Casino architects and designers continue to emphasize innovation in all aspects of new resort developments and established property renovations, as these expert advice articles and project updates show


Expanded thinking

Two Florida-based Hard Rock casino resorts undergo renovations/expansions featuring many unique design elements


Two Seminole Tribe of Florida gaming properties—Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood—officially debuted last month after undergoing extensive renovations and expansions that cost a combined $2.2 billion.

Emblematic of the Hard Rock International brand, the $1.5 billion expansion of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood includes an iconic guitar hotel that can be seen for miles. Like a beacon, it stretches 450 feet into the South Florida sky and has generated global interest as an integrated resort destination that rivals the world’s most iconic landmarks.

“The guitar tower will attract casino players and other visitors from throughout the country and around the world,” said Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming and chairman of Hard Rock International. “It will put South Florida on the map as a world-class gaming destination, and it will have a huge economic impact on Florida.”

Allen points to economic research that predicts the creation of 19,000 direct and indirect jobs, including construction jobs, as part of the expansion projects in Hollywood and Tampa, where more than $700 million is being invested by Seminole Gaming and Hard Rock International.

Aggressive global marketing of the expansions will draw hundreds of thousands of new visitors to Florida, further boosting the state’s current record-setting tourism results.


The iconic guitar tower resembles back-to-back guitars, with six illuminated guitar strings on each side. It includes 638 luxury oversized guest rooms and suites. Complementing the guitar tower is a new seven-story guestroom tower along the south side of the new pool complex. It features 168 guest rooms and exclusive swim-up suites that invite guests to step directly out of their rooms and into the surrounding pool. Added to the 465 guestrooms and suites in the resort’s existing hotel tower, the expanded hotel and casino complex offers a total of 1,271 guest rooms and suites.

Guests arriving via a new grand entrance porte cochere are immediately impacted by “The Oculus,” a sight and sound extravaganza combining elements of water, fire and technology in a series of floor-to-ceiling shows choreographed to music. The signature entertainment attraction is a collaboration of Mark Fuller of WET Design, Los Angeles, and architect David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group, New York.

A vastly expanded casino of 195,000 square feet includes more than 200 table games plus 3,100 of the latest slot machines and a new 45-table poker room. The expanded casino offerings also include a contemporary high-limit slots room, non-smoking slots room, and the new Plum Lounge, an upscale, yet relaxed enclave featuring VIP experience for Seminole Hard Rock’s high-end players.

Following an outdoor walkway dotted with grottos, waterfalls and meticulous landscaping, guests find a completely new, 13.5-acre pool experience at the foot of the guitar tower, part of 19 acres of pools and lagoons on the Seminole Hard Rock property. The new pool complex features individual overwater cabanas, ranging from 450 to 800 square feet, complete with butler service, private showers and lounge spaces. Spanning three football fields in length, a man-made lake framing the pool experience adds water sports, including paddleboats and canoes, to the resort. The pool complex also includes a Beach Club venue for drinks and dining.

Overlooking the magnificent lagoon and pool area, a pulsing Daer Nightclub boasts 18,800 square feet of indoor space. The adjacent outdoor Daer Dayclub includes a swimming pool and 21,130 square feet of space.

As part of its commitment to music and live entertainment, Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood invested more than $125 million in a new state-of-the-art Hard Rock Live, a new theater-style performance venue for 7,000 guests. Designed by Sceno Plus, the new Hard Rock Live is set to host entertainment acts, broadcast productions, award shows and more.

Architect of record for the expansion of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood is Klai Juba Wald of Las Vegas. Interior design is handled by the Rockwell Group of New York and Wilson Associates of Dallas, New York and Los Angeles. Landscape designers are EDSA of


The $700 million expansion for Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa includes a new 14-story hotel tower with 562 guest rooms and suites, three ultra-lavish pools and extensive gaming space.

Three new outdoor swimming pools are located on the second level of the expanded hotel and casino complex. With a total of 200,000 gallons of water to float, soak and splash around in, a 60,000-square-foot expanded pool and deck area will feature 20 cabanas, 700 lounges and daybeds, two DJ booths and more.

