The Evolution of Casino Architecture

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the front view of the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco
BetMGM Jul 10, 2023, 4:11 AM

From small, gaudy gambling dens to the opulence of expansive land-based resorts, casino architecture has evolved dramatically over the years. We’ve also seen the movement from bricks-and-mortar establishments to online casino sites to meet the demands of modern society. 

But for many, there is still nothing quite like those first impressions when entering a land-based casino. Let’s explore the reasons for those feelings and look at key factors behind the evolution of casino architecture.

Layout and Design

The core principle of casino architecture and design is to perpetrate an immersive and engaging environment. The dazzling lights, the aromas, the sounds, the interior design; it’s all created with the player in mind. Despite the unquestionable popularity of online gambling sites, many still appreciate the buzz of a land-based casino. 

Some of the world’s best casino architecture reflects the incredible transformation of casino layout design that hails from two opposing schools of thought. The pioneer was Bill Friedman and his classic design, followed more recently by the approach of Roger Thomas and David Krane.

The Classic Casino Design

Friedman, the owner of multiple hotels and casino chains, is the gambling enthusiast responsible for the iconic design. He used all of his experience to revamp various casinos in the Nevada district while studying the key factors that drove success. His research produced a list of key principles crafted to attract and retain gamblers for as long as possible. 

These core elements were successfully incorporated into several casinos, successfully driving up profits. Friedman’s main principles of casino interior design included low ceilings, a labyrinth floor plan, minimal decoration, hoards of mirrors and no clocks or windows. His research resulted in a book published in the late 1990s titled “Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition.”

Intimate Settings

Friedman realized that he needed to maximize the casino visitor-to-player ratio. Lowering ceilings, creating narrow walkways and designing break-off rooms encouraged a greater sense of intimacy. It allowed different vibes and atmospheres to coexist under the same roof and eliminated the open-air, lofty feel.

Creating a Labyrinth

By creating a maze effect, players are likely to become disoriented and a little lost, maybe on the way to the restroom or the bar. This is a clever design technique, as lining the path to these all-important locations will be casino game machines with alluring flashing lights. The idea is that players will become distracted and potentially try out the games as they pass or on the way back. 

Minimal Decoration

Friedman insisted that casino floors needed minimal decor, just clear color-coded passageways leading to gaming machines. Players don’t need to be distracted by fancy wall coverings; the casino’s games should be the sole focus within the setting. He also advocated for gaming machines to be placed in the casino lobby. This reminded visitors that they were entering a casino and encouraged gaming activity to begin immediately upon entry. 

Eliminating Clocks and Windows

Friedman realized that players were less likely to stay and gamble when they were aware of the time. They would always remember those tasks they needed to complete or realize they’d been playing too long and stop. However, by removing all reminders of time through a lack of clocks and windows, gamblers were more likely to lose themselves in play. 

The Modern Playground Design

Friedman’s approach to casino layout and key principles of design reigned supreme and are still noticeable in the casinos of today. However, on the opposing side of the coin came the modern Playground vision from designers such as Roger Thomas and David Krane. 

This new design approach has revolutionized gambling establishments to create glamorous open spaces with high ceilings, skylights and windows. The design model of David Krane emphasizes that casinos should be designed like an “adult playground.” 

Thomas is known as “the man who reinvented Vegas.” He famously teamed up with Steve Wynn to redesign the Bellagio, for instance. Thomas went against all of Friedman’s principles in doing so, placing the focus firmly on how to make the players feel. 

Bright and Airy

The Roger Thomas philosophy is that people take on the characteristics of a room. They feel glamorous in a glamorous space and rich in a rich space. Instead of small, windowless rooms with narrow passageways, he insisted on large open areas filled with streaming sunlight. Gone are the low ceilings, replaced with beautifully high offerings boasting skylights. No more drab walls but opulent European-styled furnishings to decorate the walls and casino halls.  

Relaxed Environment

Thomas’ vision promotes a relaxed environment with wide open spaces and clear lines that encourages players to feel more at ease. Without the sense of a tight cramped space, players feel they can breathe more easily and are far more inclined to place high-risk bets, for example. 

Gaming machines are placed in small clusters, often circular so that players can socialize. Bright colors and alluring shapes draw attention to activities going on at casino table games. The vision has now become a reality as more and more casino resorts have invested time and money to adopt the Playground design.  

Online Casinos vs Land Based Casinos

With the sharp rise in demand for online casino games over recent years, the future of land-based casinos looked to be in jeopardy. Players found they had 24/7 access to online casinos, vast choices of games and the convenience of mobile play. However, not wishing to be forgotten, the brick-and-mortar establishments fought back to take advantage of the rise in online gaming. 

Many of the larger casino brands launched their own websites, inviting customers to become online members, often combining online with in-person deals. Land-based casinos can stream table games directly to off-site players using professional hosts. For example, in an online blackjack live dealer game, players can see and hear real-time action from the casino floor.     

However, the greatest achievement in land-based casino evolution has been the development of an experience you just cannot get online. Many of the best physical casinos have upgraded their facilities to include world-class dining and beverages. Some have taken an even bigger leap by offering a complete package inclusive of a luxury hotel stay.

Casino architecture and design are key to the success of any land-based casino. We have explored both sides of the coin, from Bill Friedman’s Classic Casino model to the modern playground of Roger Thomas. Both models were successful, but the original approach needed to change to meet modern-day player demands. It’s plain to see that evolution is necessary to keep up with the ever-changing world.

BetMGM gives players the best of both, with renowned land-based establishments plus a superb modern online casino product. Register today to play casino games online and claim your welcome bonus.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.