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Casinos may turn to revamping over expansion

Nov 22, 2008 8:36 PM
by Mark Mayer | Architects have not quit building casino resorts, but the game plan has changed.

"We need to be patient," Joseph D. Rothman, executive vice president of the Bergman, Walls and Associates architectural firm, said at a seminar last week at the Global Gaming Expo.

"There are a lot of tired properties that need to be worked on," said Rothman, whose company’s projects include Caesars Palace and Trump Las Vegas. "It’s a five to seven year process that in time will find our economy will have turned around."

Rothman said there are smaller projects such as room redesign and entertainment complexes that will keep builders busy and customers coming to properties.

"With the economy the way it its, it’s a very good time to concentrate on things we may have overlooked when times were better," Rothman said. "We need to be more energy conscious, more environmentally safe. We can’t just make pretty pictures. It’s all about rebranding, helping to design a master plan over time."

Tom Hoskens, vice president of Cunningham Group Architecture, said that future sites need to tell a story.

"Projects are rich in stories," Hoskens said. "We need to capture the flavor of where the project is and make everything authentic. It’s time to maximize the site by getting everything we need within 100 miles. That would cut costs down dramatically."

Hoskens noted two sites in Las Vegas planned for 2009 openings – the M Resort on the south end of the Strip and the Fontainebleau, site of the old El Rancho across from the former Stardust.

"There is a bright future out there," Hoskens said. "Every place needs work."

Don Dissenger, senior vice president of Ewing Cole Architects, said the economic downturn creates an opportunity to reassess what the public wants in casino resorts.

"In the past, everyone was trying to keep up with each other," Dissenger said. "Now it’s time to slow down and listen to the customers. We need to understand and evaluate our competition. It’s time to be watching pennies so we can stay afloat and to just be true to your brand. Speaking a little Chinese wouldn’t hurt."

Locally, Station Casinos opened Aliante two weeks ago and has future projects on the board like Durango Station (Durango and I-215) and Viva (on the current Wild Wild West site off Tropicana and Dean Martin Blvd).

"Everything is pretty hush hush about those projects," Hoskens said. "They will be built. I just can’t tell you when."

Nationally, major projects are slated for New Mexico, North Carolina and Delaware along with international resorts going up in China, Korea and Indonesia (Singapore).

"Asian gaming will go up from 5 to 15 percent, while Indian gaming will be headed down from 15 to 5," Hoskens said. "Naturally we will be very interested in building casino resorts in the Asian market."


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