Casino Design 101 (Part 1 of 2)

Casino Design 101

Everyone who has been to a casino has experienced the feeling of being lost in a maze of noisy slot machines, pit games, loud and raucous craps players, and cocktail waitresses. This blog will discuss why casinos are built like they are – like confusing labyrinths where your money goes to die.

Casino design and layout plays a large part in how people gamble, so it has therefore become a topic of significant interest to casino owners and operators. Many of the classic theories about casino designs have recently come under scrutiny, and casino layout theory is evolving – with the goal of encouraging more gambling while ensuring everyone has more fun.

 The Individual Customer Isn’t Average

A casino can’t be designed and built for just one person – it has to serve the needs of thousands of visitors, from confused tourists who’ve never gambled a nickel to whales looking to play high-stakes for hours or days. As such, when imagining a new casino, designers take the approach of segmenting all the possible customers they might attract and trying to create a design that works for all of them so they don’t take their business elsewhere.

All manner of variables are taken into account, including visibility above and around the slot machines, where crowds tend to gather, ambient noise, and even aromas in the casino. Designers map out typical routes different types of customers might take as they move through the floor and they tweak it to create the maximum amount appeal for each customer. The hotel guests may encounter games that showcase what the casino has to offer, while the casual gamer quickly encounters the slots without having to walk far.

The next step of the layout process is about creating a floor that entices customers to keep venturing inward and away from the exits.

From the Maze to the Playground

In the 1990s and early 2000s, casino designers widely adopted a theory known as the maze layout. The idea was to draw a player into the casino, then make it difficult to leave easily. The maze concept was widely adopted and rapidly entered into the mythology of Vegas pop culture. The maze layout used slot machines seemingly randomly arranged in haphazard curving arcs. A player that got lost or turned around would have to spend several minutes winding his way out – and hopefully dropping a few extra bucks into machines along the way. The key ideas are that the exits are practically hidden and that, no matter where a player is standing, he should be surrounded in all directions by a variety of gaming options.

In the last ten years, casino layout theory has changed due to the opening of the Bellagio and the Wynn, among other high end casinos. Low ceilings were opened up to the sky – in the case of Paris, with the sky literally painted on it – and the maze was scrapped in favor of smaller groups of machines with more open space around them. This design featured sculptures, sunlight, and wide paths to the gaming tables, the idea being to turn the casino from a place of confusion into an opulent and exciting resort. This concept has become known as the playground.

The playground design has proven incredibly successful at encouraging players to gamble, and designers have learned that players who are more at ease are happier when they win, and they’re more understanding when they lose – all of which convinces them to bet more.

Next entry will talk about the specifics of Slot Machine and Table Game layouts.


“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

Thomas Jefferson

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