Escaping a gaudy past, modern carpets and flooring products can add elements of fun, elegance and intrigue to casinos

Milliken Hospitality has emerged as a significant carpet supplier to hotel-casinos. The company’s Etage technology lets clients create customized patterns based on Milliken’s Orsay collection.

Part of the fun of visiting a casino is being immersed in a strange and exotic environment totally unlike that found at home. This feeling begins with hearing the cacophony of melodies emanating from the slot machines. But what really establishes the mood is the casino’s overall design - and casino flooring plays a very important part.

Selection of floor coverings can suggest elements of elegance and sophistication, fun, adventure or even suggest foreign environments. Manufacturers and installers of flooring products realize this and are willing to work with casinos to match design themes and create special environments, while not losing the practical aspects of flooring: the ease of cleaning and maintenance.

“Carpeting is the most practical floor covering for most areas inside a casino,” said Emil Dovan, president of Emil Dovan Co. in Greensboro, N.C. “It absorbs noise [of which there is plenty in the gaming area] better than hard wood or ceramic surfaces, which reflect sound.

“Carpeting also is safer,” he added. “Should a customer drop a drink, no slippery spot forms on carpet that can contribute to slips and falls that could result in lawsuits. In fact, carpets conceal soil and stains better between cleanings and are easier and less costly to maintain than other flooring materials.”

Manufacturers offer a broad selection of commercial grade carpets that can withstand the heavy traffic common in casinos, especially in the gaming areas.

“The best casino carpets are densely constructed to wear exceptionally well under the constantly moving feet of patrons,” Dovan said. “Because of rampant cigarette abuse by patrons, wool is the leading fiber used in their construction. A typical commercial carpet will be 80 percent wool and 20 percent synthetic. This blend is more forgiving when a lit cigarette or ash drops onto the carpet and cleans up well. Nylon carpets, however, will melt and get hard and crusty under cigarette bombardment.”

The average wool-based broadloom carpet lasts four years, when under heavy traffic areas, to 10 years in paths less traveled, according to the experts. Dovan added that the best time to replace is when the carpet doesn’t recover well after cleaning, usually indicated when the colors begin looking tired.

Carpets in casinos, especially in Las Vegas, are currently on the upgrade, said Marco Kraft, Western regional sales manager of Brintons USA, based in Kennesaw, Ga.

“Carpeting is becoming more elegant and upscale,” Kraft noted. “Casinos are getting away from the so-called Vegas look, replacing gaudy flooring with carpets that are more tastefully colorful with geometric patterns.

“You can thank Steve Wynn for this trend, as he first saw a need to step up the game when he was designing The Mirage,” he added.

Among carpeting used in lobbies, open areas and the gaming floor, the trend in colors is toward earth tones with organic patterns.

“According to Color Marketing Group, there is a need to look ‘green,’ meaning natural,” Dovan said. “This includes using textures with the look of imperfection [on purpose] as if hand made or like the stone-washed jeans concept.

“Our commercial carpet line is heavy on blues and warm metallics like copper and bronze. Ethnic accents of reds, oranges, rosy pinks, golden yellows and turquoise give the browns a lift,” he added.

Rust, gold, tan and sea foam blue are the current earth tone carpet colors offered by LaGrange, Ga.-based Milliken Hospitality. Carpeting installed in a new extension of the Pottawattamie Casino in Wisconsin is gold with blue and purple accents, said Lee Gollhardt, marketing manager at Milliken.

Broadloom carpets come in tufted, cut-pile and textured varieties, which casinos can use in different areas. According to Brintons’ Kraft, tufted may be best for lobby areas with cut-pile in gaming areas. Casinos might even use different textures and colors to designate paths through or around the gaming floor directing guests to rooms, dining areas or shops.

The modular option

While broadloom carpet remains popular, modular carpeting is making inroads in the gaming market, especially among Native American casinos.

Unlike broadloom carpets that come in large rolls that are rolled out and fitted into floor areas, modular carpets come in squares that are affixed to the floor with an adhesive that holds them in place but allows individual squares to be taken up as required. And this offers some big advantages to casinos, said Milliken’s Gollhardt.

Modular 36-inch squares are delivered on pallets instead of in large rolls; so if incidental damage occurs during shipping, less potential carpet area is lost, he noted.

“Once installed, if damage occurs, only those squares hurt need to be taken up. You don’t lose the whole section of carpet,” Gollhardt added. “If damage involves a major stain, the taken-up squares can be sent out for cleaning and, if still not perfect enough to be seen in high-traffic areas, can be rotated with squares in offices, or simply discarded and replaced with new squares.”

