop this premier Rock & Brews-branded casino and restaurant. Rock & Brews cofounders Stanley and Simmons, along with their other brand partners, restaurateur Michael Zislis and concert industry veterans Dave and Dell Furano, have opened Rock & Brews restaurants across California, Florida, Kansas, Missouri and Texas, and now Oklahoma.

Rock & Brews Casino

OWNER: Kaw Nation

DESIGN AND ARCHITECT OF RECORD: HBG Design

8 CASINO STYLE 2022

A New Chapter

Delaware Park Casino & Racing

Thanks to the expansion of sports betting and the advent of historical horse racing, horse racing tracks around the country are getting some much-needed TLC—perhaps the most notable example of this is Westar Architects’ remodel of historic Delaware Park Casino & Racing in Stanton, Delaware.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the renovation is the way in which it was planned. According to Westar, Ron Baumann, president and general manager of the casino at Delaware Park, never gave any input as to what he himself wanted. Rather, he asked patrons what they wanted to see, and the resulting changes are said to have come from their input.

The remodel will open in gradual phases throughout next year, encompassing the entire 80,000-square-foot casino floor and surrounding areas. Red, blue and gray will be the central tones used throughout the property.

The entryway to the casino will be adorned with luxury materials such as herringbone marble floors as well as mirrored chandeliers and Austrian crystal. Patrons will have access to a full swath of gaming offerings, including horse racing, slots, sports betting and table games.

Per Westar, the second phase of the renovation will include a new club and entertainment venue, which will be known as the Arabian Lounge, attracting acts from all over the East Coast and beyond. From there, the stateof-the-art slot area will be easily accessible, accentuated by two impressive barrel vaults overhead. The space will also feature ringed fixtures, creating a grand, almost cathedral-like atmosphere.

Another dining and beverage option called Buck’s Bar will feature an extensive menu of craft beers and cocktails, with mixologists standing by to

create the perfect drink for each individual patron. Nearby, the 24-hour Roan and Dun’s Cafe will also be serving up classic East Coast diner-style comfort food. Situated in the middle of the casino, its open-air environment will allow for 360-degree views of the action at all times.

Westar and Delaware Park plan to cater towards its expanding Asian and international clientele as well—a dedicated gaming enclave will include Asian-themed games, and the casino will also feature a noodle bar serving banh mi and other Southeast Asian cuisines.

On top of it all, more surprises are still on the horizon, as Westar hints that multiple aspects of the renovation have yet to be fully revealed.

One of these surprises will be a celebrity-branded restaurant, a la Gordon Ramsay or Wolfgang Puck. Sports betting fans should fear not, as Westar is also planning a large-scale expansion of the property’s sportsbook and bar area. Finally, an all-new gaming space situated on the second floor of the property will also be announced at a later date.

Delaware Park first opened all the way back in June 1937, designed by William DuPont Jr.—one of 23 racecourses he designed—and Donald Ross. The track was expanded and renovated numerous times throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. It was eventually closed in 1982 due to financial difficulties, but reopened in the spring of 1984 under new management. Its slots facility was introduced in December 1995.

Delaware Park Casino & Racing

OWNER: Clairvest Group and Rubico Gaming DESIGN AND ARCHITECT OF RECORD: Westar Architects

10 CASINO STYLE 2022
Any Firm CAn Design We CAn help you stAnD out. Harrah’s Ak Chin | Maricopa, AZ Indigo Sky Casino | Wyandotte, OK Quil Ceda Creek Casino | Tulalip, AZ We Ko Pa Casino Resort | Fort McDowell, AZ Call (314)727-7000, Email Architects@TBEarc.com, & See our work online at www.TBEarchitects.com

Desert Oasis

Gila River Casino at Santan Mountain

The Gila River Indian Community operates three casinos in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Each has a different attitude and approach. The tribe’s newest development will feature an embrace of the surrounding desert where it is located.

Opening in 2023, Gila River Casino at Santan Mountain, designed by Steelman Partners, is built to showcase the rich hues found in the Southwest part of the United States. Focused on bringing the texture, light and elements of the outdoors inside, this modern oasis will host several restaurants and bars, 850 slot machines, a high-limit salon, table games, an MGM sportsbook, and more.

The $150 million development offers recognizable sources of inspiration, as every space is designed with nature in mind: desert skies and landscape, the rising and setting sun, mesquite trees, and Arizona’s blooming saguaro are all represented in the Gila River’s overall color palette, meandering carpet patterns, bar textures, and space planning.

The exterior architecture showcases crisp, rectangular forms punctuated by glazed corners of smart glass that look out onto breathtaking mountain views. This unique technology transforms the building into a responsive environment that automatically adjusts to control natural light—promoting human wellness and saving energy simultaneously.

The ballroom and prefunction windows face East, toward the rising sun, making it a perfect symbol of birth, growth, new beginnings, and everything that has a cherished or hoped-for origin. The carpet reflects patterns and colors in the morning Arizona sky, and 3D panels in the ceiling inspire movement in the buzz of patrons below. Whether the occasion be sunrise yoga, a morning wedding or a go-getter conference, the space supports the overall concept of the saguaro’s desert bloom and brings a breath of fresh air to the environment both literally and figuratively.

Unlike the Gila woodpecker, who spends much of the day foraging for food, guests to the Gila River three-meal restaurant will find mouthwatering delights ready and available at most hours of the day. The earthy decor of the restaurant transforms agricultural traditions into pleasing modern aesthetics: crop circles and lines inspire geometric shapes, a chandelier above the bar takes cues from the river, and old turquoise mines offer brilliant hits of blue in the chairs of the main space. Even the place settings are punctuated with patterns found in the surrounding area.

The high-limit casino takes its color cues from the landscape. Satin, chrome and clear glass balls harmonize together in a floating chandelier above the gaming space. Their different textures symbolize varying materials found along the river. Desert flowers are represented in the carpet pattern and natural stone is used along the bar and tables throughout the space.

The main casino is centered around the idea of bringing the texture, light and garden elements of the outdoors inside. Columns within are layered with mirror and bubbled glass that mimic the water of the Gila River—the life force of the people living in the valley. The main carpet features the blooming saguaro, while the slotted ceiling and circular skylights raise the eyes upwards toward the heavens.

The center bar is home to the main action on the casino floor. An anchor for the space, it offers a see-and-be-seen environment for drinks and conversation. An artistic wooden feature rises from the center of the bar as if to represent

the many reaching branches of the area’s mesquite trees. Modernized and dressed in brilliance, the features stand tall among the casino’s garden flowers and become a notable reference point on the casino floor. Colors and patterns within view are inspired by the rising and setting sun.

The BetMGM sportsbook is an extension of the casino, and carries forth the modern desert oasis concept. It offers bright and bold features and carpeting, as well as natural tones and textures—yet it maintains an inherent respect to the more traditional and masculine elements seen in a sportsbook. Earth tones and plush seating keep the space grounded while slate blues and chandelier accents elevate energy for game time under the desert night sky.

Gila River Casino at Santan Mountain OWNER: The Gila River Indian Community

12 CASINO STYLE 2022

New & Improved

Turfway Park Racing & Gaming

When Kentucky legalized historical horse racing machines (HHR), it saved a number of Kentucky racetracks, one of them being Turfway Park. But the facilities weren’t up to speed for a modern gaming floor, so the Louisville, Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc. understood it needed to upgrade and demolished the existing grandstand to build a brand new gaming operation.

It was under those circumstances that the company and R2Architects opened the doors to its new ground-up, state-of-the-art Turfway Park Racing & Gaming entertainment venue on September 1. The $230 million investment of this 153,000-square-foot facility and its grounds is in Florence, Kentucky, near the border between Kentucky and Ohio.

Turfway Park Racing & Gaming is a multi-faceted entertainment destination facility that features approximately 850 HHRs, tempting dining spots, live entertainment, sports bar, VIP gaming lounge and a 1,000-person special events space. It is the home to winter thoroughbred horse racing in Kentucky. Turfway Park is one of two live thoroughbred racetracks in the Cincinnati, Ohio, region. The new venue boasts major site improvements to the property’s grounds, a Tapeta synthetic racing surface, and upgrades to its backside facilities and equine operation infrastructure.

The facility opened its gaming floor with a grand opening that featured Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and other regional dignitaries. Senior leaders from Churchill Downs Inc. and Turfway Park commemorated the special occasion with a $50,000 charitable donation to be split between two local charities: Easter Seals Redwood and I Have Wings Breast Cancer Foundation.

The gaming floor design creates an exciting guest experience. The interior space showcases an updated contemporary design with tall ceilings, upgraded finishes, custom accent lighting, and high-tech LED video walls and sound systems making for an energetic and fun experience. The guests navigate the gaming floor and all its amenities easily through distinctly designed custom carpeted pathways that feature patterns deliberately created to aid guests with their sense of direction. The guest-friendly gaming floor was laid out to encourage easy circulation flow with short gaming machine aisleway lengths and clear sightlines to other points of interest on the gaming floor. Easy-to-read wayfinding and destination signage within the gaming floor help to create a pleasant gaming floor experience. The lineup of food and beverage outlets and unique VIP amenities are seamlessly integrated into the gaming floor layout, making for an exciting “end to end” guest experience.

The Special Events Room is accessed from a beautiful hallway lined with floor-to-ceiling windows that boast direct views to the grounds. The room can easily seat 750 guests in a formal setting and accommodate over 1,000 guests for live racing, special events, gaming tournaments and music performances.

The main kitchen is designed to support the various dining outlets as well as to scale up on demand and accommodate the requirements of serving hundreds of guests for a special event. The room is fitted with two massive custom LED video screens, creating endless options for the broadcasting of video content and ready for sport betting once legalized in Kentucky.

Turfway Park Racing & Gaming

OWNER: Churchill Downs Inc.

DESIGN AND ARCHITECT OF RECORD: R2Architects

2022 CASINO STYLE 13

Bringing It Back Home

Steve Martorano, “the most famous cook that nobody knows,” is coming home to Philly with the announcement that Martorano’s Prime is planned for Rivers Casino Philadelphia. This will be the chef’s first restaurant in his hometown.

Known as the “Godfather of Italian-American cooking,” the South Philly native has turned home-cooked recipes into a growing portfolio of restaurants. Fans will enjoy his latest venture along the banks of the Delaware River with iconic views of the Ben Franklin Bridge in 2023.

Martorano’s Prime fuses the celebrity cook’s renowned Italian-American menu with high-end steakhouse staples, elevated in Martorano’s signature style. Macaroni lovers will enjoy Martorano’s favorite and always popular linguine and clams, bucatini carbonara, his famous meatball with Sunday gravy and Martorano salad, and spicy penne vodka. Traditional steakhouse fans will savor mouthwatering chops, which are first cut, while the steaks are always prime. Veal Chop Parmesan, Filet Sinatra and Lobster Francaise are among the highlights.

Gourmet Magazine famously called Martorano’s meatballs “the best meatballs in the world.”

Rivers Casino Philadelphia will be the second Martorano’s Prime location after Martorano successfully debuted the Italian-American steakhouse concept at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh in 2021. Despite its mid-pandemic opening, the Western Pennsylvania restaurant immediately attracted foodies from across the region. In addition to Pittsburgh, Martorano currently operates Cafe Martorano in Ft. Lauderdale, the brand’s 30year-plus flagship location, and Martorano’s at Harrah’s Atlantic City.

The Martoranos will divide their time among their expanding East Coast operations. Design and early construction are already under way at Martorano’s Prime at Rivers Casino Philadelphia by DMAC Architecture + Interiors.

Anyone who understands the restaurant business knows the entrepreneurial grit needed to thrive amid challenging conditions, especially in recent years. The Martorano’s brand has always been fueled by its founder’s steadfast work ethic, ability to overcome obstacles and commitment to serve the community—literally and figuratively.

“It’s an honor to return home to Philly where it all began and to share my passion for Italian food in the city I love,” said Martorano. “Like Rocky,

I’m an underdog—a hardworking cook, who’s gone from the ‘sandwich guy’ to a restaurant entrepreneur. I can’t wait for everyone to experience our Italian-American steakhouse at Rivers Casino Philly, where the macaroni will always be cooked to order.”

Martorano’s Prime, Rivers Casino Philadelphia

OWNER: Rush Street Gaming DESIGN AND ARCHITECT OF RECORD: DMAC Architecture + Interiors

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From ‘Casino’ to ‘Casino Resort’: Additions that Make the Difference

The term “integrated resort” was coined to describe Singapore’s massive casino complexes, rival properties with gaming and non-gaming attractions on a mind-boggling scale.

