The casino hotels of yesteryear were largely an appendage of
the casino itself: colorful, theatrically themed, and sometimes
a bit rowdy. Today the opposite is true. “A growing trend is
to design the guest rooms as a sanctuary,” says Nathan Peak
of HBG Design. “When people come to casinos, they want to
have fun; but, when it comes to the overnight stay, it’s about
getting away, having a quiet resting place. So, it’s important
in a casino development to have a buffer between the high-activity zones and the resting, replenishing zones.”
Peak is a fan of using biophilic features—elements that
mimic the soothing effect of the natural world—in casino
hotels. At a Native American-run casino on Bainbridge Island
(just north of Seattle in Puget Sound), for instance, the firm
employed the tribe’s traditional artwork, which has
a naturalistic, meditative feel, as a design motif, along with
materials that are indigenous to the area, such as warm-hued
cedar wood and smooth river stones. “Biophilic design
is all about creating a connection to nature,” explains Peak.
This might translate literally to a stunning view, he adds,
or simply the use of a “monotone, highly textured palette.
We’re not using a lot of bright colors in our casino hotel
interiors; the emphasis is on more of a muted feel with lots
of natural finishes.”
Equally important to this trend is sound or, more to the point,
a lack of it. Sound-proofing insulation in the walls helps, but
a recent technological innovation is catching on among casino
developers as a way to completely turn off the clamor that
comes with a festive 24/7 venue. In November 2017, a new
sound masking system called MODIO, designed specifically
for hotel rooms, debuted. This is no ordinary white noise
machine, says Niklas Moeller, vice president of K.R. Moeller
Associates Ltd., the Canadian company that invented it.
Technically speaking, white noise is a sound composed of
“a wide range of frequencies that are all broadcast at the same
level. Many people actually find it hissy and grating.”
MODIO, in contrast, provides a custom mix of different
frequencies that effectively drown out aberrant and annoying
noises from outside the room. “We can configure a customized
sound profile for each room design based on its size,
furnishings, and acoustics,” explains Moeller. “Casinos are
looking at it as a way to deal with the sound of entertainment
venues, noise from The Strip, and guests with varying round-the-clock schedules. Since the launch, we’ve had almost
unmanageable levels of interest from hotels all over the world.”
Peace, serenity, and a connection
to nature; three things The Strip’s
earliest patrons never would have
expected to find.
system can be
configured with a
to a specific space.
(Image: K.R. Moeller)
What Makes a
Great Casino Hotel Room?
BRIAN J. BARTH
is a freelance writer with a background in
environmental planning and design.
He has written for a range of publications, from
Landscape Architecture Magazine
to New Yorker.com.
Zany carpets are one tradition that remains in casino design, even as many others
flutter away. In addition to the trend toward expansive resort-style layouts, casinos are
looking to the future with things like sustainable design. LEED-certified casinos are on
the rise, and Las Vegas is becoming known as one of the greenest cities in the country,
a movement led, at least in part, by its casino magnates. Fallsview Casino Resort in
Niagara Falls, Ontario, recently installed a biogas digester to convert organic waste to
energy. And, suppliers like Mohawk are doing their part: Definity, the company’s high-end 24-tone carpet line favored by casinos, is made from recycled plastic bottles.
But, perhaps, the biggest change afoot in the casino world is designing for millennials.
The question is how. So far, this demographic has not proven to be particularly
interested in gambling. They do love games, just different ones than what casinos
traditionally offer, according to Nathan Peak, a principal at HBG Design, a firm with
offices in Memphis, Tennessee, and San Diego that specializes in off-Strip casino
projects. “Millennials are interested in interactive games more than the insular
experience of a slot machine,” he says; above all else, they are looking for a social
experience. “In our recent casino projects, we are doing much looser gaming floor
layouts with fewer slot machines and lots of little lounge spaces, beer gardens, and
areas for group activities.”
HBG is taking this concept a step further by designing areas adjacent to the gaming
floor specifically for non-gambling games. This includes venues for eSports, a
meteorically popular concept in which rowdy video-game tournaments are conducted
in a stadium-like environment, complete with cheering crowds and age 21-and-up
concessions. The casinos of the future very well may be about gaming in the broadest
sense, not just about the type that involves bets.
Emily Marshall, interior design discipline leader at HBG, says the good news is that
millennial tastes actually dovetail perfectly with one thing that casinos have always
excelled at: “They want a unique, immersive experience. Millennials don’t display
many of the specific habits and patterns of the previous gamer generation, but
this is one thing they do have in common.” Playing games, after all, is at its core
a healthy—and universal—form of escape.
Durkan’s highly colorful
and illustrative patterns
resonate with casinos.
Image: K.R. Moeller)