By David Stratton
The casinos of the future won’t resemble the casinos of the past, according to a panel of experts at the recent G2E conference. Instead, they will be more modern and efficient in their design and broader in their scope of functionality.
"Theming is dead," said Paul Steelman, president and COO of Paul Steelman Design Group. "Dramatic architecture is taking over."
By "dramatic" Steelman meant architecture designed to "empower" the customer with a feeling that they can win, while at the same time creating a feeling of comfort.
"Casinos should not be heavily decorated," Steelman said. "There should be a balance between a ”˜wow’ factor and a feeling of homeyness."
Steelman cited as an example the design of the Sands Macau casino that was recently opened by Sheldon Adelson in Macau off the coast of China.
"Some of Macau’s design elements are indeed dramatic," Steelman said. "It’s the first casino, for instance, to be totally lit by daylight. In addition, there are ”˜chameleon’ like spaces throughout — areas that have different uses at different times of the day."
That’s not to say casinos will be lacking pizzazz, according to Don Brinkeroff, CEO of Life-scapes International, a company that collaborates in the design of casinos around the world.
"You have to create something memorable for the customer," Brinkeroff said. "Give them something they can take back home and tell their friends, ”˜Gee, you’ve got to see this.’"
Brinkeroff, whose company helped design Bellagio in Las Vegas, said architectural attractions such as the dancing fountains at Bellagio and the erupting volcano at The Mirage are examples of "dramatic" designs.
"Those are the kinds of things that draw customers back," he said.
In addition to creating an identity through innovative attractions, design features can serve a function for customers, according to Glenn Buxton, an independent marketing consultant.
"Future casinos will have massive outdoor attractions that will include pool areas, gardens, gazebos and more," Buxton said, adding that the ability to alter the function of an attraction will add to its usefulness. "Outdoor pool areas, for example, can be designed so that they become outdoor nightclubs at night."
Buxton said that outdoor areas at the Palms, Green Valley Ranch Station and the Hard Rock are good examples of pool areas that evolve into nightclubs after dark.
He said casinos currently under construction in Las Vegas — Wynn Las Vegas, Station’s Red Rock Canyon and Coast Casino’s Southcoast — all incorporate many design features cited by the panel.
Most of the casinos to be built in the future, however, will be tribal casinos.
Perini Building Company, the largest construction firm in the resort-casino industry, estimates that about half of its $1.2 billion in construction revenue this year will be derived from tribal casino projects. About half of its building revenue over the next five years will also come from tribal casinos.
Most of the tribal casinos are currently located in California. The largest California casino, Pechanga Resort Casino in Riverside, has integrated cultural elements into the design of its casino.
"We’ve actually incorporated some sacred symbols into the architecture," said Anthony Miranda, chairman of the tribe that runs the casino. "We’ve used some ancient fertility symbols, a giant oak tree and other symbols in the carpeting, fixtures and architecture. Other uses of culturally-significant artwork is the use of the acorn, which has meaning to our culture, in our light fixtures."
Miranda said the use of cultural symbols adds interest for customers who might be unfamiliar with the culture, and for tribe members who can relate to the significance of the symbols.