Marina Bay Sands is known for its Skypark Observation Deck, Banyan Tree spa, sampan rides, ArtScience Museum with 21 galleries, 20-plus restaurants and the world’s largest infinity pool. Resorts World Sentosa, too, has a dizzying array of attractions: Universal Studios Singapore, Dolphin Island, the Adventure Cove Waterpark—even its own tall ship, the Royal Albatross. The amenities attract gamblers and non-gamblers, tourists and locals, the young and not-so-young, even families with children.

Against these standards, a casino alone may no longer seem enough—which presents a challenge for operators who want to offer a more complete experience, sometimes with limited space or a modest budget.

“Large-scale integrated resorts have raised the bar in terms of guest expectations, and people take those expectations with them wherever they go,” acknowledges Jeanne Muscolino, principal and business development manager for JCJ Architecture. But casinos in Kansas and Mississippi can’t grow up to be the megaresorts of Las Vegas, Malaysia and Singapore. Nor should they try.

“Every property is unique in its own right, in its own marketplace and in the type of guests it attracts,” Muscolino says. “Operators and owners have matured in terms of how they think about programming their space and their square footage, and are better at knowing their customer. In terms of design, that helps us really respond to the needs of the marketplace.”

The impact of new additions may be especially meaningful in smaller markets, says Doug Worth, executive chairman and principal designer of WorthGroup Architecture. “Normally, everybody’s trying to one-up each other on how spectacular their projects are. We specialize on the tribal side of gaming, and in the early days, they didn’t have all the money in the world. Everything was a value judgment on what it would contribute to the casino business,” which is still the engine of most gaming properties.

Gut-driven, trend-influenced decisions have given way to hard data, marketing insights and feasibility analyses. With those facts in mind, consider new additions that will extract more value from current patrons, and also lure new ones.

Eat Up

The addition of new food and beverage options goes “a really long way” to keeping customers around, says Muscolino. “They’re not loss-leaders for properties anymore, but can be destinations on their own.”

The right three-meal service offering with a well-known brand can turn a pub or bar into an entertainment hub. Case in point: the Rock & Brews chain, established by KISS co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. With 20-plus restaurants across the U.S. and more to come, the brand blends a rock ‘n’ roll theme, American-style comfort food and craft beers. There’s even a Rock & Brews Casino in Braman, Oklahoma, operated by the Kaw Nation of Indians.

In 2021, JCJ designed a Rock & Brews for the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning, California, owned by the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians. The advantages are many, says Muscolino.

“Those guys offer a really brilliant product; it doesn’t take up a ton of space, and it draws a lot of traffic. So folks might go to a casino really to experience the restaurant, then do some gaming on the side.”

A new TAO Asian bistro at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut has drawn four- and five-star raves, like this one on TripAdvisor: “First, the design elements are on a Disney scale... When your table is ready, make the journey through this ‘water’ hallway into the expansive dining room. This is a wow—there is so much to look at!”

A restaurant alone doesn’t elevate a property to resort status, but it’s “not just a slot house anymore,” says Worth. “A popular trend in a lot of our tribal casinos is the Wahlburger’s franchise,” co-founded by actors Mark and Donnie Wahlburg.

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resort elements—hotels and restaurants, pools and spas—keep customers onsite and help populate the gaming floor
Integrated
The popular KISS-inspired Rock & Brews brand has come to Rolling Hills Casino in Corning, California. Wahlburger’s is a familiar brand with name value enhanced by a reality TV series.

“We’re doing three of them right now in different locations. It’s still a hamburger joint, but they’ve got a TV show and some recognition, and people come here for that. It’s an easy go-to addition to an existing facility that was never planned to be much more than a casino.”

And of course the Gordon Ramsay and Guy Fieri brands are familiar to casino-goers around the world.

Staying Power

With food and beverage in place, a hotel may be the logical next step. “Most of the properties we work on aren’t in an urban area, but are hard to get to—three- or four-hour trips, flying or driving,” says Worth.

That’s no one’s idea of a day trip, and potential customers could stay away altogether rather than undertake a round-trip long haul. Overnight accommodations don’t have to break the bank, but come in several forms, including RV parks and limitedservice hotels, Worth adds. “You can accomplish a lot on a fairly small footprint and with a limited budget.”

“Even a smaller 100-key hotel can make a big difference,” agrees Muscolino. “Then you’re measuring length of stay by days as opposed to hours. It helps not only generate revenue on the gaming floor, but across amenities.”

Multitasking

If demands exists, set aside space for meetings and conventions— then use it for other purposes, such as live entertainment.

“Budget-wise, you don’t really have to do a whole lot” to monetize these areas, says Worth. “Some smaller operators do very well, bringing in entertainers who draw a regional crowd, then using the same space for special events, tournaments, and conferences and meetings. In some cases, it’s a differentiator that makes them stand out from the competition.”

Food-and-beverage areas can multitask too. “A full-service sports bar can double as your sportsbook and also have food service throughout the day,” observes Muscolino. “Then you can tack on entertainment. You’ll even see little areas within sportsbooks that are dedicated to broadcast media, who broadcast live on game day. It creates this really energized environment, with these semi-celebrities on-property. That’s really attractive to customers.”

KAOS nightclub at the Palms Las Vegas was an epic fail. But pools have flourished at other properties, like Harrah’s Atlantic City.

The goal, as always, is to keep guests onsite and at play, she says. “How can you take an area and make sure that it’s monetizable throughout the day? Like the sportsbook that’s doing double duty, there might be a way to activate a kitchen so it’s providing grab-and-go breakfast and cafe service,” and drawing people at all hours—important in a 24/7 enterprise.

Derek Stevens brought an innovative version of the all-purpose sportsbook to the new Circa Resort & Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, which opened in Octo-

Anatomy of an Upgrade

Bally’s Kansas City has undergone a complete transformation since its acquisition by Bally’s Corp. in 2020. The stationary riverboat, located on 24 waterfront acres, opened in 1996 as the Hilton Flamingo Casino, became the Isle of Capri in 2001, and was acquired by Eldorado Resorts in 2017 before being sold to Twin River Holdings, later Bally’s.

The new owners started by rezoning the site to “unlock the potential of the land.” The property has already added a baccarat lounge and a high-limit gaming area and improved the entryways, lighting and parking areas. It is also building a 38,000-square-foot land-based commercial building to house a Chickie’s & Pete’s Crabhouse and Sports Bar and Sugar Factory. A hotel is also in the master plan, along with a retail sector and possible amphitheater. The $40 million renovation is a project of Whiting Turner Contracting.

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A rendering of the new Bally’s Kansas City

ber 2020. Stadium Swim is a 4,000-capacity sports bar and pool club with a big screen—make that a monster screen, at 40 feet by 143 feet—to broadcast the latest games. Guests can watch while lolling in one of six heated pools, then swim up to their favorite bar and share the experience with their friends at one of the club’s “Insta-ready selfie walls.”

Risky Business

It’s tricky to make a nightclub work outside an urban market, and even bigcity resorts can miss the mark. Take the Palms in Las Vegas, which added an indoor-outdoor nightclub as part of the property’s $640 million overhaul, completed in 2019.

The aptly named KAOS opened and closed within seven months. At the time, Red Rock Resorts boss Frank Fertitta III blamed the high cost of business, in particular, paying headliner DJs like Marshmello. As a scathing postmortem in the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted, “No responsible operator would be willing to pay a DJ $60 million over two years, or $600,000 per show, even if that individual wore a flashy, LED-equipped bucket on his head.”

After the club went dark, the Palms decided to take some time to reassess the programming, and used the space for pool operations, private meeting space and special events. In 2021, Red Rock and Station Casinos sold the Palms to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians of California, making it the first tribe to own and operate a resort in Las Vegas.

That misstep aside, resorts in Vegas and other markets have shown that a great watering hole can serve as a successful day club, nightclub, food venue, party spot and revenue stream. Harrah’s Pool in Atlantic City is one example. With two waterfalls, three hot tubs, eight cabanas and three fire pits, it offers night and day programming that’s really paid off for its parent, and earned it a place on USA Today’s list of the “10 Best Resort Pools in America.”

Replicate the cool pool experience on a smaller scale, without the giant price tag, and just like that, you’re attracting and serving a younger clientele. They just may become your next generation of casino regulars.

Inside/Out

The Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to appreciate spaces they may have previously overlooked—right outside their doors.

Even in big cities with four-season climes, restaurants and resorts stayed afloat by moving service outdoors, onto sidewalks and into parks, under sailcloth tents and in heated domes. Fire pits and torches added a level of ambience that hasn’t gone out of style.

“You can take a bar cart out on a patio and voila, you’ve got something you can monetize,” says Muscolino. “It’s not so hard to take an underutilized patio area, dress up the landscaping, perhaps add some decorative lighting and turn it into a pre-function space. You can hold small events out there.”

The same principles apply inside the gaming hall, where daylight and windows are now not only permissible but welcome. Those vistas connect patrons to the great outdoors, and make any space feel lighter and brighter.

Keeping It Fresh

Older resorts with all the bells and whistles need periodic upgrades to keep patrons interested.

Such was the case at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, which opened in 1968. The property opened without a hotel, but made up for it in short order, adding a 15-story tower in 1972, an adjoining tower and convention hall in 1975, an RV park and motor lodge, and more. Other amenities include a wedding chapel and retail district.

The latest addition is a Big Top Food Court that opened in October 2021, just in time for the multi-day Electric Daisy Carnival, which brings hundreds of thousands of partiers to Las Vegas each year.

Architectural firm Bergman Walls & Associates achieved an open floor plan by removing a section of a hotel tower shear wall. The upgrade turned parts of the existing buffet, baggage claim and retail spaces into a 16,000square-foot food court offering multiple fast-casual options.

Two administrative offices and more back-of-house space were part of the build-out, for an addition that has brought more than 80 new jobs to the Strip casino, new options for hungry patrons, and increased opportunities for revenue.

“If you’ve got the views; capitalize on them,” says Muscolino.

High ceilings add a feeling of spaciousness and are vital on the casino floor, where gaming machines are getting bigger and bigger. They also make hotel rooms look and feel bigger and more luxurious.

During the pandemic, as properties slowly resumed business, the need for social distancing motivated operators to identify underutilized spaces, such as conference rooms and event space, and turn them into profit centers. As John Hinton, director of Native American projects for Bergman Walls Associates, told Tribal Government Gaming magazine in 2021, “This has our clients thinking about how they can make spaces more flexible and scalable in the future.”

Bring the Family

If you’re thinking about a phased development to reach a wider market, movie theaters and arcades are proven family attractions.

A smaller pool, KidsQuest or similar amenity “can make a lot of sense if you’re trying to get families to stay on-property without giving up a lot of square footage,” according to Muscolino. There are KidsQuest locations at scores of casinos in Nevada, Louisiana, Washington state, California, Michigan and elsewhere. One big advantage: they offer drop-in child care, so Mom and Dad can enjoy adulting, on and off the gaming floor.

But first things first—know your current customers, know who you want your future customers to be, and with data and market assessments, determine the kinds of additions that will keep them coming.

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Circus Big Top Food Court
“It’s not so hard to take an underutilized patio area, dress up the landscaping, perhaps add some decorative lighting and turn it into a pre-function space.”
—Jeanne Muscolino, Principal and Business Development Manager, JCJ Architecture

Painting a Portrait

The use of fine art in casinos can be uplifting for patrons, employees and the community alike

Before the Mirage opened in 1989, the heights of culture inside a casino were often portraits of dogs playing poker. The thought of filling the walls of a casino hotel with fine art was something that was unimaginable in gaming’s early years.

Enter Steve Wynn. His Golden Nugget properties in Las Vegas and Atlantic City were elegant and sophisticated (for their time), but his idea for casino art was scattering 31 gold nuggets around the casino to astound visitors. But the seed was planted.

It wasn’t until he began planning the Mirage that the idea of fine art inside a casino came to the forefront. In fact, some experts believe Wynn’s design for the Mirage was inspired by Paul Gauguin’s South Pacific artwork. But even at the Mirage, the attractions were mainly visual and three-dimensional—the volcano that greeted visitors with its twice-hourly eruption; the dome that replicated a jungle setting; Siegfried and Roy’s white tigers; his Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas. And his next development, Treasure Island, was more of the same with the famed pirate ship battle out front.

Art didn’t really make its appearance until he began planning the Bellagio, itself a piece of architectural art with the dancing fountains along the Strip. His love for art became full blown when he created the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, along with the Picasso restaurant where you could eat amid authentic Picasso masterpieces, and a view of the Bellagio Fountains. Picasso’s Chef Julian Serrano created food that looked and tasted like fine art. Wynn brought to his casino audience the enchantment of Renoir and Monet, the delicacy of Degas, and inspiring vibrancy of Warhol.