The completed 245,000-square-foot casino includes an additional 1,000 slots and 41 table games throughout its new gaming spaces, bringing the completed gaming experience to nearly 5,000 slots, 179 tables and a state-of-the-art poker room with 46 poker tables. For the ultimate VIP experience, a high floor of the new hotel tower will feature a private gaming parlor for VIP guests, with an exclusive check-in and private elevators to rock star suites.

Continuing to elevate its music and entertainment programming, a Hard Rock Event Center with seating for 2,000 guests opened on the second level of the casino complex. A companion17,000-square-foot grand ballroom hosts conventions, trade shows, private events, large-scale poker tournaments and concerts, including 60 major entertainment acts each year.

Architect of record for the expanded Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa is Klai Juba Wald of Las Vegas. Interiors design is led by Wimberly Interiors, New York. Landscape designers are EDSA of Fort Lauderdale.

Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, has venues in 73 countries including 184 cafes, 237 Rock Shops, 28 hotels and 11 casinos. For more information, visit


Improved insight

Casino designers need to take closer look at 3D imaging technology


At any given time, a casino is either considering a renovation project or is in the middle of one.

It’s time-consuming, expensive, and it can cut into profits when work crews are onsite. Often, the pace of the casino industry usually doesn’t match the pace of the remodeling project. Behind-the-scenes, what some might not realize is that frequent remodeling can attract new customers in the short term, but it can also impact how quickly future remodeling projects are completed. Here’s what you should know.

Most casinos, especially those that have undergone several remodels, don’t usually have an accurate as-built document for the architect and construction project manager. This piece of the project is critical because it provides the actual and current layout, including proper dimensions of the space. Without it, each remodel can be unexpectedly delayed due to re-measuring, changes in design and client change orders.

Another little known challenge is how often a team has to return to a casino to recapture measurements—especially if measurements were initially either inaccurate or missed. Once the team captures the measurements of the space and returns to the office to start working on the remodeling design, they realize inconsistencies or gaps in their data. This requires them to revisit the site, further impacting the project’s deadline and budget if travel is required.   


To address these issues, architects and construction pros that work on casinos are turning to new digital measurement technologies. One of these methods is photogrammetry. It’s a way to measure objects and spaces from pictures, which can eliminate the need to take manual measurements.

However, photogrammetry usually requires additional manual calculations after the photos are taken in order to determine measurements. But new photogrammetry tools, similar in size and shape to smartphones, do the calculations for you on site. Users can capture a larger area and instantly get 3D measurements based on 2D images.

These tools are part of an emerging technology sector called reality capture. For architects like myself, it provides a way to quickly and accurately capture the exact dimensions of physical objects and spaces. From there, my team back in the office can use the measurement data to get to work quickly on the casino remodeling project.

The biggest advantage of photogrammetry is the level of accuracy that device provides. Photogrammetry with a portable imager provides high-quality data and accurate images at a lower cost and comes packaged in a smaller device. Depending on the scope and project requirements, this tool can be used independently or as a complementary device to more advanced technologies, like terrestrial laser scanners.

Tech talk aside, portable photogrammetry tools can replace traditional tape measures and pads and pencils. Their quality is also far more than a cut above low-end smartphone apps. And yet they’re also an exceptional alternative to expensive, heavier equipment that requires staging and tripods. Many of the newer tools are handheld or easy to transport and carry. This makes them ideal when used for casino projects because they can discreetly capture the dimensions of the area and provide accurate measurements and details about the space without disrupting business.


For example, my team was recently hired to work on a casino’s outdoor Cirque de Soleil set. This required us to not only map the site conditions, but also the surrounding areas including a route to the tent, restrooms and other parts of the casino.

Having relied on older technologies in the past for similar projects, we knew this job was ideal for a 3D handheld photogrammetry device.

Using a Leica BLK3D device for photogrammetry, along with a complementary product known as the DST 360 fine-tune adapter, which helps with façade-based measurements, we were able to accurately capture the footprint of the tent and the entire outdoor space. This includes hard-to-reach places such as ceilings and soffits.

