Do you know who Betty Willis is?
Google ‘Las Vegas’ and, high in the results, you will see the iconic ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign. The diamond-shaped landmark stands nearly eight metres high. It has featured in many movies and was erected in 1959 by Western Neon. When you see this, you know you’ve arrived.
It is one of the most iconic and lasting symbols of Sin City and it was designed by Betty Willis. In 2009, the sign was designated as an ‘historic place’. There is now a parking lot where you can stop and take a photograph. Willis designed many more neon signs for the hotels of Las Vegas and she is credited with influencing the early design of the city.
The Wow Factor
Casino design is a blend of the loud, brilliant, ostentatious, and fabulous. It’s the glorious point where extraordinary amounts of money meet architectural auteurs. The goal: to create a casino with more wow than a pack of bow-wows shouting wowser at a Bow Wow Wow concert.
From Las Vegas to Macau, via Singapore, Monte Carlo, and France, architects and designers have created shrines to pleasure and plenty; emporiums of excess, where people come to relax, have fun, and be entertained.
Behind the scenes, of course, there is the business of gambling. Multi-storey skyscrapers that look like the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids don’t come cheap. Until the 1990s, casino design was about taking the player out of the real world and into a fantasy realm. Designers created an internal maze of flashing lights and slots. There were no windows. It was easy to lose track of time. In the midst of the labyrinth were the blackjack, craps, and roulette tables.
The Bellagio of the Ball
Today, the old school tactics of yesteryear have been replaced by modern casinos, where the emphasis is on fun and wonder. The first venue to herald this new generation of casinos was the Bellagio. Opened in 1998, at a cost of $1.6 billion, the resort has nearly 4,000 rooms, an 8 acre lake complete with dancing fountains, and a depth of detail and luxury never seen before.
The Bellagio was soon followed by Venice tribute act the Venetian and a swathe of achingly cool and stylish hotels liken the LINQ, the Wynn Las Vegas, and the incredible ARIA resort and Casino.
Morpheus and Macau
The influence of Las Vegas has filtered around the planet. In Asia, upwardly mobile economies are creating a fresh audience of wealthy people in search of entertainment and excitement. Macau is the go-to destination for lovers of casino action.
In 2018, Melco Resorts and Entertainment opened the five-star Morpheus. Designed by Zaha Hadid, and built at a cost of more than $1 billion, the hotel is a showpiece for the much-acclaimed late architect. It features a steel, curved, exoskeleton and exposed elevators.
Melco chairman Lawrence Ho asked Hadid to create something ‘insane’. The exterior frame supports the building, leaving a spacious, mind-blowing, interior. Inside is a huge casino, housed in a totally unique and original, dramatic, alien-like, structure. Morpheus is arguably the only hotel in Macau without any previous architectural point of reference.
The Sands of Time
Another iconic Asian hotel and casino is the Marina Bay Sands complex. Completed in 2010, it was the world’s most expensive casino property, costing nearly $6 billion. Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the building looks like an ironing board with three towers and a three-acre sky park that straddles the top – complete with the world’s longest infinity pool.
At the base of the building is the magnificent atrium casino, with 500 tables and nearly 2,000 slot machines, housed in a stunning 15,000 sq/m space. The architect says he was inspired by a deck of cards.
One of the most bizarre buildings to see the light of day in recent years is the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Designed by Las Vegas-based Klai Juba Wald Architecture, the hotel is designed to resemble a guitar.
The incredible looking hotel was opened in 2019. The guitar reaches 450 ft into the sky and has 638 luxury hotel rooms. Located below is 30,000 sq ft of gaming space and nearly 200 table games.
Casinos can be controversial but their architectural legacy is assured. They encourage developers and designers to really go for it, creating buildings where sometimes the form is more important than the function. Occasionally: beauty is in the eye of the bet holder.
Can’t get to one of these iconic buildings? No problem. Just use an online mobile casino app to enjoy a little card and table action on the move. It doesn’t matter where you are. Connect with Casino.com today and you could be playing Blackjack at Buckingham Palace, Roulette on the Riviera, or Craps in the Campanile in Venice. Have fun.