Video: Nothing to chance

By Reporter
updated 6/22/2006 2:52:07 PM ET 2006-06-22T18:52:07

You walk into a casino and you see money: people losing money and people making money. But there's nothing random about the patterns in the carpets you walk on and the ceilings you gawk at. It's all designed to make money – for the casino.

“We look at every square foot,” said Paul steelman, president of  Steelman Design Companies. “Especially the power space --the ground floor space. Every square foot has to make some money. And if not, then it has to energize the spaces that are in fact that are required to make money. “

Steelman 's company designs casinos and resorts all over the world -- from the MGM in Las Vegas to the Sands Macau in China, where he built a six-story, world record chandelier measuring 131 feet long and 82 feet tall surrounded by waterfalls. His job is to use the “wow-factor” – to get people into casinos and keep them there for a very long time.

“One of the things we try to do is peak the curiosity for exploration,” he said. “We don't like straight lines. We want you walking on curved paths, exploring nooks and crannies. To say, ‘Wow!’ or ‘I'm empowered to gamble.’ ...

“Now, how do we empower you? With ceiling heights, people, relationships to people, relationships to people watching people, relationships of people watching people losing because it's more impressive. ... In seven-year cycles, casino managers will renovate 100 percent of their space. They want things bigger, better but not necessarily to capture the latest trend or hot movie theme.”

No blue, no mirrors
Building a casino is no different than any other building. The size, the curves and the colors are all important. But the design here has to speak to the visitors’ psychological state.

“If we put blue, everybody looks blue. That's bad,” he said. “(With mirrors), if you look at yourself, the fantasy is over. You're no longer James Bond, you're fat, your glasses are crooked. You're out of the empowerment zone.”

Take exits for example. Conventional wisdom used to be: don't let customers find their way out of a casino, create confusion. But the thinking today is: confusion creates doubt, which means less empowerment and, therefore, less spending. This is why Steelman's design team looks beyond the obligatory blueprint.

In areas where there is no gambling, there is still a reason for each piece of carpeting and furniture; from gaming tables to banquet tables.

“Furniture very important,” said Steelman. “The ergonomic qualities, the stools, position of buttons, the slots in the toe-base, and focused grouped. Years ago we designed a bingo table. We spent $100,000 making prototypes and when all 12 little ladies booked the tables in advance they said build me 1400 of those.”

Some of the largest building in the world are built to house hotels and casinos; and the largest privately financed projects in the world are casinos.

CNBC: “If I want to get into the casino building game, how big is the place and how much money do you have to spend?”
STEELMAN: “Well now the entry price for casinos world wide has skyrocketed.... Most of the buildings we design are in the 7-million-square-foot range. We are designing (a) 10 million square foot (building) in Russia. The entry costs are very large. The average Vegas casino resort in excess of $2.5 billion. I was teasing (Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO) Sheldon Adelson. the only project that cost more is the space station.”

Yes, the price to get into the gaming business is out of this world. But remember: every step you take, on every square foot, is making millions. And that’s allowing casino owners to go wild building and growing the neon jungle.

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved


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