The ease at which damaged modular carpet squares can be taken up and replaced also lessens the financial impact on the casino.

“The big cost to casinos in taking up and replacing carpets is in idle slot and video poker machines,” Gollhardt said. “With modular carpets, a much smaller area needs to be taken up to replace unsightly damaged carpeting, and new squares can be quickly put down, getting the fewer machines taken out of service back in use in less time.”

Gollhardt also noted that modular carpeting, because it’s made with more synthetics, is a “green” product that can be easily recycled after being taken out of use, while old wool carpets sit on the bottom of landfills for decades. As a result, the U.S. Green Building Council, which awards environmental responsibility points to products, gives zero points to wool carpets but maximum points to synthetic modular carpeting. Adding to Milliken modular carpet systems’ “greenness” is its use of a bio-based TractionBack adhesive-free installation system that contains no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can hurt air quality.

Old modular carpet squares also have another surprisingly profitable use, Gollhardt added. A few casinos sell the old squares as souvenirs, not unlike how chunks of synthetic playing surfaces from sports stadiums being rehabbed or demolished are sold to fans.

Creating masterpieces

Many carpet companies can produce custom patterns to order.

“The client seeking a custom pattern would give us a sketch concept of what they would like to achieve and some color combinations,” Dovan said. “Sometimes, we are only given a theme and take it from there.

“We provide CAD options first. Then our designers would translate those options into sample carpet. Most carpets have patterns that repeat, but that is not always necessary. If there is a repeat, we work to make sure that seaming two breaths of carpet will look good when put together,” he said.

Milliken in January introduced its Orsay Collection that offers patterns drawn from an encyclopedia of decorative printing techniques and calligraphy, and Impressionist painters such as Renoir, Monet and Cassatt. Using Milliken’s Etage technology, this collection offers casinos the ability to develop a custom look by simply selecting and combining pattern layers to “create their own masterpiece,” Gollhardt said.

Casinos might also consider area rugs, which are not installed wall-to-wall like broadloom but with a peak of the floor around the edges, in high-roller rooms to add a touch of class. Brintons offers an Asian Fusion line of area rugs that offer more contemporary flair and wear longer than typical Oriental carpets.

More solid footing

Other flooring options include wood, ceramic, VCT, marble and epoxy surfaces.

“I do like hard wood surfaces, but sometimes they can be less than ideal for aesthetic reasons,” Dovan said. “More slips can occur on hard surfaces when spills occur.”

Parquet wood floors can add a touch of artistic class and wonderment to a casino. Dovan is especially impressed with the Celtic Knot design offered by Anderson Hardwood Floors, which he cites as a great example of the complexity and interest one can achieve with using different colors and textures of wood. Custom patterns can be provided on request.

Ceramic tiles also can be used to supply artistic notes to flooring areas, similar to what was done in Roman times where tiled floors in Pompeii depicted idyllic country scenes and wildlife. Casinos can use ceramic tiled surfaces around pools, inside restaurants and even to put art on walls.

Truly creative and artistic floors can be created around casinos and attached hotels and resorts using modern epoxy terrazzo techniques, said Teresa Fernandez, sales manager with Las Vegas-based Arcon Flooring. These areas include interior and exterior walkways, the areas around pools and even the floors of restaurants and lounges.

Epoxy terrazzo involves the placing of a thick resin matrix veneer over a level concrete slab. Several colors can be used to form complex patterns or swirls, and glass, synthetic and granite aggregates can be added in lieu of marble to augment the coloring and/or provide chemical resistance. Because epoxy terrazzo surfaces are nonabsorbent, they have the lowest maintenance costs of any flooring materials that can be used in casinos, Fernandez said.

Arcon is especially proud of the floor it created for the Sugar & Ice Restaurant at the Wynn Las Vegas. Two colors of epoxy terrazzo create “a visual explosion of flowers” in the casual dining spot, Fernandez explained. Created to match the overall design of this casino resort, the abstractly large flowers are embedded into a black and white surface so that their red and gold color creates a stunning display, she said.

Not all flooring products offered to casinos are intended to be trod upon by customers.

Harlequin Hi-Shine flooring from American Harlequin Corp., based in Moorestown, N.J., provides a shiny, wet, leather-like finish to stages in entertainment venues.

The laminated hard polymer flooring material offers superior scratch resistance to urethane surfaces, so not even female performers wearing spiked heels can mar it, said Gerri Andrews, sales manager at American Harlequin. And the surface is easily cleaned using only soap and hot water.