Neighborhoods : The Present Future Of Casino Design

Keeping Up With Bellagio, Wynncore and ARIA

Posted by MikeE

Neighborhoods: The Present Future of Casino Design

When you step out of Bellagio's high-end Asian restaurant, Jasmine, a direct, unblemished view across the casino floor and towards the high limit baccarat tables greets you. It's no design accident and such was perhaps a foreshadowing of genius to come.

In the weeks leading up to the opening of Wynn Las Vegas back in 2005, Steve was boasting of having the first hotel with "neighborhoods." In the back of my mind, I jokingly imagined penny slots, graffiti, and hookers on one end, Boccherini and baccarat at another, and fashionistas socializing wherever the nightclub was going to be.

We didn't get that - not at first glace, at least. It was hard to tell what Steve Wynn meant by these "neighborhoods." The four quadrants of the casino perhaps? The separation of most restaurants from the casino floor? While we didn't understand it initially, most of us did understand that we wanted to return again and again - that just being at Wynn LV felt good. Clearly, there was something different about this resort than most others.

Through several stays and major dissection, these "neighborhoods" were discovered. There's the northeastern portion of the hotel with the convenience of the parking garage to the poker room and some of the lowest-priced food options in the casino. Here you can also find the sportsbook, nickel and quarter machines, and elusive $10 blackjack tables.

It's by no means ghetto, but significantly different to the symmetrical southeastern portion of the resort. Here at the Tower Suites, your only parking option is valet which leads into an atrium and lobby with Tableau inside and Alex around the corner. The Chinese are shown favor with backdoor baccarat and high limit slot access, pai gow poker and tiles a stones throw away, and both casual and formal Asian restaurants. Oh, and there's a store nearby that sells $40,000 pens.

Like it or not, Wynn LV's design was the closest Steve could get to segregating clientele without getting into trouble. It made for welcome variety - sometimes I just want to toss a few beers at a blackjack table socializing with complete strangers, other times I want my ass kissed while sipping Macallan 18.

This is the formula to Wynn's success.

To a less evident extent, Encore is no different. Again, the Tower Suites there have preferred access to baccarat, high limit slots, and the Sky Casino while Sinatra and the host office on opposite ends of the lobby's doors. The latest fashion trends at Ensemble, Rock & Republic, and Hermes are steps away from the hip Botero restaurant and XS nightclub.

Wynn once went on record as saying that he believes "neighborhoods" would be the future of casino design. Boastful developer speak, perhaps? He's certainly no stranger to it, but Caesars did follow in his footsteps building a VIP porte cochere for the Augustus tower and MGM's Skylofts now have their own entrance as well. But the clearest evidence that "neighborhoods" have become the future of casino design is evident in the Bel-Air to Beverly Hills treatment of the VIP areas at Aria.

Talk about hiding the rich from the masses. A private entrance through a narrow corridor leads to a reception and lounge with several elevators servicing only 266 Sky Suites/Villas - numbers smaller than Wynncore Tower Suites, smaller than even Four Seasons. Through a set of double doors, we reach the "common" areas, but with two high-end restaurants, a top shelf bar, baccarat, and private salons, it'll be very uncommon to see the casual passer-by here. From there it's only a few more steps to the host office and high limit room. Indeed, combined with the kind of service that looks to be rivaling Skylofts, exclusivity will be executed incredibly well at Aria.

Shame that CityCenter's flagship will likely be the last of the major resort developments in Las Vegas for a long time. The trend towards developing "neighborhoods" will be a fascinating study for future resorts on the distant horizon.

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Comments & Discussion

I dislike "exclusivity" because it's always fake. If you're so ingrained in the Ameri-centric mindset as to think that staying in a 3,000 room fake resort is your ideal vacation, you've already lost privacy to begin with.

Let me get back to that, since I kind of made a grumpy comment and walked away.

The stuff about what you see when walking from where and keeping commonly used services near each other is a good idea, but this stuff about "too obscure to be found by the normals" is just silly. It's like listening to someone come back from Disneyland and complain about the crowds. Okay, well, yes, excessive crowding is bad, but obviously they have to have some volume to keep the place running.

Having hidden check-in desks or side casinos or other fake segregation lines is like that ticket scheme where instead of standing in line for a ride, you get a ticket (possibly in a line) to come back later and stand in line further up the way. People think they're saving time but they aren't, because no capacity was added, the same number of people are being served in an hour regardless of what order they were taken, and so there's no real benefit except fleeting thoughts in simple minds.

If a hidden registration is sitting unused most of the time, that's efficiency lost that could be spent putting that labour on the main registration. On the other hand, if the hidden registration is as used as the main one, there's no benefit. All the presence of a hidden registration tells me is that the line is moving artificially slow because they have people in another room helping almost nobody.

Aren't most casinos segmented like this? I never see cheap dining next to the high limit areas and vice versa.

Very true, though I feel this goes beyond common sense marketing. For example, we know poker players might be among the smartest in the casino playing a game that they could well be making a living out of. While I'd hate to make generalizations, considering the migration of card counters into pro poker players after the influx of "prey" from the poker craze a few years ago, I would guess that the most appealing game for them while they wait for a table to open up is perfect-strategy blackjack. Wynn makes this very convenient.

The Jasmine example at Bellagio is another. When next-door convenience could not be achieved, the very next best thing they could do was make a clear sightline half a football field long across one of the busiest casinos and into the baccarat bar. Pretty remarkable.

Actually, talking of cheap food by expensive room, Monte Carlo has a food court next to their high limit room.

MGM Grand has the coffee shop near the Mansion, however it's location is hidden genius. It's right near basically all the room elevators. There's a semi-hidden core of two elevators that go to the fourth floor nearby the Mansion entrance, from which one can access either of the regular guest elevators by going down one half of realllllly long hall.

That's getting a bit over-detailed, so let's put it this way: guys who run room service at MGM Grand probably have less of a marathon run than you think they do.

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