Issue 23
February 14 - 20, 2001
Volume 1
page 3

Friedman's Designing Casinos to Dominate Work
Must-Read For Every Casino Exec

By Howard Schwartz

For two decades, perhaps more, those with the power to invest, build, design casinos have asked one key question: "How do I most effectively build an establishment where large numbers of people will gamble-and return?"

The query has been asked with variations. Take the calls we received from Europe and Asia among other locales, where anxious voices asked: "Is there a book that tells me how far I should keep the slot machines from each other so people feel comfortable?" Or, "I know people feel intimidated by certain casino designs-is there a book that tells me things about table layouts, lighting and colors?"

There have always been financial horror stories, in Nevada, Atlantic City, Mississippi, and perhaps will be more in the future as the Native American casinos experiment with d�cor, design and what they want customers to experience vs. what customers would like to experience.

If players can't see their cards clearly or if a sports bettor or horseplayer needs a flashlight to see his team or horse's name because of shadows on a result board. Take the case of one hotel where lounge acts were so loud people couldn't eat dinner without shouting during their own conversation. Something was clearly wrong.

Was it poor design? Casino indifference? Plain stupidity? Who was responsible for these terrible errors? More importantly, how much did it cost to correct them? Millions here and there, I know. At least one casino erred in locating baccarat pits, sports book, and parking facilities in relation to noise reduction.

Now comes Bill Friedman's important work for the 21st Century casino designer, builder and/or owner. Titled Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition (628 pages, hardbound, $150), and worth every penny, it becomes, in my opinion, one of the most important casino management books of our times and it should be the hands of every decision-maker of the future.

Friedman's reputation has been established. He's no Johnny-come-lately, having authored Casino Management in 1972, then revising and updating it to accommodate Atlantic City's entrance into the gaming industry in 1984. The book is now out of print, but it remains highly sought-after by anyone entering the industry at mid-management level or higher.

This book, which took two decades to compile, will make as many casino owners happy as angry. There are those who will argue their casino-hotel is beautifully designed and properly enticing for their clientele, not matter what any expert says.

For existing casinos, Friedman has many pats on the back to offer and just as many criticisms-all worth noting and analyzing. Architects will be especially queasy about Friedmans' analysis-so will those who keep the books and wonder more specifically why profits are up or down and what causes these fluctuations.

This is truly "an armchair tour of almost every major casino in Nevada history (from 1931 to 1997)." Along the way, Friedman examines 81 casinos and focuses on 13 positive

(winning) and negative (losing) design principles. These include layout, traffic flow, d�cor, lighting, signage and noise.

He offers analysis and examples of how proper design can attract bigger crowds, which in turn affect profitability-the casino's bottom line.

Often you'll hear players, visitors comment: "I don't know what it was-but I didn't feel comfortable at the (fill in the name of the hotel)." That equates to a non-return by the person speaking, who in turn probably told a dozen others. Word of mouth can be a powerful marketing or advertising tool. It can make or break a new casino, which might intentionally or unintentionally reject locals, for example, or poorly anticipate

waiting times for buffets or valet parking or check cashing.

Friedman comments that the Barbary Coast probably has the best location in Las Vegas, or any hotel-and explains why. He says "every casino formed in the shape of a rotunda has fared poorly against the competition (and this includes the Luxor)�"

Why are low ceilings better than high ones in creating a powerful impact on potential play? (There's a sense of intimacy involved here he says).

Spaciousness is vital, so are floor surfaces. He chides one casino's "hard surfaces" for making customers feel uncomfortable-especially when it affects music-live or recorded.

This is a book about how future casinos can overcome weak design, avoiding mistakes other have made, and which have spent or wasted many millions of dollars to redesign or "correct" initial errors.

Friedman's work contains 164 full-page color photographs, showing important interior features.

If I were a casino owner, major stockholder, or the person with the power of the pen, or if my future was at stake when it came to major decision-making on a future casino, this is one book I'd have on my desk right now-- or know the reason why it's not.

Friedman, a consultant for many years, also analyzes casino performance, using total casino win, slot win, number of slots, slot occupancy rate and player counts. He includes two new forms of analysis: the ratio of number of slots to hotel rooms and players to visitors-to assess and compare casinos' appeal to players.

Two prestigious names in the industry have written forewords for the 39-chapter work-Dr. William Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming, University of Nevada Reno, and Shannon Bybee, executive director of the International Gaming Institute of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

This book is available at Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Use MasterCard, VISA or Discover card and order by toll-free 1-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Pacific Time. Fax an order to the store at 702-382-7594 anytime, using the credit card number and expiration date. Orders are shipped the next working day. You may order by the Internet at The store is located a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard, about three miles from where The Strip begins and two miles from Downtown Las Vegas. Ask for a free catalog of 1,000 books, software and videos.

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