With newer reality capture technologies, we’re able to speed up our field work considerably while providing better accuracy than older methods, which included pencil and paper and tape measures for manually measuring as-built conditions.

Additional benefits were that the team was able to do our job by blending in and not interrupting the 24/7 business of the casino. With other tools, people and objects can easily get in the way and impact the accuracy of the data, especially when taking manual measurements. And in casinos, there are not just customers but all sorts of staff members, security personnel and other employees to consider.


Using photogrammetry technology allows us to get all the pictures we need and upload and share the data with the team so they can get working on the project right away. This saves a lot of time and increases efficiency and collaboration. It also boosts our client’s confidence in us because they can get JPG files and PDF reports on the project’s progress and see accurate measurements within the photos at any time. Not to mention that those measurements will come in handy for future renovations.

We know that for extensive and elaborate commercial projects like casinos, larger architecture firms are typically hired. As a small firm, we’re able to effectively compete because of our use of modern technology. This has resulted in clients that continuously refer others and become repeat customers. 

Richard Youngblood is the principal and founder of Youngblood Architecture, a Las Vegas-based architecture consulting firm. His team of five have been remodeling casinos for more than 35 years and have built a portfolio and actively service more than a dozen casinos throughout the U.S.


Open Palms

Inventive landscape architecture played a key role in the reimagined Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas


Lifescapes International played a key role in the landscape design around the newly reimagined Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas—a $690 million redevelopment.

The firm focused on design elements and installation for the property’s lengthy streetscape along Flamingo Boulevard, the strikingly lush entry drive, and the impressive Santorini-inspired KAOS dayclub and nightclub. The multi-level 73,000-square-foot club has two main pools, 12 side pools, 39 unique cabanas (most with their own private pool) and features 180 custom designed pots densely planted with full-grown plant material. The state-of-the-art stage with lotus flower canopy has already hosted some of the hottest DJ/music acts in show business. The focal point of the dayclub is a towering 65-foot bronze grand sculpture by world renowned artist Damien Hirst, entitled “Demon with Bowl” (2014) which rises from the center of one of the two main pools.

Boasting the highest number of pools at any single resort in North America at one location, the Palms offers a luxe, contemporary oasis that can’t be found anywhere else in Las Vegas. Running the length of the eastern exterior of Palms’ Ivory Tower is the city’s largest LED wall, which streams live shots of the day and nightclub to the outside world.

“Las Vegas is known as one of the premier destinations for entertainment in the world and the new Palms Casino Resort is redefining the outdoor club experience,” said Adam Kober, principal and project designer for Lifescapes International. “Our goal was to create a visual impact from the moment you travel up the resort driveway with plantings and materials that inspire a beautiful desert escape for resort and club-goers.”

Along W. Flamingo Road, the Lifescapes International team designed the overall landscape ambience to tell the story and set the mood of the property. The new streetscape is lined with custom-designed pots spaced among undulating hedges. The entry road takes guests on a journey up the driveway past dramatic Canary Island date palms, and culminates in the newly remodeled porte cochere featuring black and beige concrete in a custom designed, contemporary pattern. The front door is also accentuated by an adjacent, planted living wall with a featured sculpture by Brooklyn-based sculptor Adam Parker Smith.

To achieve the desired aesthetic surrounding the clubs, Lifescapes International’s team of renowned professionals infused the multi-level pool area with a vast variety of palms, and other significant signature trees including: Canary Island Date Palms, Mexican Fan Palms, Sago Palms, Southern Live Oaks, Fruitless Olive, Sweet Bay and Laurel Carolina Cherry trees. Large pots planted with Chinese Windmill Palms and Zonal Geraniums adorn the main entrance steps.

Friedmutter Group served as the architect for the project, KGA Architecture was the architect of record for the pool area, with McCarthy Building Companies as the general contractor, and Tracy & Ryder/Park West Inc. and BrightView as the Landscape contractors.