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Suzi Cordish selects the artwork that enhances the Live! casinos operated by Cordish Gaming

His final casino creation, Wynn and Encore Las Vegas, continued his love for art. In fact, the original name for the Wynn property was to be “Le Réve” after the famous Picasso painting. Visitors to those properties could view the $23.5 million dollar Renoir titled “In The Roses,” and Jeff Koons’ striking sculpture, “Tulips,” not to mention his whimsical “Popeye” sculpture.

Now that his time as a casino operator is over, Wynn continues to be a major art collector. His Wynn Fine Art Galleries in Palm Beach and Beverly Hills allow showings by appointment only, and his fine art career continues.

Corporate Influence

But Wynn’s influence on gaming continues to this day, and fine art is now almost a prerequisite of a quality casino development.

When he sold his Mirage Resorts properties, including the Bellagio, to MGM Resorts in 2000, the concept of fine art and gaming did not go away. MGM has maintained, and some say even improved the quality of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art.

Demecina Beehn is MGM’s curator and manager of the company’s art collection, which extends far beyond the Bellagio. She says MGM recognized the value of the Bellagio gallery immediately.

“We are an entertainment company in addition to shows, dining and hospitality we offer,” she says. “Art is part of the overall experience. Through our efforts, we make public art accessible to 40 million-plus visitors who come to Las Vegas each year. MGM Resorts’ fine art collection is a living organism, and has evolved many times over the decades, showcasing a multitude of mediums. We are most focused on keeping diversity, equity, and inclusion at the core of our collecting practices and the guest experience.

“Through our strong commitment to art, we have a unique position to elevate and further the work of historically underrepresented artists and communities. We have always believed that offering a public platform for

art helps to expose audiences to new artistic encounters that may otherwise be inaccessible for our guests and community. So we are honored to work with artists from a variety of backgrounds to bring new life to our properties and expose our visitors to beauty and culture.”

While some galleries sell the pieces they display, Beehn says that isn’t always the case at the Bellagio gallery.

“We bring rotating exhibitions that are museum-quality,” she says. “We

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Several whimsical sculptures such as “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and Nancy Rubins’ “Big Edge” are balanced by Maya Lin’s elegant “Silver River” Byung Jim Kim, LOVE-love, The Cordish Art Collection

partner with museums, galleries, and private institutions to bring unique exhibitions to Las Vegas. It is an intimate two-room gallery, but we are really the only exhibiting space in Las Vegas that can bring the quality of exhibitions that we bring. It’s very important that the gallery continues to exist and continues to reach to a wider and wider collector base across the country and around the world, so that we can bring new and exciting things to our community in Las Vegas.”

Fine art was emphasized at the opening of CityCenter and the Aria casino in 2009. With a series of art installations from sculptures to paintings, the development has become the center for arts in Las Vegas. And it transformed the way MGM considers the role of art in all its properties, says Beehn.

“The beauty of Aria and CityCenter was the moment where you see a pivotal shift in the way that we embedded art into our design,” she explains. “And it really became a pairing of art and architecture. So for instance, Maya Lin’s ‘Silver River’ sculpture behind the registration desk is a topographical representation of the Colorado River, which ends in Las Vegas. Embedding art and large-scale installations into the construction and design of a space has now become standard for us. So now when you go to some of our regional properties such as National Harbor in Maryland and MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, you will see site installations created specifically for that property as well as representations of the community.”

For CityCenter, Beehn says a committee evaluated the art and set some criteria for the selection of the pieces.

“We worked with art advisers and we had an executive committee that approved each work. We were really thinking of how we could showcase artists that were really of the time, and how we could bring works that were that were unique and not readily available.”

And it isn’t just the large gaming companies that focus on art. One of the most up-and-coming companies, Cordish Gaming, has made a place for all kinds of art.

For Suzi Cordish, the art in the Live! casinos built by the Cordish Companies and her husband, CEO David Cordish, is a labor of love.

“I was a collector before I even met David, and that was one of the ways

we connected, because he was also a collector,” she says.

Even though Cordish had been a major developer years before it opened its first official casino with the Live! casino in Maryland, Suzi Cordish says there wasn’t a thought of using art in those places.

“They were mostly sports bars and venues where there were screens in every available space,” she says. “There really was no room for art, and even if there were it would not be appreciated.”

That changed at Maryland Live!

“That’s how it began,” she explains. “I had always acquired art for homes and residential spaces, so I had never really looked at something 20 feet in length and 10 feet high. But that was the scale I was looking at in the casino.

“I wanted to appeal to all of our guests and not just the gamblers. So we need pieces in the hotel space, and a lot of the artwork is in our entertainment venue—right before you go into some of the large music venues. Then there’s the reception areas. It’s not just for the gambler, but I do think that even the gamblers love seeing this new, exciting art.”

Like MGM Resorts, Cordish includes all sorts of art.

“I love sculpture and I love ceramics,” Cordish says, “so I am really an equal-opportunity collector in that respect. I love all the mediums. For sculpture, we have many examples, including a beautiful ‘cloud.’ It’s a grouping of nine steel shapes in our Maryland property signifying a cloud. We’re doing lots of different things besides just paintings on the wall.”

Both Cordish and Beehn have an appreciation for lesser-known artists, and enjoy giving them more exposure.

“While we have lots of well-known artists, we also have many emerging artists,” Cordish says. “We’ve got one gentleman based in Baltimore who did this really beautiful mural on the wall. He’s in his 40s at this point, but still an

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The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art features art exhibits from a wide variety of artists Takashi Murakami, Dragon Shen Breathes Out a Pavilion, 2016 BGFA: Ase: Afrofrequencies / Credit: MaxRykov
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emerging artist doing amazing murals.”

With MGM, Beehn says it’s a mission to give newer artists exposure.

“Through our strong commitment to art we have a unique opportunity to elevate and further the work of historically underrepresented artists and communities,” she says. “And we have always believed that offering a public platform for art helps to expose audiences to new artistic encounters that may otherwise be inaccessible for our guests and community. And so we are honored to work with artists from a variety of backgrounds to bring new life to our properties and expose our visitors to beauty and culture.”

Return on Investment

Suzi Cordish jokes that when she proposes the purchase of a piece of art to the Cordish board, they often are hesitant, but in the end, she says, it adds to the value of the company.

“In this business, I do have to be very aware and mindful of our partners and those involved,” she says. “So I don’t just go on a buying spree. I’m really thinking what’s best for the casino, but I’m also very mindful of what we’re doing financially and how it benefits the casino.”

She says the Cordish art collection has increased markedly in value since it was launched more than 10 years ago, so it’s a positive for the company in the long run.

For MGM Resorts, an auction of 11 Picasso paintings owned by the company in October 2021 netted almost $110 million, nothing to sneeze at even for a large company like MGM. All the sales drew record high prices in the sale coordinated by the New York auction house Sotheby’s. It was the first time Sotheby’s held an auction outside of its New York headquarters.

“When we announced this unique collaboration with MGM Resorts a few months ago, there was an immediate buzz,” Sotheby’s Chairman Brooke Lampley says. “(The) tremendous results only underscore the singular nature of this event, and the importance of creating bespoke experiences that cater to furthering our commitment to existing clients, as well as opening doors for a whole new audience to engage with Sotheby’s. With such a gracious partner like MGM Resorts and a star artist like Picasso, it was an incredible experience to bring our signature

Evening Sale experience on the road—and we look forward to exploring and experimenting with new ways to share the magic of a Sotheby’s Evening Sale.”

And because the auction was held at the Bellagio, it turned out to be something of a special event for the property.

“We are grateful to our partners at Sotheby’s for a successful collaboration and a tremendous event weekend,” says MGM Resorts Chief Hospitality Officer Ari Kastrati. “From the receptions to the special programs to the auction itself, together we delivered a weekend program that could only happen in Las Vegas and only at MGM Resorts properties.”

The true value of presenting fine art to the communities where casinos operate is to elevate the status and respect of the companies. In Las Vegas, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts is often a field trip for the area’s schoolchildren.

“Much like having the Conservatory at Bellagio or the fountains, being able to come to our property and walk around and be immersed in these things is a very unique experience for a lot of people,” Beehn says. “I remember even my first time staying at an MGM property, I was so surprised to find works by Richard Sarah and Jasper Johns that the property actually became my staple property every time I visited Las Vegas.

“So I think that us having art helps to elevate the experiences of our community members and our status in the comunity. The schoolchildren that come to visit the gallery get to experience the exhibition that we have right now, which is Caldonia. It’s concert and film posters from the Ralph DeLuca collection. It’s a celebration of black performance history from the 1920s to the 1970s. And the fact that it’s free to view is a great asset to our community.”

Cordish says that’s definitely the case for her company’s hotels.

“It shows a sophistication and appreciation that is something that we can translate through the artwork without having to say that. But that’s a big part of what the arts can do—all the disciplines of the arts, including the music selection. Whether it’s music or other performing arts, or visual arts, I think they can enhance so much of a community experience and elevate the members of that community.”

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Steve Wynn continued his art collection with Jeff Koons’ “Popeye” on display at Wynn Las Vegas upon opening. It can now be seen at Encore Boston Harbor. Alicia Framis, Cartas al Cielo, The Cordish Art Collection Donald Sultan, Five Reds, The Cordish Art Collection

The Artist’s Eye

Casino executive Michael Broderick has a special affinity for art

Michael Broderick is a proponent of the strategy that art can bring new and valuable customers to your casino. Broderick doesn’t run a casino owned by one of the major gaming companies and doesn’t work for a casino that is located near one of the major population centers. Now general manager of the Lake of the Torches casino in Northern Wisconsin, which is owned by the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Broderick is known for his “out of the box” promotions at his previous jobs, including having players pan for gold or sending a slot machine into outer space. While those promotions were certainly unusual, Broderick insists they had a positive return on investment.

That’s why he does things a little differently than the larger casinos that use art almost like an architectural element rather than a moneymaker. He’s a student of the use of art for more than just pleasure—he tells a story about abstract artist Mark Rothko, who in 1958 received a commission to deliver 30 large-scale paintings to the new Four Seasons restaurant but was so annoyed that the diners barely looked at the paintings he returned the money and retrieved the paintings, a number of which today hang in the Tate Modern Museum in London.

“We look at art a number of ways,” he says about his property, “primarily as a new source of revenue, a tool for marketing and player development, and as a brand differentiator. Most importantly, it is a testament to the vision of our tribal council and board of directors under the leadership of our chairman. They had the vision and awareness to realize that we created something that will have an important and lasting legacy for the company and the tribe for generations to come. Art is multi-generational and can be immortal.”

Last year, the tribe and the casino management opened “The Contemporary,” the first wholly tribally owned contemporary art gallery in the country. The gallery allows local and national artists, including local indigenous artists, to highlight their work for a small fee and takes a commission on any sales of the paintings or objects on display. He says the revenue produced exceeded their expectations and plans to ramp up new artists and shows in the coming year.

Broderick says they also use art for special events, including exhibits by Banksy and Bob and Steve Ross, two wholly different varieties of artists.

“Banksy is arguably one of the most well-known artists living today,” he says. “He transcends the exclusive ‘fine arts’ community, and is one of the rare examples of artists who have made their mark in popular culture. The same could be said about Steve and Bob Ross,” whose The Joy of Painting television program showed millions of Americans that anyone could paint.

That’s a lesson learned by Broderick, who in addition to being a talented casino executive, is an accomplished artist, whose works have been displayed at the Galen of the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Kalamazoo Institute of

Art, the Muskegon Museum of Art and the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York.

He says painting is an outlet for him, and while he’s appreciative when people give him positive comments on his art, he’d paint even if no one saw it.

“This has always been an important part of my life,” he says. “Professionally, it is incredibly cathartic and clarifying for me. Every day as leader-operators of these multimillion-dollar companies in this highstress industry, we are faced with significant challenges and burdens that can cause serious harm to our health, both physically and mentally. This outlet allows me to remain centered and humble. Creating art, any art, is a very humbling exercise. So it grounds me too.”

Some of Broderick’s works are on display in the casino’s hotel—not for sale, however—and he recently completed a portrait of Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens (a Wisconsin native) that he presented to the tribal chairman, James Williams.

For other casinos, Broderick recognizes that using art might still be somewhat controversial, but if you’re creative, success will follow.

“Maybe the focus should be on other things rather than foot traffic or ticket sales,” he says. “Maybe it is justifiable and measurable as a tool for player development or art sales commissions. You just have to be creative about it and stay focused.

“You can show all the art you want for free! You don’t have to have a multimillion-dollar budget to acquire permanent works. There are so many artists, both good and bad, that desperately want the ability to show their work in a public space with high foot traffic. They will be overjoyed if you asked to borrow some of their works to display at the property. I know that if a property GM or tribal chairman approached me asking to borrow some of my work to dress up their space I would happily say yes.”

