The casino industry has enjoyed significant brick-and-mortar growth over the last 20 years, as more and more tribal enterprises establish or expand casino development and states, seeking an opportunity to generate incremental revenue, pursue commercial gaming legalization.

However, with the most recent recession, casino operators have seen revenue growth go flat. The last few years since the 2008/2009 financial crash have been difficult for the casino business, as the resulting weaker economy has left patrons with less money to spend.

Additionally, many states, searching for more revenue to offset their increased social spending, are now approving more and more commercial casinos in their jurisdictions, giving both tribal and regional casinos more competition than ever before.

This means each casino operator now has to find creative ways to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace; and they are constantly seeking methods to grow revenues and contain/reduce operating costs in order to improve their bottom lines. Paying for everything through the sheer volume of revenues from patrons just isn’t enough anymore. They now need to draw more new customers as a means of surviving.

Traditional means of increasing foot traffic usually entails designing more lavish, exclusive casinos, with added amenities that will capture the interest of not just the gamblers themselves, but their relatives as well, getting them to spend more time in the casino.


COMING CLEAN

Beth Campbell, a principal at Gensler, a global design firm with casino customers in the United States and different countries around the world, said that her casino customers are asking them what they can do to bring in more patrons and keep them at the facility longer. Campbell advises them that in addition to innovative traditional architectural design, operators should create more pleasant, healthier environments for their patrons, in order to generate new customers and increase retention of existing ones.

One customer-quality area that has been gaining attention is the indoor air quality (IAQ) of the environment inside a typical casino. Indeed, when the word “casino” is uttered, what is the typical citizen’s reaction? What do they usually envision? I believe they conjure a crowded, smoky environment, with a slight haze in the air and leftover smoke-related odors that linger on clothes for days. That is not an environment where anyone with an interest in their well-being would be excited to go to.

Richard Giovanetti, co-founder and president of Giovanetti-Shulman Associates (GSA), a leading casino engineering firm near Philadelphia, Pa., said that the success of a casino depends 100 percent on delivering the right “positive patron experience.”  When designing for their casino clients 20 or 30 years ago, that meant mainly a “comfortable environment,” that was not too cold, not too warm, pleasant enough to stay awake, and engaged in gambling. Indoor air quality was largely an afterthought.

Nowadays, such a staid design aesthetic is no longer enough. Today, smoking carries such a stigma, that the issue has to be addressed.

Giovanetti, a former smoker, believes that improving the air quality within casinos is a win-win situation for all resort customers, no matter where they stand on the smoking debate. Obviously, non-smokers love the idea, since they will simply not return to a casino that does not manage this area well, and deliver that “positive patron experience” mentioned earlier. Smokers, too, see value in improved air quality; believe it or not, even they are getting more and more sensitive to overly smoky environments.


QUALITY SOLUTION

GSA has been charged by their clients with producing more cost-effective HVAC designs that can reduce their operating costs, while still delivering a welcoming patron experience. As a result, GSA has developed a growing trend for offering more energy-efficient air handling systems with the use of Energy Recovery Units (ERUs) that require less tonnage, and combining them with sophisticated indoor air purification systems.

GSA has started incorporating AtmosAir Solutions’ Bi-Polar Ionization technology into their HVAC designs, as a means of significantly reducing all the typical casino indoor air contaminants, such as smoke odors, particulates, and chemicals that can affect peoples’ well-being and comfort. Many of GSA’s clients, such as Revel Entertainment, Rush Gaming’s SugarHouse Casino and Seminole Gaming, have started incorporating this combined approach into their new casino expansions, as well as renovations or enhancements.

GSA has noted that their clients have been very receptive to buying, maintaining, and benefiting from our clean indoor air systems as a way of keeping their patrons inside the casino for longer periods of time.

The conclusion that can be drawn from these developing trends is that, if casinos are to not only survive but grow in this more competitive market, they need to aggressively address their indoor air quality, and deliver for their patrons a more positive, comfortable and healthier environment than ever before. If a casino design combines great interior environment with a more efficient HVAC system that offers better indoor air quality for the patron, it will be able to maintain a strong client base, which in turn helps the bottom line.