Newport Beach, Calif.-based Lifescapes International has been the premier landscape architectural design firm of entertainment spaces in Las Vegas for over 30 years with 16 projects on the Las Vegas Strip and 31 projects in the greater Las Vegas area. For more information, visit


On display

Three ways casinos are upping the ante with jaw-dropping audiovisual experiences


Casinos have always focused on creating unique, exciting, immersive environments for guests, and today’s most innovative operators are taking it to a new level with cutting-edge audiovisual technologies.

Whether they implement gesture-based interactive content, LED video wall art installations or dance clubs lined with countless digital screens, casinos are creating engaging, shareable moments that help differentiate their experience from local and global competition. The gaming operators featured below provide a glimpse of what is possible with today’s latest audiovisual technologies.


When guests enter Buffalo, N.Y.-based Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino they’re met with a larger-than-life interactive display that offers quick games, fun photo opportunities and direct interaction with on-screen visuals.

Working with the award-winning content producers at Float4, the casino developed a system that combines a crisp 13.5-foot-tall LED display, a generative media server, two cameras and IR-based motion tracking sensors to create an interactive “zone of influence” that allows guests to play games and create shareable moments. A primary goal of this installation was to introduce guests to interactive and augmented reality technology, thereby giving them a new experience that will stay with them long after they leave.

Float4 created nine different content modules that run on a loop, with three different categories of interaction. Two “Augmented Reality” modules use the cameras to place a live image of the viewer onto the screen among cheerleaders or wildlife, while five “React” modules let the guest affect the movement of on screen particles, waves and designs by moving their hands and walking around. Finally, two “Throw” modules instruct visitors to line up in front of the display and then guides them through a short motion-controlled ball toss game.

These simple, yet engaging digital experiences set Seneca Buffalo Creek apart from local competition and instill a sense of fun that helps generate repeat visits. Still, some casinos are going even further with AV technology and developing whole-room guest experiences.


After a full-scale round of renovations that feature many new technologies installed by McCann Systems, The LINQ in Las Vegas is now one of the world’s most technologically-immersive casinos. To deliver guests a memorable, exciting experience, the casino partnered with renowned digital artist Refik Anadol to create a live digital experience called DATALAND.

The art installation involves unique LED displays that cover entire hallways and form 3D shapes on ceilings to engage visitors with bright, creative graphics that elevate excitement levels. Many areas also include interactive elements where visitors’ movements and gestures affect the on-screen visuals.

The LINQ also used LED displays to update one of the most classic casino moments: winning a slot machine jackpot. When a jackpot occurs, the wall and ceiling-mounted LED displays automatically switch to a special content piece that shows dollar bills falling all around the area and encourages the entire casino floor to celebrate along with the lucky winner.

This one-of-a-kind digital art installation ensures that guests leave The LINQ feeling like they’ve experienced something special that other casinos don’t offer.


The new KAOS Nightclub/Dayclub at Palms Casino in Las Vegas stands apart from other venues by virtue of its truly staggering audiovisual experiences. The venue is home to Las Vegas’ largest LED screen, a 270-foot-tall monster comprised of 1,035 LED panels that covers the entire facade of the Ivory Tower building and shows a live feed of the nightclub to every passerby.

Inside, a total of 9,300 curved LED panels cover surfaces in every direction, offering DJs and other performing artists a seemingly infinite visual real estate for their digital content. The indoor nightclub area is round, so a large curved “halo” LED display circles the entire ceiling with unique cutouts accompanied by dozens of separated LED displays. Even the balconies have their own curved displays on the front over the main dance floor. The system uses 17 4K streams to populate displays in dozens of areas throughout the club.

In a market as competitive as the Las Vegas strip, this enveloping digital space provides artists with a way to surround their fans with sights as well as sounds, and elevates the KAOS experience above other entertainment venues.


Audiovisual technology is always evolving, and casinos have substantial incentive to integrate the latest, brightest, most exciting technologies to keep guests loyal and sharing their experiences through social media. Augmented reality, interactive art exhibits, skyscraping LED video walls and displays that can split to show 30 different content streams are just some of the experiences that can be created with today’s latest technology. Working with leading technology integrators and content creators, casinos of all sizes are developing one-of-a-kind experiences that keep guests entertained and coming back.