—Roger Gros

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Lake of the Torches GM Michael Broderick is an artist in many waysPortrait of IGA Chairman Ernie Stevens

StyleCashless In

In June 2021, Resorts World Las Vegas opened the first casino with cashless wagering available across the floor. Once a player creates a wagering account integral to the Genting Rewards loyalty club, patrons can use their smartcards to fund their gaming experience.

The Resorts World system, powered by Sightline Payments’ Play+ technology working in concert with the Konami Synkros casino management system, is seamless once it’s up and running. For the technologically challenged, though, the process of signing up is not without its hiccups. The casino has ambassadors wandering the floor offering to help players set up their accounts, which must be done through one of the Genting Rewards kiosks. Nevada requires physical ID for cashless gaming, so players must scan their driver’s license or passport at the kiosk.

Early on, this caused friction for some players. However, the end result is that players can simply fund their gaming on slots or tables. (At the tables, players simply tap their cards or phone on a tablet to get chips.) There are now several choices to implement cashless gaming, and the process depends largely on the technology being used.

Educating players on cashless technology has taken many forms, from kiosks to signage to ambassadors roaming the floor. Some are doing this more effectively than others.

Take IGT’s system, Resort Wallet with IGTPay. Resort Wallet is the digital wallet from which players draw funds; IGTPay is the company’s proprietary external funding gateway. The system is part of IGT’s Advantage casino management system. The cashless setup has processed over 2 billion transactions since it was brought to the U.S. (IGT has deployed it internationally for 15 years.)

The IGT system has been deployed by Station Casinos since July 2021, and went live at Oklahoma’s Indigo Sky in July 2022.

Jacob Lanning, IGT senior director of business development, payments, says the casinos are easing the customer transition to cashless in several ways.

“The most important thing that they can do is to put up signage in and around the places where a customer could use that technology to spend,” he says. “Using Station as an example, they placed little stickers next to the bill validator on every single slot machine that supports the cashless solution across all of their six major properties.

“They put signage at the points that they can enroll. They do overhead signage as well across the floors. They have digital billboards out on the front of their property. From a signage perspective, they try and communicate it through as many different touchpoints as possible.”

Station, like Resorts World, is also using ambassadors. “These are people that are specifically trained in how the solution works, and the advantages and opportunities that players can have,” Lanning says. “They roam around the casino floors and talk to different players and tell them about the solution, and then walk them through the enrollment process, and get them onboarded.

“That’s been the most successful way of them getting players into the ecosystem—through the ambassador programs.”

One of the fastest-growing cashless programs is the one deployed by Penn Entertainment, which at this writing has converted 11 of its 37 properties to the cashless technology, deployed via Acres Manufacturing’s Casino Cashless all-in-one solution. According to Richard Primus, senior vice president and chief information officer for Penn Entertainment, the deployment will continue at a brisk pace.

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The physical look of cashless gaming will evolve... until it’s invisible
IGT Resort Wallet

“I believe cashless will be live in 21 of our 37 properties by the beginning of 2024,” Primus says, “and they’ll be a roadmap for 2024 to continue extending the footprint.”

Penn has developed an extensive program for educating players and for marketing the technology to foster adoption of cashless. “We work very closely with our property, operations and marketing teams as well as our friends in corporate marketing,” Primus says. “We build awareness campaigns prior to launch, during launch and post-launch to try to get a lot of good momentum with our customer base.

“And the key is raising that awareness, because you want them to try it several times. Once you get them to use it several times, then the adoption rates and the stickiness are considerably higher.”

Todd George, executive vice president, operations for Penn Entertainment, adds that Penn has been successful in creating trial by requiring cashless enrollment to “unlock” certain games. “If you want get on (certain) lower-denomination games, it will require cashless technology to get on that game, or if you want to play on some specific banks of slots, you’ll have to do it through cashless,” George says. “Again, it involves creating trial opportunities and unlocking experiences, and it’s been really well received on the floor.”

As far as the physical impact on the look of the floor, Primus says it is “negligible,” other than the look of the card reader. “The card reader looks a little different, but it also accepts the regular player’s card,” he says. “So, we’re not prohibiting anybody from using traditional methods.”

Instead of ambassadors, Penn is using an innovative alteration to its casino floor to help the technologically challenged to get enrolled. “We’ve established loyalty centers,” Primus says. “Think of it almost like an Apple Genius Bar, where we’ve got dedicated space on our floor with people who are very conversant in the technology to invite players in to come and have a high-touch experience of initial setup and enrollment. Or if somebody’s walking by and they become interested, they can go in and talk to somebody about the technology and the capabilities, and employees will walk them through in a much more one-on-one experience.”

Ambassadors also visit lines at TITO redemption kiosks and ATMs to educate players. “Once we started putting ambassadors in those lines and showing players how easy it was, that led to adoption,” George says.

Of course, savvy players don’t have to go to a kiosk or a loyalty center to enroll. “It’s 100 percent driven through our loyalty app,” says George. “The only way you can access our cashless technology is through our MyChoice loyalty app that we released earlier in 2021.” He says players with the loyalty app can scan their driver’s license on their smartphone to satisfy the physical ID requirement.

Agnostic Solution

Many of Penn’s properties use the Acres cashless solution in concert with the Everi CashClub Wallet technology. Everi’s system, in fact, interfaces with the technology of several different cashless solutions providers.

For Everi, the system-agnostic solution is a function of the fact the company already provides cash access services at some 750 casinos. “We’re not starting from scratch,” says Victor Newsom, senior vice president, product management and payment solutions for Everi. “We didn’t really reinvent the wheel; we already have the wheel.

“We have infrastructure already present across those floors for credit card, cash and debit card, check cashing and other financial services. So rather than say, ‘Here’s something new,’ we say, ‘Here’s a new transaction pipe on your existing infrastructure that you spent millions deploying and training, and which your customers already know.’”

So far Everi has completely deployed is CashClub Wallet solution at 20 properties, with a target of 60-80 properties by the end of next year, according to Newsom. “I’m working actively across roughly 20 different states right now with the regulators, explaining banking versus cashless wagering versus cashless wagering accounts, helping operators understand strategy.”

He says a few of those jurisdictions—such as the Tribal Gaming Agency, which regulates California’s Sky River Casino—have provisionally agreed to change their regulations to allow fully remote registration.

Newsom says Everi approaches cashless functionality as part of the omnichannel gaming journey. “If you’re doing it the right way, you’ve actually taken all of your assets and created an omnichannel journey where the patron can choose to enter or exit any segment of the journey through whatever channel they want.

“And gaming has historically not supported that. Gaming has said, there’s this regulated system that sits over here. I’m not going to let anything get into it or out of it easily. And then people that come in try to take an e-commerce approach and just bolt it on as a brand new thing.”

He says Everi recommends a different strategy. “Let them go to the kiosk. Let them go to the cage. That’s not where you want to drive them, but that should be a choice. Let them interact on a mobile phone, let them interact with a website. Let them go to the retail location and spend the cash. Or let them go to the game.”

He says 90 percent of patrons so far have chosen to go directly to the end point, the game, for the cashless experience. “But what is interesting is that 10 percent do not,” Newsom says. “They will go to a kiosk and get a TITO ticket because they like gaming with something tangible. Maybe it’s superstition, maybe it’s habit, but it is fact.”

2022 CASINO STYLE 27
“I believe cashless will be live in 21 of our 37 properties by the beginning of 2024, and they’ll be a roadmap for 2024 to continue extending the footprint.”
—Richard Primus, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Penn Entertainment
Everi CashClub Wallet technology

Making it Easy

For operators and solution providers, the end goal in implementing cashless is to make the experience as friction-free as possible.

“Marker Trax’s goal is to make access to cashless casino advances as convenient as possible to players,” says Anamarie Ellis, vice president of operations at Ellis Island Casino in Las Vegas and marketing executive for Marker Trax, the cashless marker system created by the casino. “With that, we utilize infrastructure that already exists on a casino floor—CMS and systems within the games, and mobile phones for players.”

—Anamarie Ellis, Vice President of Operations at Ellis Island Casino, Las Vegas and Marketing Executive, Marker Trax

That means cashless wagering using Marker Trax will be virtually invisible to the player, although in the end, it could change the design of casino floors.

“Our product would not take any more physical space on the floor outside of marketing,” Ellis says. “However, as the cashless movement evolves, foot traffic patterns may change (less moving around the floor to go to the cage, waiting in lines at an ATM), which could affect floor layout long term.”

“There are so many touchpoints throughout the casino to promote cashless,” notes Gina Lanphear, director of marketing for Flexia Payments. “However, the most effective opportunities to convert a customer to cashless wagering are the actual locations where the pain points exist in the casino environment—at the cashier, near ATMs and ticket kiosks, and at the slot machines. So, placing signage, digital media and helpful casino staff in these areas to show customers that a seamless, user-friendly cashless experience is as simple as scanning a QR code, registering online and downloading the Flexia Cashless App or the casino’s own in-app digital wallet is extremely effective.”

“While it may seem counterintuitive to try to bridge digital payments and the in-person casino floor, the growing popularization of cashless payments demands that casino operators account for novel payments options when setting up the casino floor,” adds Christopher Justice, president of Global Payments Gaming Solutions.

“With that said, casino operators must still think carefully about how they can blend the two effectively. Many patrons may be aware of cashless payment options but not fully understand how to use them. Casino operators can include educational resources that demonstrate to patrons how to use cashless payments at the casino and encourage them to do so.”

Global Payments increases cashless adoption through its VIP Preferred Concierge program, “a unique, in-person initiative designed to assist patrons in leveraging Global Payments’ industry-standard e-check network,” Justice says. “The VIP Preferred Concierge program has been successful not only in increasing cashless adoption but also in gaining valuable, firsthand feedback from VIP Preferred users.”

Cashless wagering, at least in U.S. casinos, is in its infancy, but as adoption grows, the industry will have a clearer picture of the best way to implement the solutions.

“As the adoption of cashless becomes universal, we’ll see longer game time, less lines and congestion at the cage and loyalty desks, and fewer (or no) ATMs and ticket kiosks,” says Flexia’s Lanphear. “Some of the changes will be invisible to the customer, such as behind-the-scenes reduction of space needed for bill counters, money handling and storage and security features. Combined, this will open space within the casino for new games, retail restaurants or even social areas.”

“The reality is that even getting cash today can be a challenge when you’re not in a casino,” notes Lanning at IGT. “It’s just not something most people carry around that much anymore. You have to make an active decision to get cash. And as the consumer uses less and less cash in their everyday lives and cash just becomes more difficult to get as we move to more of this digitized version of cash, I think players are just going to expect it, because it’s way more convenient than walking around with a pocket full of hundreds.”

“What we’re seeing now with cashless payments in gaming is very similar to the early days of TITO implementation,” comments Justice at Global Payments. “At first, only a few gaming institutions integrated TITO tickets, and its use was very experimental. It took some time for best practices to emerge

the early adopter phase evolved into mass adoption. Now, TITO tick-

28 CASINO STYLE 2022
before
ets are commonplace in nearly every casino in America. We are experiencing the same phenomenon with cashless payments.”
“As the cashless movement evolves, foot traffic patterns may change (less moving around the floor to go to the cage, waiting in lines at an ATM), which could affect floor layout long term.”
“There are so many touchpoints throughout the casino to promote cashless. However, the most effective opportunities to convert a customer to cashless wagering are the actual locations where the pain points exist in the casino environment—at the cashier, near ATMs and ticket kiosks, and at the slot machines.”
—Gina Lanphear, Director of Marketing, Flexia Payments

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Emotional Connection

Gaming industry architecture conveys mindset over money, emotion over finance. It’s a collage of beauty, vivid colors, visual splendor and the sizzle that sells the gaming steak.

Customers, welcome to your palace.

Some of world’s best companies build that portfolio for the casino industry. While they blend economic conditions and long-term forecasts into their planning, architects must also create the warmth patrons bask in.

Architects grasp the subliminal drive that shapes customer spending, and must hit that emotional sweet spot now more than ever. The online gaming market already encourages patrons to stay home. Brick-and-mortar properties must contain more than games. They must create reasons for people to come, park, walk, dine and socialize. The customer experience is crucial to loyalty retention.

All win probabilities may be created equal, but the tactile mixture of sense, from light to sound, touch and shapes, creates the emotional difference maker in the world’s gaming halls.

Casino projects reflect this thinking.

Membership Privileges

“An entertainment experience is all about emotion—basically about having fun and enjoying yourself in an extraordinary environment,” says Dike Bacon, principal at HBG Design. “For many casino patrons, the resort is their country club. It’s their escape. It’s what they do to have fun.

