A Look at Casino Layouts

In the mid-70s, the slot floor in Atlantic City looked like the picture below. Rows and rows of slot machines filled the casino floor and offered little in the way of product differentiation. When looking at a factory floor full of one-armed bandits, few would have realized how casinos would change over the next 40 years. These one-armed bandits took in coins and paid jackpots based on a limited paytable, because up until 1982, each symbol on the reel had an equal chance of appearing on a pay line. The industry had yet to fully appreciate virtual reels1.

An Atlantic City casino floor circa the 1970s.
An Atlantic City casino floor circa the 1970s.
Today’s casino looks a lot different, in large part due to Telnaes’ virtual reels invention that mobilized game designers’ innovation with paytable odds and game mechanics. The second picture shows a more modern casino, where banks of slot machines are merchandised. Merchandising techniques used by game designers and casinos to attract players have proliferated. The end result is many vendors selling a greater variety of gaming products than ever before.

With product proliferation and competition, casinos found themselves evolving into more complicated designs, both internally and externally. Casino designers learned to use traffic paths and points of interest to encourage consumers to explore and participate in their casino experience. Showrooms, bars, night clubs, hotel rooms and restaurants became points of interests for consumers, while entrances, service centers and loyalty desks supported the operational engagement. Traffic paths were designed to enable consumers to move from one point of interest to another, and along the way slot machines and gaming pits were strategically placed to lure the consumer to gamble.

A more modern slot floor layout.
A more modern slot floor layout.
In designing a layout, most individuals apply a form of the Casino Design Loop2. The first step is to identify the traffic flows, both in value and customer segment types. For example, consider how hotel customers traverse the casino floor versus guests who are visiting for a few hours. With these traffic flows in mind, the designer can begin to imagine designing the floor along two dimensions: 1) Defining the bank configuration in terms of geographic design, and 2) identifying the product types that will be placed in that location, with particular focus on platform and cabinet types. Signs can be an additional element added to the bank- and product-type decisions; however, signs impact sightlines and reduce the effectiveness of the floor layout if not imagined properly. Designers should think through the effective pricing of the product in terms of the effective wager and hold percentage. Effective wager is the amount the player will bet and the expected hold percentage is how much of each bet the casino will win. These pricing decisions yield additional insights into design elements that require consideration, and should be based on considering the traffic flows identified earlier. This loop can be iterated as many times as necessary for the designer and casino operator to be comfortable that consumers will enjoy their experience in the casino.

Historically, designers of gaming floors relied on banks that were long and rectangular in nature. Casinos would have rows and rows of these banks of varying sizes. As technology allowed operators to obtain the same operating results with fewer machines and increased competition, decreasing the yield, operators began to reduce the number of machines on the floor. Designers took advantage of more rounds, triangles and crosses in their layouts. Consumers tend to feel that these designs offer private space while maximizing their peripheral vision in the casino. Technology has allowed operators to meet revenue targets with fewer machines, so in many markets these designs are proliferating, as the real estate has become available to maximize customer experience.

Additional configurations that may stimulate creative designs are identified below. The first two designs take advantage of pillars that are inherent in every casino. Pillars provide an excellent opportunity to craft a layout that maximizes a structural element that can be an eyesore for sightlines and merchandising. The last two designs use end caps in creative ways to take advantage of space and offer consumers unique positions to play in. These positions make actual drive incremental win by taking advantage of spontaneous wagers from consumers flowing by.

Applying some of the design guidelines associated with these configurations, an examination of two examples of casino floor layouts can be performed. This examination is meant to be illustrative and not exhaustive. Option A3 has long curving banks that look artistic and symmetrical in their design. Option B4 has some symmetry in the bank placement, but the odd shapes and designs are starkly different than those of Option A. To truly evaluate these options, a deeper review would need to be conducted, examining the points of interest and the broader geographic layout. For our purposes, the focus is on the layout of gaming devices.

Option A is increased in size to illustrate some design guidelines that a designer might consider. This diagram allows us to examine traffic paths as identified by the blue lines. The long blue lines represent a customer making a long and direct trek through the casino. The shorter blue lines indicate possible points where a consumer might choose to enter the casino floor. In examining this layout, a designer should imagine what those decision points look like to a consumer through a three-dimensional eye.

Point A indicates a potential decision point for the consumer. The consumer does not have much to look at. The bank closes off the ability to see much beyond the first bank, and it leaves the consumer with little choice and visibility due to the lack of depth in sightlines. The layout at Point B has much the same effect. In examining Points C and D, a different effect can be seen. The consumer can now see further into the casino floor; seeing banks to the right, left and multiple layers in. They also can see the internal circle of banks that the designer created to be the centerpiece of the casino floor; however, they only really have one directional choice to explore the floor.

An additional challenge in the design lays in the bank choices themselves. Curved banks cramp customer seating and reduce sight lines on the concave portion while offering greater space for consumers and lots of peripheral vision for the player on the convex side. A general rule of thumb is that the convex side of the curve will outperform the concave side; however, these designs should always be evaluated on a win-per-square-foot basis versus win-per-unit, because the design typically takes up more space. Curved banks can act to close off traffic paths and make the casino difficult to traverse. Consumers can find themselves trapped inside curved configurations and become frustrated with their experience. They take up a lot of real estate that is not captured in the win-per-unit metric, and other configurations may offer better intimacy with less space consumption.

Enlarging Option B supports a compare and contrast analysis of the two designs. Immediately, the areas highlighted by blue boxes show design decisions made to create spaces for people to travel to or through. Section A is designed to encourage customers to explore and move around the section. This is accomplished by maximizing sightlines. Sightlines allow consumers to see lots of games and they can fairly easy identify those that are occupied or not. Section B is designed to maximize unit count and provide paths for customers to move from one point of the casino to another. The long vertical banks in Section B, contrasted with the wide variety of different shapes of banks in Section B, help illustrate the types of decision a designer can make in laying out their casino floor. Long banks help maximize unit count, while other designs improve merchandising effects and create comfortable and engaging zones.

Looking at Option B from the view of a customer traveling along traffic paths, the designer can imagine the three-dimensional effect of the floor layout. At Point A, the consumer can see some games and can be drawn into a partial zone where the long rows in Section B collides with the bank designs that are highlighted in Section A. The consumer who arrives at Point B can see a wide selection of machines and open space that invites the consumer to enter and explore the section. Points C and D are different views, highlighting how bank designs that open up sightlines help provide the consumer with choice and motivation to venture into the casino to find the game or experience that matches their needs.

Typically a well-designed casino floor should allow the operator to accomplish several objectives:

1. Show off the casino by creating depth.
2. Give consumers a reason to drift further into the casino and have fun exploring the space.
3. Use a mix of upright and slant cabinets that can help create the depth required to maximize merchandising opportunities.
4. Slot signage used tactically can help draw consumers into challenging parts of the casino; however, if consumer can’t see the signs due to poor sightlines, they will be ineffective and potentially an eye sore.
5. Leverage larger games that have height elements that act like signs and have great player recognition to draw consumer into low-traffic sections.

While designing a casino floor is more an art than a science, a careful and thoughtful approach will yield a more engaging and entertaining experience for your player, which should yield additional revenue. Design guidelines such as those discussed in this article can help operators guide their decision-making in moving, configuring and placing gaming devices on their floor.

1 Inge Telnaes Patent 4,448,419.
2 Created by Jeff Jordan, Jordan Gaming Consulting Group
3 Courtesy of Bruce Rowe, Senior Vice President at Bally Technologies
4 Ibid.

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