As competition for consumer dollars within and without the land-based casino marketplace continues to tighten, operators of both small and large properties are seeking differentiation through a variety of means, including facility design and appearance.

The casino architectural community has responded, and recent renovations and new ground-up construction showcase design sensibilities that are truly leading edge. What follows is a list of some casino architecture and design firms that have taken a giant leap forward in the past year, made news recently and bear watching for the remainder of 2017 and beyond, as determined by the editors of Casino Journal.


Founded in 1936, JCJ Architecture is an employee-owned firm headquartered in Hartford, Conn., with offices in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and San Diego.

JCJ is recognized nationally as one of the country’s most respected architecture firms, providing clients with comprehensive planning, programming, architectural and interior design services, according to the company website. It has been immersed in the gaming and entertainment marketplace for decades, designing some of the most notable and profitable properties in the industry. JCJ’s Gaming & Entertainment team possesses exceptional collective intelligence of the market and complex regulations. Its designs tell the clients’ stories, heighten the guest experience, and, when appropriate, tap into the Millennial mindset.

JCJ is about to make another casino design splash with Resorts World Catskills, which is scheduled to open its doors later this month. JCJ is providing comprehensive planning and design services for the project, a large-scale, multifaceted development located just one hour north of New York City, according to company literature.

Set on the 1,100 acre site of the once world-famous Concord Resort Hotel, the 1.6 million-square-foot project will include a casino and 18-story hotel tower with 332 hotel suites, including 12 penthouse suites, eight garden suites and seven two-story villas, all designed to meet five-star and five-diamond standards. The resort will also feature indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, casino, 27,000 square feet of meeting and entertainment space, a 2,000 seat events center, pre-function space, and exterior terrace. The casino includes 2,150 slot machines and approximately 130 tables for blackjack, roulette and other games.

Resorts World Catskills will feature many venues for dining including a fine dining restaurant, buffet, center bar, entertainment bar, coffee shop and a lounge. This resort development takes a unique approach by offering a mix of adventure and relaxation in a family-friendly setting, surrounded by the natural beauty of the Catskills.

The casino owner and operator, Empire Resorts, has had a presence in the Catskills since 1958. Resorts World Catskill is part of Adelaar, a $1 billion integrated entertainment and lifestyle complex.


Cuningham Group’s “Every Building Tells a Story” philosophy emphasizes one-of-a-kind design solutions, and its desire to engage clients in a collaborative, team-oriented process. The company aims to understand the project vision and the story the client wants to tell, according to press materials. Designers then extract creative metaphors from that information and from the character of each site to inspire all aspects of project design, from basic forms and shapes, to finishing materials and colors.

For example, Cuningham is working very closely with the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians on the renovation and expansion of Alpine, Calif.-based Viejas Casino & Resort, which topped-out recently. The design-build project, which is being accomplished with the help of Swinerton Builders and expected to open in 2018, features a new tower, a wide range of new amenities and renovations to the casino, hotel and bus depot.

The improved casino will consist of a new gaming floor, renovation to the existing gaming floor, and four new venues: a signature restaurant, Asian restaurant, center bar and coffee bar. The hotel includes 159 new hotel suites, a new spa with a salt-water whirlpool and two treatment cabanas, and a new exterior pool with beach entry and an exterior pool bar. The bus depot features a new five-stall bus depot to allow for relocation of the current bus drop, which will clear space for the casino expansion. In addition, more terminal space will be added, doubling as a V-Club for guests.


HBG Design delivers integrated architecture and interior design to the national hospitality and entertainment industry from offices in Memphis, Tenn., and San Diego, Calif.

Formerly known as Hnedak Bobo Group, the company recently rebranded, changing its name to HBG Design—a move inspired by the firm’s passion for designing personal, memorable, transformative experiences for clients and their guests, according to a press release.

HBG Design was recently announced as designer for Kaw Gaming’s proposed Rock & Brews Casino Resort, in Braman, Okla., a brand co-founded by rock legends KISS.

The firm also awaits the opening of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino expansion in Buffalo, N.Y. Located on the Seneca Nation’s Buffalo Creek Territory in a former industrial area of Buffalo’s re-emerging Inner Harbor, the casino is highly visible from the adjacent highway and two blocks from the Buffalo Sabres hockey arena. To allow this locals casino to thrive in its urban location, HBG approached the planning and design as a placemaking activity. The casino was uniquely sited and designed to draw patrons from the interstate and the hockey arena, and positioned as an active contributor to the community’s growth.

Other recently completed projects include the Point Casino Hotel, Kingston, Wash. The design of the four-story, 94-room Point Hotel is rooted in a style known as “Coast Modern” and customized to meld into the Pacific Northwest landscape. Characterized by the use of very simple, unadorned architecture, the hotel design relies on natural materials and adapts key architectural ideas and traditional tribal all-cedar plank construction.


Las Vegas-based YWS is an international architecture and design firm focusing on leisure environments in hospitality, gaming, retail dining and entertainment.

One of the firm’s recent casino projects was the expansion of Sandia Resort & Casino in Albuquerque, N.M. According to company literature, the addition of a spa and golf pavilion at Sandia helped transform the property from a local hang out into a regional destination. Designed to honor its natural surroundings, this 27,000-square-foot resort expansion captures expansive views of the neighboring sacred Sandia Mountains and tells the story of the native Sandia Pueblo people.

The design team’s inspiration was drawn from the Kiva Ritual Room, a room constructed by the Puebloan people who settled in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon.  Traditionally used for religious experiences, the design and peaceful spirit of the Ancient Ritual Kiva room was preserved in the modern-day spa concept created by YWS. The Sandia Spa Pavilion is a sanctuary of wellness, peace, tranquility and relaxation.

Locally sourced natural stone stacked in expansive arched masses and washed with natural light reinforces this concept and creates a distinctively New Mexican experience for guests. The use of sandstone for walls, dramatic skylights throughout and interior landscape and green walls bring the beauty of the natural landscape to the serene experience within.


DMAC is a full-service architecture firm based in Evanston, Ill., specializing in both commercial and residential projects, with a portfolio ranging from simple interiors to complex buildings. The company is making an impact in the casino design space because of its budding partnership with Rush Street Gaming through the design of the vibrant new Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, N.Y. Having played an integral role in the development of four Rush Street Gaming locations already, including Des Plaines, Ill., Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pa., the firm furthers its work with the leading casino chain as it expands nationwide.

DMAC is behind the architecture and design of key components inside the casino including the five restaurants, the lounge, and the spa, according to a press release. Helmed by DMAC Founder and Principal Dwayne MacEwen, the design of these venues at the Schenectady casino was inspired by the industrial history of the site Rivers Casino is built upon, the former American Locomotive Company’s manufacturing hub. With ceilings giving the illusion of passing under train tracks and other eclectic composition elements inspired by the manufacturing industry, DMAC embraces the remarkable history of the region while creating an unforgettable guest experience through design.