“I use the analogy of a golfer. Even in tough economic times, golfers will find the money to play golf because that’s what they like to do. Even in tough times, gamblers will find the money to gamble because that’s what they like to do.”

Gaming operators jockey to find an edge. They mirror the Field of Dreams concept from the famous movie: if you build it, they will come.

“Owners and operators are expanding with larger, more targeted and exceptional property developments and improvements,” Bacon indicates. “From small-scale renovations and incremental expansions to huge multi-faceted super-regional resort-level entertainment additions. There are also exciting expansions to existing jurisdictions like Illinois and New York and huge invest-

ments in new jurisdictions like Virginia.” Bacon hails the industry’s resilience. It faces headwinds regarding economics, the pandemic and oversaturation, but finds a way to emerge stronger.

“The industry seems to always be battling Chicken Little headwinds in some form or fashion, but always seems to just push through better than ever,” Bacon says. “Owners are currently molding and reshaping their expansions and renovations to accommodate changing economic conditions, but many regional gaming properties continue to ride a wave of success. In many markets, expanded facilities are creating entertainment experiences that often rival or eclipse what’s offered in Las Vegas. At HBG Design, we are working with great clients; we are busy; and we are doing great things.”

As for the environment HBG will build into, Bacon left G2E with a bullish forecast. The 2022 version was one of the most well-attended in recent years.

“G2E is often a distinct barometer of the health and breadth of the gaming industry,” he says. “If this year’s show was any indication, business conditions in the industry are very strong. The overall buzz was exception-

30 CASINO STYLE 2022
Architects and designers strive to create spaces which, in themselves, evoke emotional reactions
Architects grasp the subliminal drive that shapes customer spending, and must hit that emotional sweet spot now more than ever.

ally positive from virtually all sectors. Early reports show trade show attendance reaching or exceeding 25,000 people, which is approaching pre-Covid numbers.”

It’s been a banner year for HBG, according to Bacon. He broke down two examples:

• One of its largest projects is the $300 million Gun Lake Casino expansion for the Gun Lake Tribe in Wayland, Michigan. The project is located just south of Grand Rapids, which is only a few hours’ drive from Chicago and Detroit. Gun Lake owners have set their sights on creating the premier entertainment destination in the Midwest, Bacon says. It’s a true super-regional resort with an expansion program designed to drive traffic from those two major metropolitan areas. The new project will consist of a 252-room hotel tower, multiple support amenities, and a new climate-controlled atrium called the Aquadome.

“As amazing as its name, Gun Lake’s new sixstory, 32,000-square-foot Aquadome is a never-before-seen expansive glass-roofed, climate-controlled mixed-use landscaped pool and event center atrium environment,” Bacon indicates. “It’s a resort pool by day and a performance complex by night. The design implementation will stand out in the northern Midwest U.S. region for its uniqueness of form and year-round experience. The Aquadome

2022 CASINO STYLE 31
will
“In many markets, expanded facilities are creating entertainment experiences that often rival or eclipse what’s offered in Las Vegas. At HBG Design, we are working with great clients; we are busy; and we are doing great things.”
—Dike Bacon, Principal, HBG Design
The Aquadome at Gun Lake is a glass-roofed, climate-controlled indoor landscaped pool and event center atrium environment

have the ability to host 2,400-person events.”

The Aquadome’s dynamic sculpted glass roof struc ture is modeled by the sun’s daily path across the site, and reflects the dynamic sky in all four of Michigan’s vivid seasons. The multi-layered roof composition is designed for function and efficiency. The targeted high-performance glazing and the atrium’s space frame structure combine to create the distinguishing sloped oval shape that maximizes and filters natural light from solstice to solstice.

• Four Winds Casino Resorts has been in constant evolution across its New Buffalo, Michigan and South Bend, Indiana, properties for well over 10 years, including continuously reimagining and renovating amenities.

In 2022, HBG Design completed the new large-scale Four Winds Casino resort expansion at the South Bend, Indiana property. The expansion will be offering approachable luxury within a new 23-story, 317-key, 83-suite hotel tower and a mix of vibrant amenities, to include a spa, convention area, meeting space, a ballroom, lounge, bar & grill, an outdoor roof-top swimming pool, and terraces with spectacular views. The design will maintain the consistent brand experience guests have come to expect from all Four Winds Casino properties. The new casino expansion at South Bend opened in mid-2022.

Even at smaller gaming facilities, business is strong, Bacon asserts

The first-ever HBG-designed Rock & Brews Casino and Restaurant owned by Kaw Gaming opened for business in Braman, Oklahoma this year.

Co-branding with recognizable names from outside the casino industry to anchor key amenities is not a new concept, but is gaining more traction with tribally owned casinos as a means to broaden market appeal and greater name recognition from an expanding customer base, Bacon says

The 71,000-square-foot gaming project features an expertly curated interactive rock-inspired entertainment experience that only Rock & Brews—and its co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of iconic rock band KISS— can provide. The Rock & Brews brand and venues are noted for their heavy in tegration of rock ‘n’ roll imagery and iconography

Wow Is Now

“We help create emotions that encourage players to revisit a property by plan ning surprises,” says Luke Jumper, senior project manager for TBE Architects. “Our designers create ‘wow’ spaces throughout the property by paying atten tion to touchpoints, lighting, ambiance, and weaving elements of culture and heritage into the details. In many cases, this gives employees, owners and guests a feeling of familiar anticipation as they enter the property

“It’s like re-reading your favorite book,” he adds. “You know the story, but each reading reveals something new. Locals casinos are especially unique because there are branding opportunities that no other company or organization is either capable or qualified to share.”

Jumper says TBE has witnessed changes over the years regarding the elements used to design “wow” spaces. The early casinos in Indian Country fash ioned literal representations of basketry, nature scenes and tipis. Most modern designs have moved away from the literal representation into something more abstract

“Consider, for instance, the new We-Ko-Pa Casino’s garden court atrium,” he says. “To the average casino or conference guest, this may simply feel like a beautiful space with some tribal references, but to members of the Fort Mc-

Dowell Yavapai Nation, this space tells the story of their people, emphasizing the importance of Montezuma’s Well, life-sustaining rain, and sacred symbols that have been tastefully abstracted.

“While manner and means in which a story is told has changed, the importance of telling a story has remained constant.”

Jumper says the post-Covid market has impressed upon people the importance of physical interaction. Society as a whole has made it clear that people want to experience “life” together, no matter how advanced technology has become.

“The gaming industry is no different,” he contends. “Players are looking for quality, fresh and new experiences in the casino. Dynamic approaches to design will bring people back throughout the week to locals casinos.

“TBE eliminates ‘dark spaces’ by designing multi-purpose rooms, such as restaurants that can be converted into a private venue, a Super Bowl party or a player’s event. The point of architecture, especially hospitality, is to provide the pallet from which the operators, chefs and staff can all work together, giving them as much flexibility to create a masterpiece of service for their guests.”

Clients are asking TBE to incorporate innovations that reflect recent changes in sports legislation and the attitude toward fitness and health.

“This could look like remote betting terminals in the fitness centers, so it becomes a mini sportsbook, or offering more healthy options in the restaurants,” he says. “There’s been huge success with local farm-to-fork, confirming the need for fresh alternatives. Our clients are asking, and the more alternatives we can offer the better. This gets back to the flexibility of the building. Are we dedicating the space to just a passing fad, or do we have the ability of a multi-use of space?”

A perfect example is The Stage at Quil Ceda Creek Casino, he says. The operator has internal divider options creating flexibility for this space to work

32 CASINO STYLE 2022
We-Ko-Pa
Resort
The first-ever HBG-designed Rock & Brews Casino and Restaurant owned by Kaw Gaming opened for business in Braman, Oklahoma this year
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as a floor bar, a lounge bar, sports bar, and ultimately an entertainment venue with overflow space that is shared with the restaurant.

Jumper considers 2022 a retooling year for TBE. It has done significant background work for major clients that include Jacobs Entertainment in Reno and Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana in Kinder. In some cases, it has been 20 years or more since areas within these properties have received a refresh, and they now require a much more extensive overhaul.

Jumper sees a couple of innovations that can become difference-makers. One comes from phones.

“We’ve seen tribes like Sycuan that has a very sophisticated app allowing one to be at their machine and hold a place in line at a food venue,” he says. “This technology is wrought with possibilities including the ability of betting at the blackjack table while tending to your family’s needs in another part of the venue. The idea of expanding gaming throughout the property, not just on the floor, is what’s going to revolutionize the business.”

Jumper says TBE has noticed some demographics changes. More women and players 25-50 years old mark the sports-betting landscape.

He adds a word of caution.

“The industry needs to resist the attempts by sportsbook companies to proliferate the gaming kiosks,” Jumper says. “We need to encourage people who have made the infrastructure investment to keep that gaming piece for themselves. Unfortunately, states get greedy and pass legislation that waters down the market. There is a charge to protect the market, the rights, and the investment that bricks-and-mortar facilities have.”

Something for Everyone

SOSH Architects offers a varied perspective of the concept.

The overall gaming-design sector is a strong one, according to John DeRichie, AIA, principal at SOSH. “SOSH Architects has seen a boom in the casino gaming and hospitality industry in 2022,” he says.

“As gaming operators continue to look for new opportunities in other locales while staying focused on capital improvement projects within existing properties, we have been fortunate enough to guide and assist our clients in creating new visions for their brand and their patrons.”

Arley Sochocky, the company’s interior design studio manager, will second that emotion. She cites subtle, yet significant factors that blend into the big picture.

“With each new design project, we are tasked with creating more than just an aesthetically pleasing space,” Sochocky indicates. “We’re creating an

experience that encompasses a sense of energy, excitement and movement. The experience itself evokes human emotions that are unique to an individual’s personal filter—connecting past experiences with the present environment through the senses.”

Sochocky believes that taking emotion into account is integral to the design process when creating an experiential space. The colors, patterns and lighting used can evoke different feelings. While one guest might prefer a calming energy at a low-key VIP lounge with low lighting, warm wood tones, and lush textures, another guest might prefer the high-energy excitement of the casino floor or nightclub with color-changing lighting, LED screens, and sleek metal surfaces.

That has been put into practice in the post-pandemic world, Sochocky asserts.

“We have noticed that the consumer is re-evaluating what’s important to them,” she says. “After having limited experiences outside the home, people are now longing for truly immersive experiences with a focus on self-care in relaxation, fun, and connection. This has been reflected in our recent projects. A few years ago, we were designing hospitality spaces with ample room for a smaller number of guests.

“Now we are including communal tables, cozy bars, and lounge areas to promote conversation and connection with friends and other guests.”

Michael Mangini, the director of interior design for SOSH, believes it’s best not to chase trends or predictions.

“Great design enhances and amplifies the human experience,” he says. “What we can say with conviction is that people want to feel connected and celebrate what it is to be human. With design, we author a narrative that helps ignite a spark of emotions.

“Technology is driving innovation, and how designers and architects embrace and reinterpret it in creative ways pushes forward design,” he adds. “We see this expressed in many aspects of design and architecture, from how we design to the innovative building materials used to the user/patron experience.”

Mangini notes that technological innovation occurs so rapidly that the lives of people from one generation to the next may be radically different.What is constant, however, is the passion of the human experience.

And so, the labor of love continues in this industry.

Architects serving the gaming industry view a project as more than a job. It is a creative outlet, a challenge to their exceptional skills. They want to provide something that is more than structurally sound. They want it to structurally sing.

34 CASINO STYLE 2022
“Players are looking for quality, fresh and new experiences in the casino. Dynamic approaches to design will bring people back throughout the week to locals casinos.”
—Luke Jumper, Senior Project Manager, TBE Architects
“As gaming operators continue to look for new opportunities in other locales while staying focused on capital improvement projects within existing properties, we have been fortunate enough to guide and assist our clients in creating new visions for their brand and their patrons.”
—John DeRichie, AIA, Principal, SOSH Architects

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Science Art

The ever-evolving challenge of the modern casino floor

Since time immemorial, businesses everywhere have spent innumerable hours trying to find ways to do more with less, especially in terms of maximizing return for a finite amount of square footage. For casino operators, the process of laying out an efficient and aesthetically pleasing gaming floor is one that has evolved alongside product design and advancements in technology, and there’s never one right answer. It’s sort of like playing golf or horseshoes—you’ll never achieve perfection; you just hope to do a little better over time, consistently.

Like most processes, the best floor layouts are the result of a combination of data and touch, a mingling of facts and feel. It’s a craft that takes years of experience and trial and error to properly understand. This is especially true in today’s industry, where tried-and-true concepts of supply and demand go hand-in-hand with New Age game designs and statistical models.

