When thinking about casino efficiency, one naturally thinks of energy. It’s undoubtedly one of the most crucial aspects to creating a truly efficient casino resort, but it takes more than just that for a property to be considered truly efficient.

Having had the unique experience of working on the practice and operational side of facility design, I know first-hand that a great design team excels in delivering unmatched patron, operator and employee experiences in the most economical fashion, and ultimately, a great casino resort facility is one that provides efficiencies in all three areas.

Understanding and meeting the needs and expectations of the patron is the most significant measure of a casino’s success. The experience should be seamlessly memorable and the highest priority for all members of the development and design team.

One way to achieve this is to ensure patrons can efficiently maneuver from each space within the venue without having to backtrack or walk long distances. The layout of a casino resort’s front-of-house area is critical. Amenities such as restrooms, relaxation venues, dining and entertainment are best located so the patron flows easily in and out of gaming areas. A successful guest experience ensures patrons can easily find a favorite slot machine or table game, and also effortlessly obtain a much-needed beverage or food.

Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino was designed with this concept in mind. As the first casino to bring Vegas-style gaming to the greater Phoenix, Ariz., area, Wild Horse Pass’ gaming floor is centrally located, creating easy access to a full complement of dining and entertainment opportunities around its perimeter. Similar texture, materiality and movement throughout the casino pay homage to the owners’ desert-dwelling Gila River Indian community. Shades of blue contrast the earthen tones, similar to water upon the desert floor; crystal chandeliers cascade from the sky to reflect the summer monsoon; and at night, the hotel façade’s vertical stream of blue reaches toward the curve of the sky. Together, these textures and visual movements connect the gaming floor to the outside areas, lounges and theater in a manner that does not overwhelm or compete with the overall concept. This layout and design continuity not only physically moves patrons between spaces efficiently, but easily connects each individual experience to the overall casino resort visit.


When designers understand the needs and challenges of employees, they can actually increase productivity and effectiveness in the most mundane and routine of tasks. Casino design has always centered on the patron; however, a good designer will look at ways to accommodate both. Designing a more accessible and efficient work environment creates a more positive experience for employees and thus, boosts operational output.

A few examples of inefficient work environments include placing employee parking, entry and clock-in locations remote from their actual working space. This creates immense inefficiencies in employee productivity as well as associated operational costs. The solution? Electronic monitoring and access points eliminate the need for a single security-guarded point-of-entry for employees. This allows resorts to increase productivity by shortening the arrival sequence through multiple employee entries and parking areas discretely located around the perimeter of the facility.

Additionally, strategically located areas for team meetings between work shifts, in lieu of one location, decreases the time it takes employees to gather and disperse to their task locations as well as facilitates the supervisor’s ability to oversee and allocate tasks to their staff. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is one of the best practitioners of employee efficiency. Its famous theme park utility tunnels allow employees to freely and discreetly move throughout the workspace, creating an improved and more productive routine for employees without affecting guest experience. Another prime example is Genting-owned cruise ships, where the design process meticulously takes into account all employee needs and activities. Specifically, the company researched the number of steps every employee would have to take aboard the ship to create maximum efficiency and employee interactions across all operations.


Design choices—such as building materials selection, installation and maintenance—can create a significant economic impact for casinos as well as help operators to understand the replacement requirements of materials, finishes and building systems. Looking at both holistically can provide long-term economic efficiencies for the building owner.

As those who’ve worked on the owner’s side know, selecting poorly engineered or less-than-durable materials comes with a heavy price tag. Alternatively, using the right, durable finishes not only creates a fresh look for a longer period of time, but it also decreases upkeep, serving as an added protection to exposed corners and materials. Additionally, direct engagement and early dialogue between the design team and the operations and maintenance staff about how a facility will be maintained can lead to the development of simple strategies and design choices that increase the durability and lifespan of materials. Bringing the individuals with on-the-ground knowledge to the table ensures early identification of the needs and challenges of the space. This allows the owner/designer team to implement a collaborative solution prior to opening day.

The owners of the aforementioned Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino engaged in a vigorous dialogue with our design team about not only the visual, but also the functional aspects of materials, fixtures and furnishings. Without compromising design, our team was able to place cost-efficient, durable HVAC and wiring for the casino’s gaming equipment under the floor to improve the air quality of the space. And for the price-conscious owner/designer teams, sometimes all it takes is a little creativity to produce an innovative and visually-pleasing environment. At Saratoga Casino located in Blackhawk, Colo., for example, glass water bottles from the Saratoga Springs water company were repurposed to create an elaborate and decorative chandelier.


One of the most successful strategies for casino owners is to implement deep, wide-ranging and active engagement throughout the entire design process. And the process should not be limited to just the designers and high-ranking managers and executives. Doing so limits your ability to create a truly efficient casino. And listening is not enough. Learning from all involved stakeholders and expecting tangible results from that dialogue is the only way to ensure that facilities will meet collective efficiency goals.

At JCJ, each client participates in multiple, integrated sessions where they share their story and their individual visions of what they want their facility to become. Listening to their vision for the space and collaboratively exploring design solutions creates greater buy-in, respect and adoption. Additionally, owners of facilities that embark on the design process alongside the architect develop a sense of ownership and pride in their facility. We saw this first-hand by working closely with the Gila River Indian Tribe’s Cultural Committee on the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino, which became a direct reflection of their unique heritage. Subtle references to water—a highly valued and scarce commodity to the community—are incorporated throughout the facility to create a seamless transition from the tribe’s stories of history, culture and tradition that were communicated during the listening session to the overall design patrons experience first-hand.

 Energy efficiency will always be a crucial factor for casino design and management. However, comprehensive casino efficiency only comes when owner/designer teams are willing to broaden the conversation and take a holistic, 360-degree approach to an economically-efficient design that provides productive experiences for all stakeholders.