Casino amenities have certainly expanded and improved immensely over the years, but the gaming floor remains the heart of any property, the primary revenue driver. As such, the people tasked with arranging the floor have a crucial role to play in the success of a casino, even if their work is often nameless and behind the scenes. To some extent, this is true for suppliers as well, because if guests don’t like the way their games look or play, it doesn’t really matter where they’re located.

With that in mind, what does the ideal casino floor look like in 2022? It’s hard to say definitively, but two things are true above all: the strategies and outcomes are different than they were, say, in 1992, and they will undoubtedly change several more times come 2052.

A Gradual Evolution

In order to understand today’s practices, one must first revisit the ways of the past. After all, change usually doesn’t come quickly to the casino industry, and for many years it wasn’t necessary—markets weren’t nearly as saturated, and therefore there wasn’t much science to placing products. If operators had space, they filled it with machines and didn’t really think twice about it.

Well-performing machines were the ones being played; what else could they be?

Buddy Frank spent decades decoding the layout puzzle, overseeing slot operations for both commercial and tribal properties, including the Eldorado and Atlantis in Reno as well as California’s Viejas and Pechanga casinos. He now serves as a consultant through his BF Slot Strategies firm.

When he started in the industry, gaming floors “were just row after row after row, all straight rows” of machines, sometimes as many as “30, 40 machines along.” Even after tribal casinos started to pop up in the early-to-mid ’90s, this was still the case. However, once operators truly started to feel the pressure of competition, it became a race to keep players on-site, one that is still being fought today. The innovative operators, as Frank explains, started to incorporate sales principles from other industries.

“It was kind of a supply and demand thing,” says Frank. “The supply was very small, the demand was high. So the secret to success was the more slot machines, the better. And it worked well. As the markets matured everywhere—Nevada had matured first—people evolved in looking at basic principles of marketing that apply in anything else.

“I used to use models of grocery stores, where they’d put loss leaders in the back, so you’d have to walk through everything. The milk, eggs and bread are always in the back. That was one principle some people started to do. The other one, not everyone did this, but a few, modeled it after department stores—I would go into women’s fashion areas and they’d have all these little rounds and make you wander between these rounds to look at the dresses.”

Frank says that in a lot of cases, machine counts have been cut nearly in half from their peak numbers, which has presented both challenges and op-

36 CASINO STYLE 2022

portunities for operators to try new configurations that can produce similar or better returns. Fewer machines means more space, which leads to a more dynamic floor with more foot traffic. As operators started to experiment with this additional room, Frank notes, “they introduced a lot of confusion—and you ask, ‘why would you want to confuse your customer?’ Well, it’s also a sense of exploration.” It’s a delicate balance between curiosity and inconvenience, but the best performers can find ways to “confuse (guests) just enough to give them a sense of wonder.” The vast majority of today’s floors are a colorful embodiment of this concept, compared to the rigid, almost gloomy casinos of days past.

In addition to other properties, casinos have also found themselves in a position where they’re competing internally, in the sense that they now offer a full range of amenities that inevitably pull guests away from the gaming floor. Mark Birtha, president of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento, has seen this evolution unfold over the past 30 years, both in Las Vegas and beyond.

“What you were seeing with the floor layouts was people started to really think more as they started to see the revenue opportunity of all the non-gaming amenities, whether it was conventions or nightclubs or restaurants, entertainment—clearly most properties were still having those amenities sort of layered in around the floor, with the floor being the core of the building,” says Birtha. “You started to see people thinking more about the fact that whether it was hotel rooms or spas or restaurants, conventions, et cetera, there were clearly other ways to drive revenue in other customers to attract the marketplace.”

Birtha says that gradually, operators began to realize that floor layouts should work in tandem with outside amenities, and in order to do so, they had to move away from previous models, which favored “very dense floors” with “darker spaces and more compact areas.” Now that operators have evolved from the “mousetrap mentality” that was commonplace for many years, gaming floors “have opened up, in some cases become smaller, with circulation and visibility and openness and airiness,” allowing for a more comprehensive experience—after all, the name “integrated resort” is more literal than most may think.

Bright, Shiny and Big

Of course, floor designs are also somewhat dependent on the machines themselves, which have evolved to the point where they are almost unrecognizable from the games our grandparents played. The refrigerator-like, angular machines of old are now bulbous displays of visual technology, with high-definition monitors, touch features and cashless interfaces. Games are

more complex and chock-full of bonuses and free spins and whatever else studios can come up with to differentiate themselves among floors where everyone stands out. Not only that, but new genres such as electronic table games (ETGs) and historical horse racing (HHR) have only expanded the number of possibilities for operators looking to diversify and streamline their layouts.

Of all game suppliers, perhaps none are more in tune with the design and layout processes than Interblock. As the market leaders for ETGs and related technology, the company makes some big games, the kind that require some brainstorming on behalf of property owners in order to fit them into the optimal space. Interblock Global CEO John Connelly says that over the years, his team has become elite at navigating layout and installation hiccups, which are crucial when it comes to scale of the company’s product setups, some of which are over 50 feet wide.

“We do our best to identify the optimal location in each casino, depending on the product, meaning not every product goes in the same location,” Connelly says. “Sometimes they go in different areas of casinos, but I believe we take more time identifying the optimal area on a casino floor to place our product than any other supplier in the world. And we do that with intent, meaning we have learned that an electronic table game player and where they prefer to spend their time versus a traditional table game player, a slot player, a bingo player, a keno player, poker player, is emphatically different. And for that reason, we spend more time upfront in the sales process than perhaps any other company we’re aware of.”

The company’s Stadium setups are perhaps the most complex across the entire industry, which can be scaled up or down depending on how much room operators have to work with. According to Connelly, the success of the product line has allowed Interblock to “build an infrastructure that is dedicated to Stadium installations,” which is composed of “experts that know best practices, what to ask, how to help our customers prepare and organize themselves to do an installation.” In the past, this back-and-forth could take as long as four months, but that has been whittled down to under eight weeks for most cases.

Now that machines across the industry are becoming larger and flashier, all operators have had to adjust their practices, whether they be commercial, tribal or international. Birtha explains that as “technology has continued to advance,” the games “have become far more sophisticated and interactive and playful.” When he first came into the industry, nobody thought “there would ever be any focus on the box itself that the game sits on,” but now that today’s cabinets are defined by “curvature and comfort and ease of use,” it’s inspired property owners to place games further apart, to allow

2022 CASINO STYLE 37
Interblock’s Stadium Blackjack at the Venetian
“I believe we take more time identifying the optimal area on a casino floor to place our product than any other supplier in the world.”
—John Connelly, Global CEO, Interblock

guests to enjoy this interactive experience more comfortably.

According to Frank, bigger, flashier machines may make for a better guest experience, but if operators aren’t careful, they can go too far and cause a sort of sensory overload, especially for those trying to navigate from one end of the floor to the other.

“Now these bigger machines are blocking sightlines and giving some attractions,” Frank says. “Remember I mentioned the milk and the eggs in the back of the store? Well, what if you put a giant, flashy Wheel of Fortune in an otherwise boring casino and put it in the back of the store? It attracts people like moss to a light. So those kinds of machines create visual distractions on the floor or visual attractions that attract people. The problem is now everyone does it. Now almost every machine is becoming like that, and it presents a whole new challenge to us on how to lay out our floor, because you have to be careful about sightlines that work.”

Mastering the Data

Customer expectations and game design may have changed immensely over the years, but the technology and analytics on the back end have completely revolutionized the way operators go about arranging their floors. In today’s industry, it seems as though all roads lead back to data, and in many cases, the numbers win out in the end.

Machine and player performance are now the primary decision-makers when it comes to location and layout, and those who have rejected the technology have largely been left behind. The decisions that were once made by feel or instinct are now calculated—the positioning of each game has become chess on a grander, flashier scale, for the sake of peak efficiency and profit.

As Birtha says, “Everything is driven by analytics, and that’s really where the industry has evolved to.” Because of this, floors have become a lot more dynamic, as operators are “constantly moving games around, converting them, changing the banks, adding progressives, taking games off the floor, reusing

space.” Due to the fact that companies now have the ability to track just about every transaction that takes place across the entire floor, well-performing machines are easier to identify, which “really allows us to reinvest into these customers cost-effectively, but also based on their preferences.”

Even suppliers like Interblock have jumped head-first into data collection, because it gives them a much better idea as to who is playing their games and why.

“We’ve begun doing much more analytics and data mining to try to understand who’s playing electronic table games around the world, and the various demographics,” says Connelly. “Fast-forward to today, we’ve learned infinitely more, and I use the word infinitely with intention, because the delta between where we were and where we are today is almost so great. It’s hard to explain. We continue to grow upon that on a daily and weekly basis.”

It’s become commonplace for operators to consult with heat maps and other data visualization models to see where and when traffic is highest for a particular machine or group of machines. However, slot directors have also learned that there’s a limit to what screens and numbers may tell you; at a certain point you also have to understand the human element of casinos, which takes time and experience. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference, details that data could never point out—what if, for example, the casino is in a cold climate, and nobody wants to sit at the machines closest to the door? Or perhaps you move your best machine right underneath a light fixture, and now no one can see the screen because of an awful glare.

As Frank points out, “In the old days it was totally shifted way too much to what you see and what you feel and not enough analytics. And today maybe a hair too much analytics.” The answer, then, lies somewhere in the middle, with equal parts art and science.

“You have to look at the analytics to understand machines like that because your gut feeling may say it isn’t productive. But when you look at the analytics it is. So those are critical to know. And I find an awful lot of colleagues who don’t use analytics make a lot of bad mistakes. Now, I’ll give you the other side of it—you can’t use analytics alone… You look at your analytics, it says a machine’s doing terrible, but you go down on the floor and look and you see that, my God, there’s a horrible glare coming off the screen from bad lighting. There’s a leak in the ceiling. The band always plays in it so loud they can’t hear.

“So it needs to be a nice healthy balance between good analytics and some old-fashioned shoe leather and talking to guests on the floor.”

38 CASINO STYLE 2022
“Everything is driven by analytics, and that’s really where the industry has evolved to.”
—Mark Birtha, President, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento
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DON’T

Bridging the Skills Gap

Casinos are a laboratory of interior design, architecture, and operations. These disciplines allow us the opportunity to thrill and excite our customers while pushing the boundaries of what is possible with design. But living at the forefront of innovation requires project management skill, design talent, and purchasing expertise.

Over the last several years, I have seen a growing skills gap in the industry as talented professionals leave the industry either because of age or economic turmoil. Those design and construction professionals who had grown into leadership left the gaming industry and took with them the institutional knowledge that smoothed the friction inherent in complex project deliveries.

This left junior-level staff stuck having to reinvent the project management tools, design documentation, and purchasing processes while projects were being completed. That inexperience costs everyone time and money. From a purchasing perspective, what types of questions should owners be asking of their consultants to mitigate the risks associated with the skills gap in the industry?

These may seem like simple questions, but they are important.

Question 1. Does everyone know the schedule?

Whether the project is a repositioning of a single restaurant or the construction of an entire integrated entertainment resort, making sure that everyone on the team understands when the project must be finished is the most important first step. Working in the gaming industry is a race against the clock more than any other type of project. Given what we have all gone through in the last two years, project schedules need to be reviewed with realistic expectations.

Setting those expectations starts with the owner’s project manager. Experienced project managers know how to move the project pieces around to maximize the efficiency of a project team and continue to push it forward. The owner’s project manager asks questions like, “How long

does it take for the design documents and specifications be complete?.” “What are the contractor’s critical dates?” “What is the operator’s burn in duration?” “What types of products are specified and how long does it take to make those products?”

Experienced project managers rely on the contractors, designers, operators, and purchasing agents to provide the answers and then build the completion schedule using that information early in the project.

Question 2. Does everyone know the budget?

Gaming budgets tend to be larger than other types of project budgets, but there are still limits. Working to deliver great design within the budget constraints requires collaboration and creativity. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented designers, architects, contractors and owner’s project managers in the gaming industry, and have seen firsthand how the type of close collaboration within known budget constraints delivers timeless, excellent design. With a clear understanding of their budget, designers can spend their time and effort focused on exactly where an owner wants to put the “WOW!” into a design. As a project progresses, project managers, contractors and purchasing agents can accurately track how much leeway they have to deal with the surprises that pop up during a project without going over budget.

Question 3. Has everyone read and agreed with scope and division of responsibilities?

As an owner assembling a project team, making sure that everyone understands the scope and responsibilities expected of each consultant on the team sets their project up for success. A differentiation document is a useful tool to clarify those expectations, streamline communication, and establish a baseline for the project delivery roles. When working with teams that may not have a long history in the gaming industry, spending the time to go through every aspect of a project is a

way to fill the skills gap within a project team.

Instead of reinventing a way to document design, deliver specifications, source product, purchase product, and install the project, owners should leverage the collective experience of the members of the team that have more experience to bolster those consultants that have less gaming experience. To effectively accomplish this, an owner needs to assem-

ble the project consultant teams early and start having meaningful discussions about the schedule, budget, and scope of responsibilities.

We can help bridge the skills gap if projects are started on the right foot and the right questions asked of everyone on the project team. I had lunch recently with the design and construction leader of one of the largest gaming companies in the world and we talked about how the skills gap was affecting our projects. It surprised us both that more people didn’t understand the wide-ranging career possibilities in the casino design construction industry.

To bridge that gap, the veterans of gaming projects need to work together to mentor rising talent and identify ways to bring new people into the industry. In an industry as exciting as casino design and construction, bridging the current skills gap is necessary to continue to be the leaders in design and construction innovation, and it will set us all up for a long run of future success.

Carl Long is senior vice president of Purchasing Management International, the gaming industry’s leading FF&E and OS&E procurement company. He has served as the president of the International Society of Hospitality Purchasers and regularly speaks on topics related to global sourcing, procurement and gaming projects.

40 CASINO STYLE 2022
How to keep your team up to speed and knowledgeable about any project
“Experienced project managers rely on the contractors, designers, operators, and purchasing agents to provide the answers and then build the completion schedule using that information early in the project.”

More

just a

resource guide, Tribal Government Gaming features editorial coverage of cutting-edge issues such as tribal sovereignty, Indian gaming regulation, economic diversification, nationbuilding, compacts and more.

Tribal Government Gaming reaches key decisionmakers in the Indian gaming and traditional casino industries, including operators, regulators, manufacturers and vendors.

Tribal Government Gaming is a highly visible publication with a circulation of 20,000, including bonus distribution at NIGA in March 2023, OIGA in August 2023, G2E in October 2023 and other appropriate trade shows and conferences.

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HBG DESIGN

Designing Meaningful, Transformative Entertainment Experiences

HBG Design’s team of 100 architects, interior designers and support professionals in Memphis, Tennessee, San Diego, California and Dallas, Texas have helped establish the firm as a premier provider of professional services in the commercial and Indian gaming industries.

The firm has designed more than 30,000 resort and hotel rooms and more than 35 million square feet of gaming, entertainment, hotel, food and beverage, spa, event/conference and retail space in the last two decades alone. HBG Design is consistently recognized as a Top 5 Casino Design firm and a Top 10 Hotel Design firm by Building Design & Construction and Hotel Business magazines.

Designing in the hospitality and entertainment sector creates distinctive opportunities to connect hotel and resort guests with meaningful experiences, giving greater purpose in an increasingly competitive market sector. HBG Design is currently designing the highly anticipated sixstory Aquadome at Gun Lake Casino in Wayland, Michigan, to meet demand by the surrounding super-regional gaming resort market. The Aquadome will be a glassroofed, climate-controlled indoor multi-functional pool and event center atrium environment—a concept and implementation that will stand out in the region for its uniqueness of form and experience.

HBG also designed the first-ever Rock & Brews Casino, now open in Braman, Oklahoma. The notable project introduces a distinctive “agrarian-industrial” design fitting the rural locale, plus an expertly curated rock ‘n’ roll entertainment experience that only Rock & Brews—and its co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of the iconic rock band KISS—could provide.

HBG eagerly anticipates the 2023 openings of the 23-story, 317key, 83-suite hotel tower at Four Winds Casino Resort in South Bend, Indiana; and the 105,000square-foot Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville, California.

For more information, visit hbg.design.

42 CASINO STYLE 2022 STYLE SPOTLIGHT
STYLE

GARY PLATT MANUFACTURING

Incredible Comfort for the Hospitality Industry

If hospitality is about making people comfortable, why aren’t hospitality chairs more comfortable?

Gary Platt Manufacturing created the new Gary Platt Hospitality line to finally provide the hospitality industry with the pillow-soft comfort it has been craving.

The unsurpassed comfort comes from Gary Platt’s exclusive cold-cured foam, which provides for a luxuriously soft sitting experience. The foam process ensures consistency in the shape, density and quality, and it is highly elastic, so it retains its firmness even after years of use. Additionally, there is a 10-year guarantee for the foam to not bottom out.

The Gary Platt Hospitality line features more than 100 different chairs for a wide variety of spaces, including banquet/convention, bars, dining and offices. Beyond function, Gary Platt Hospitality chairs are highly customizable, from seat to back shape, leg design and color, fabrication and materials.

Two featured products in the Gary Platt Hospitality line are

CUNINGHAM

Creative, Cutting-Edge, Profitable Design

Cuningham’s award-winning gaming resort designs are creative, cutting-edge and profitable. Ranked No. 4 for the past two years on Building Design and Construction’s Top Casino Design Firms list, Cuningham is proud of its long-term, successful relationships with clients worldwide. These include sovereign nations across North America and notable gaming and entertainment industry leaders such as MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Caesars Entertainment, Universal Studios, Cedar Fair and Walt Disney Imagineering.

Taking delight in turning clients’ visions to reality through the design process, Cuningham recently brought to life the new Hell’s Kitchen restaurant at the Rincon Tribe’s Harrah’s Southern California Resort in Funner, California. Working with both the tribe and multi-Michelin-starred chef and television personality Gordon Ramsay’s team on the new concept restaurant—the largest Hell’s Kitchen location to date—allowed Cuningham to create a truly exceptional dining experience. Fully booked before its first official day of business, Hell’s Kitchen guests find a full-service restaurant with an elegant bar, exhibition kitchen, plush lounge, selfie-worthy wine tunnel, Gordon Ramsay hologram and an entry flame feature.

Cuningham also is working on several exciting gaming resort projects in Las Vegas, including the design of a premium gaming space at the Palazzo with a bar and lounge, retail and back-of-house areas, as well as the renovation and expansion of the STRIPSTEAK Restaurant at the Mandalay Bay Casino. Additionally, Cuningham recently was chosen as the designer for the interior renovation and conversion of a historic building in Deadwood, South Dakota into the Landmark Casino.

Cuningham actively works with sovereign nations to create new gaming, sportsbook, hospitality, destination entertainment, water park and back-of-house support spaces. Clients include the Colusa Tribe, Ione Band of Miwok Indians, Mechoopda Indian Tribe, Spokane Tribe, Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi-Yokut Tribe and Rincon Tribe. For more information, visit cuningham.com.

the Forum banquet/convention chair and the Pesaro dining chair.

The Forum banquet-style chair is designed for heavy and flexible use that a banquet/convention space demands, meaning it is stackable, portable, durable and has the added benefit of being comfortable because of Gary Platt’s foam.

The Pesaro dining chair comes in traditional table height as well as bar height. Additionally, both table and bar styles are available with or without arms.

The Forum, the Pesaro and all chairs in the Sierra Nevada Hospitality line are handcrafted to each client’s exact specifications.

For information, visit garyplatt.com/hospitality.

2022 CASINO STYLE 43

SIGNATURE SYSTEMS INC. Striving To Enhance Clients’ Valued Brands

For more than 35 years, Signature Systems Inc. (SSI), an agile, forward-thinking, award-winning technology solutions innovator, has been providing leading-edge, point-of-sale (POS) products and services to its ever-growing customer base. This includes Cordish Gaming, Parx Casino, Ocean Resort & Casino, an array of tribal casinos and Jimmy John’s, an acclaimed nationwide gourmet sandwich franchise with over 2,700 units.

With an all-in-one solution set that’s focused on casino-based restaurants/retail of all sizes and concepts, SSI leverages all-in-house domestic development to provide custom, fast-cycle deliverables and seamless, value-added API-based integrations, regardless of scope or complexity. While its philosophy of all-in accountability ensures hassle-free, end-to-end issue resolution and reliability on a holistic level, SSI’s acclaimed 24x7x365 live, domestic help desk offers exemplary support whenever needed.

SSI’s holistic guest-enhancing products and services include all-environment

cashless functionality, secure all-in-one and mobile POS, an array of self-serve kiosks with multiple tenders, complete menu management, natively integrated kitchen display systems, natively integrated enterprise reporting with a mobile app, natively integrated online ordering, data/cybersecurity with testing and remediation and much more.

Winners of the prestigious 2022 Gaming & Leisure Innovation Award, SSI is proudly disrupting the casino industry with transparency, enhanced bi-directional communication, determined resolve and a “yes, we can” attitude that yields meaningful and measurable results.

When it comes to an innovative, proven and trusted technology partner for all F&B needs, rely on SSI’s abilities and depend on its solutions, as the company continuously strives to uphold and enhance its clients’ most important asset: their valued brand.

Learn more at SSIpos.com or call Mike Nardi, senior casino business development executive, at 609-457-4646.

Transforming Clients’ Visions Into Great Design

R2Architects LLC (R2A) is a nationally recognized architectural, interior design and planning firm based in Voorhees, New Jersey for more than 25 years. The firm provides exceptional design services across the U.S. to the hospitality, gaming and racing industries.

R2A is proud to have continuing and long-lasting working relationships with many of the premier names in the industry. Along with its affiliated company, R2Interiors LLC (R2I), the firm is an energetic and creative collaboration of multicultural individuals’ rich design experience and deep professional experience. R2A and R2I produce signature projects for each client that complement their business plan and respects their design aesthetic, their schedule and their bottom line. The DNA of the company’s work is unique and specific to its clients, who are the source of the design inspiration, regardless of the scope or scale of the project. R2A and R2I innovate, create and transform clients’ visions into great design.

R2A and R2I believe in providing uncompromising service based on establishing and maintaining a close working relationship with everyone. The team listens to clients’ needs and responds to their requests. The company’s efforts and resources are dedicated to providing exciting and dynamic designs that meet clients’ schedules while respecting their budget.

R2A’s commitment to these principles allows it to deliver personalized service along with all the necessary effort, experience and accomplishments to produce highly acclaimed projects. The firm’s principals David J. Rudzenski and John P. Ruiz lead the projects’ design seamlessly between the disciplines of planning, architecture, interior design and graphic design. Along with senior designers, project architects, interior designers and a team of highly dedicated

technical staff, this leadership team effectively manages projects that consistently exceed clients’ expectations.

R2A and R2I encourage each client to consider their projects to be designed and constructed responsibly and environmentally friendly. The company recommends building systems that rely on proven track records of reducing energy and resource consumption, using recycled materials whenever possible that offer a proven track record for durability, great performance and exceptional cost value.

For more information, visit r2architects.com.

44 CASINO STYLE 2022 STYLE SPOTLIGHT
R2ARCHITECTS
R2Archtect Principals David J. Rudzenski and John P. Ruiz

SOSH Architects The Rewards of Quality Design

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 40 design professionals and support staff engaged in the execution of master planning, architecture and interior design commissions worldwide.

SOSH’s philosophy drives a design process that values exploration, visualization and the contributions of multiple voices to deliver the best design solutions that are the result of thoughtful collaboration and creative analysis.

Headquartered in Atlantic City, New Jersey, SOSH handles every aspect of hotel and casino design, from small, intimate VIP lounges and retail spaces to expansive casino floor renovations and new tower and resort construction. Each project has its own unique set of design opportunities and technical requirements, which SOSH addresses to meet clients’ needs and stay ahead of market trends.

SOSH continues to play a pivotal role in the successful launch of exciting new and expanded sports betting venues as their success and popularity con-

ANC

Breathtaking Media Design, Bold Technology

ANC is a digital media design and technology integration company that creates iconic destination experiences using audio, video, display and custom control solutions.

WinStar World Casino turned to ANC to get on par with the thrill and energy of Las Vegas and transform their new full-service Cowboys Bar and Grill. ANC integrated a variety of video displays with LED and LCD displays, with flexible multi-game live video layouts simultaneously showing live game statistics. Operated by ANC’s award-winning LiveSync operating system, realtime content is seamlessly synchronized, providing WinStar World Casino the ability to push relevant casino information and advertising throughout the footprint of the venue beyond premium hospitality spaces.

ANC’s 25-plus years of technology expertise includes spearheading the design of high-profile projects such as custom media deployments for NBCUniversal Media; record-breaking installations at the Westfield World Trade Center in New York City; signature deployments for Empire State Development’s Moynihan Train Hall; JP Morgan Chase’s Flagship Branch; Pier 17 and Tin Building in New York City’s Seaport District; and Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, featuring the first-ever Kinetic 4K Center hung in a completely integrated IPTV and digital signage network.

ANC also provides digital signage and control systems for large sports and

tinue to gain momentum. The team also remains committed to delivering innovative design solutions for resort renovations and new amenities as clients continue to evolve their businesses after the global pandemic. The firm’s current hospitality and gaming projects include work with high-profile clients such as Hard Rock International, Bally’s Corporation, Caesars Entertainment, Ocean Casino Resort, Evolution Gaming and DraftKings.

While hospitality-based work is a substantial aspect of its business, SOSH also is engaged in a variety of project types around the globe.

To learn more, visit sosharch.com.

entertainment venues, colleges and universities across the U.S.

The company’s unique approach includes a turnkey service for its partners, including comprehensive design, product procurement, installation and ongoing operations, including content creation. Partners look to ANC at different stages of the process based on their needs to bring an experiential environment to life.

To learn how ANC can create unforgettable casino experiences, visit ANC.com.

2022 CASINO STYLE 45

TBE ARCHITECTS

All Hospitality, All the Time

Thalden Boyd Architects LLC (TBE) is a Native American-owned firm that is honored to have worked with 121 tribes and First Nations. With deep roots of service in Indian Country, TBE believes the best designs must not only look amazing and function flawlessly, but also serve to strengthen tribal sovereignty with a return on investment that supports financial and economic independence.

TBE’s principal owners attribute their success and prosperity to authentic client and consultant relationships and the ability to pivot with ever-changing industry demands. They provide full architectural services, including master planning, architectural designs, branding development and interior design. The entire unified team works together to provide fresh, exciting, appropriately branded, fully functional designs and has a reputation for delivering on time and on budget.

Each masterfully designed casino and hotel is curated to reflect the needs of diverse clients and their unique demands. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Accordingly, every brick is intentional and every carpet and wall covering reflects detail and thought.

TBE has designed over 300 casino projects and 400 hotel projects, and in doing so they’ve created “living spaces” where memories are made, history is told,

VAASK

Keep the House Healthy

Keep the house full and healthy with Vaask’s touchless hand sanitizing fixture. Hands play a big role in casinos, and keeping them clean is more important than ever.

A better clean for less

Keeping hand sanitizer dispensers full and operational doesn’t have to break the bank. Vaask takes hand hygiene in a new direction, saving customers thousands of dollars each month.

Customers are not locked into buying proprietary sanitizer refills since fixtures can be refilled with any sanitizer gel. Freedom to buy in bulk results in average monthly savings of 45 percent to 65 percent.

The refillable cartridge means every drop of sanitizer gel can be used instead of getting tossed in the trash before the container is completely empty.

Less maintenance

Casino operators will appreciate how Vaask simplifies maintenance routines. The following features help the savings add up:

• No batteries: AC power or Power over Ethernet (PoE)

• Central dashboard: Monitor all units and plan refills in Vaask’s app or online

• Fewer refills: Vaask holds up to twice the sanitizer of typical dispensers

• Built to last: Made of cast aluminum and backed by five-year warranty

relationships are formed and communities are strengthened.

Consider, for example, the garden court atrium at We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort in Fort McDowell, Arizona—a neutral space filled with vibrant abstractions of culturally significant symbols. TBE’s design team offers limitless possibilities.

TBE Architects is proud to be an active associate member of the Indian Gaming Association, the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association and the Washington Indian Gaming Association.

For more information, visit TBEarchitects.com, email architects@TBEarc.com or call 314-727-7000.

Match the look of any space

Faceplates are fully customizable to complement any decor:

• Infinite color matching available

• Choose from a variety of real metal finishes

• Options for logos or graphics on the front plate

• Replicate wood or marble textures

Vaask elevates hand hygiene to a level of sophistication that enhances guests’ casino experience and saves money.

For more information, visit vaask.com.

46 CASINO STYLE 2022 STYLE SPOTLIGHT

Master Planning 101

It sounds like an easy question, but I often ask Las Vegas locals, “What five properties would you recommend to a friend of yours that they must see in Las Vegas?”

In reality, most of the Strip is an abyss of the sameness. Billions of dollars spent and you created what your neighbor already did. Others have bought multiple properties throughout the years and made them all the same.

Getting stuck on the east side of the Strip is like being jailed for a crime you didn’t commit. You might be innocent, but you’re not getting away any time soon no matter how many times you break out of one property and go to another.

singers in the world on a nightly basis—Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars are a tough act to follow, but we must try. Otherwise, they remember Gaga but not the place they saw her. They get paid incredible money, but what are you doing to keep the guest at your property and offer them something memorable? Invest in yourself, not Perry’s career. Come on, we’ve got billion-dollar budgets; we can do this! Let’s make the Super Bowl the halftime show to our world of Vegas.

Out of the box and over the top—now that is Vegas!

That’s in our DNA. It’s the true essence of Las Vegas.

Who are you? What is your concept, your theme, your essence? What makes you different than everyone else? Why should I spend money at your establishment?

Jim Murren once said, “We should charge for parking because every other city does.” What he missed about Las Vegas is, it’s not every other city, and that’s why people come here. It’s very sad that all we do now is bring other people’s brands here and think we’re so smart. Jim coined the tagline— “What happens in Vegas already happened in your home town.”

There was a time the late, great Terry Lanni had MGM redefine dining and bars—hell, they invented a whole new nightlife genre called the ultra-lounge. I don’t even need to tell you what they did for nightclubs. They now own more restaurants, bars, hotel rooms, and employees for that matter. They can singlehandedly change the world all on their own—let’s do it. We are all rooting for you.

Please note: You can’t rebrand a property and define yourself as “We don’t charge for parking.” That’s not a concept, nor a theme, and most certainly not a business plan. And as you’re finding

out, it doesn’t bring people to your property. They don’t call you a Virgin for nothing.

Hard Rock, you might be the hottest girl in Iowa, but you’re now coming to Vegas. You will need to step up your game. The Guitar Hotel is cool for Florida (the first time around). Will that be enough for Las Vegas? By the time it opens that joke might be a little stale. I hope you have a good follow-up, since the last Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas was relevant... some 25 years ago.

Don’t be mad at me for calling you out; I’m calling all of us out. 2006 wants their business plan back. What are we doing to fix the problem?

We are rapidly becoming a sports town. Scratch that—we are already the best sports town, and we haven’t even had the F1 or Super Bowl here yet. Raiders and Golden Knights games are an experience above all in sports. But what are you offering at your properties to match or out best that experience? Why do I want to sleep at your property and go to those events? $18 beers and another Gordon Ramsay restaurant are not enough. Those ideas are getting old—like me.

Most properties offer the most famous

The MSG Sphere is the coolest thing outside of Dubai, and I personally can’t wait until it opens. Customized video inside and out, sound and air focused onto every single seat—that’s a next-level venue. That is the definition of what a music venue should be in Vegas. It will force the artist to create a one-of-akind show, that can only be seen in Vegas. Out of the box and over the top—now that is Vegas! That’s in our DNA. It’s the true essence of Las Vegas.

I always think about the last property Steve Wynn was going to develop. It had a crystal-clear lake with tons of water sports and activities in and around the lake. It sounded amazing. That would have been a true differentiator—a fully interactive lake on the Strip, in the middle of a desert. But that’s Wynn; he redefined hospitality every five years. A true Vegas showman. So who can be the next great Vegas showman? Sarno, Adelson, Wynn, Lanni, Maloof… and?

What is your essence? Why should people visit your property? What does the customer want to see? It might not be what the CEO desires. There are a few new properties currently in planning. Please ask yourself that question every morning as you start your day. The answer will be the difference between success and mediocrity.

Paul Heretakis is a principal with Westar Architects.

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What defines you? What makes your property special? What is your hook?

Excellence at El Cortez

Downtown’s classic casino continues strong into its ninth decade

There is a contingent of Las Vegas natives who contend that the town was run better when the mob was in control. That of course discounts the money laundering, the skimming, the loan sharking and yes, the murders, but they seem to have a nostalgic sense about the “old” Las Vegas. So let’s ignore the bad stuff and focus on what represents old Vegas. Well, the Sands, the Frontier, the Stardust, the Desert Inn, the Dunes and dozens of other old-time Vegas casinos are all gone, so what’s left?

For those who want to slake their nostalgic jones, head Downtown and visit El Cortez, one of the original Vegas casinos (with apologies to the Golden Gate at the foot of Fremont Street), and the longest continuously operating Nevada casino.

Other than the hotel tower built in 1980, El Cortez hasn’t changed that much through the years.

Jackie Gaughan owned El Cortez for more than 50 years.

El Cortez was built by a group led by one of the original Vegas entrepreneurs, J. Kell Houssels, for $245,000 in 1942, only a decade after gaming became legal in Nevada. Despite the fact it was on the same Fremont Street as the Golden Gate, it was considered too far from the town center to become a success. But it bucked the trend and became a big success, so Houssels sold the property to a group of mobsters led by Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel in 1945 for $600,000. When Siegel was close to opening his spectacular Flamingo on what would become the Las Vegas Strip, Houssels bought El Cortez back from the mob a year later for $766,000, with the stipulation that they’d never bother Houssels again.

In 1963, the “King of Downtown” Jackie Gaughan added El Cortez to his stable of properties, buying it from Houssels for $4.5 million. Over the years, Gaughan added a hotel tower and the former Ogden House, which was renovated into 64 suites, giving the property a total of 364 rooms and suites.

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In 2008, Gaughan sold the property to his longtime partner, Kenny Epstein, who began working for Gaughan in 1975. He recounts his initial meeting with Gaughan during a visit to the Tahoe Biltmore in Northern Nevada, owned at the time by Gaughan.
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“My father wanted me to meet Mr. Gaughan,” explains Epstein, “and he called him a ‘triple threat.’ I knew what that meant in football but my father explained what it meant in business. He said, ‘He’s smart, he’s a go-getter and he’s on the square. That’s a triple threat.’ So what more can you say about Jackie?”

For Epstein, being “on the square” was important. In 1975 many Vegas casinos were owned by the mob and its associates, and Epstein, like Houssels, wanted nothing to do with that.

After Gaughan sold to Epstein he continued to live at the hotel in a penthouse suite, spending his days playing poker in the hotel’s poker room, until he passed away in 2014. His suite is now available to guests, and it’s a step back in time, furnished in the ’40s style, the heyday of El Cortez.

Epstein and his partners have sunk more than $50 million into the property since ’08, and made several substantial changes, including renovating every hotel room on the property.

Another was to reduce the number of restaurants from two (the Flame steakhouse and a coffee shop) to one. While that bucks the trend of more and more F&B outlets in today’s casinos, Epstein explains the logic.

“I had a fellow come to me once and he told me that we were ignoring our history,” Epstein says. “He said that he could design a restaurant with a Bugsy Seigel theme and it would be a smash hit. And he was right. Our Seigel’s 1941 restaurant does very well and has pictures of Bugsy, Virginia Hill and others from that period.”

El Cortez is one of the most honored casinos in Las Vegas, winning many categories in the “Best of Vegas” series published in the Las Vegas Review-

Journal, including best comps, best players club, highestpaying slots, best tables and more.

A category that makes Epstein smile, however, is one that recognizes his employees, because as historic as El Cortez is, the secret of its success is the hospitality offered by employees. The reason is simple, says Epstein.

“It’s just a family business, and we care about these people,” he says. “Everybody cares about their customers, but when you can get your employees to really care about their customers, that’s what makes it so special.”

Mike Nolan, the CEO of El Cortez, says it all starts with Epstein.

“It wouldn’t happen without him,” he laughs. “He’s always talking to people in the elevators, asking them where they’re from and how they’re enjoying their stay. When they get home they write to tell us how thrilled they were to have met Kenny.

“Sometimes they even call him to make reservations! It’s that personal camaraderie that all the employees try to replicate.”

No, visiting the El Cortez won’t transfer you back to the days when the mob ruled Vegas, but it will allow you to experience the personal service, great food and good gamble that you might have found in those days.

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Current El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein (l.) and CEO Mike Nolan have run El Cortez for almost two decades The Romper Room in the Jackie Gaughan Suite at El Cortez El Cortez table games have some of the best rules in Vegas and the slots some of the highest paybacks El Cortez lobby El Cortez offers some vintage video poker games that still accept coins

What’s the design you’re creating for your client? Classic or contemporary? Bold or subtle? Big or small? Whatever your vision, our teams of hospitality seating artisans are ready. We work side-by-side with you to ensure every detail of every chair is brought to life without compromise, and all with our pillow-soft, world-famous comfort. Contact us today, and let’s bring your design vision to life.

That “I just nailed this design” feeling. ® 800.969.0999 | hospitality@garyplatt.com GET INSPIRED AT GARYPLATT.COM/HOSPITALITY BAR • BANQUET • CONVENTION • DINING • HOSPITALITY • OFFICE • WEDDING

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