Place your bets

The new breed of supercasinos – complete with lavish arhitecture, restaurants, sports and shopping facilities, hotels and even museums – could offer interesting opportunities to designers

Las Vegas is not coming to Great Britain, Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has promised. This will be a relief to anyone with a sensitive constitution when it comes to design.

However, the first so-called supercasino licence was granted to Manchester earlier this year, so there’s little doubt that a certain amount of razzmatazz will be making its way here – and there’s no guarantee that it won’t involve a theme.

Manchester City Council is inviting proposals for a 5000m2 casino with up to 1250 slot machines. Of course, most operators would prefer to stuff their venues to the gills with slots, as they are the gambling industry’s cash cows. But legislation forces them to find room for gaming tables too, to try to instill a whiff of Monaco sophistication.

If theming is to be part of Manchester’s design, the world is literally its oyster, as Hilton has demonstrated in Las Vegas with its three-quarter height Eiffel Tower.

But these days, it’s about the peripheral activities too, so the supercasino will boast an arena, swimming pool, sports venue, restaurants, bars, a nightclub and a hotel. Such hotels are not always expected to make money, but are again often part of the deal for allowing a casino to be built at all.

The UK is not the only country to relax its gaming laws in recent times. With manufacturing jobs moving to countries with lower labour costs, Singapore lifted a 40-year ban on casinos in 2005 to try to bolster tourism. Its aim is to double visitor numbers to 17 million by 2015 – hence the recently announced schemes by Frank Gehry and Moshe Safdie.

In fact, the Far East is the place to head for casino aficionados. Macao, the only place in China where casinos are legal, could soon overtake the Las Vegas strip as the world’s largest gambling hub, with at least four more casinos opening there this year.

Las Vegas Bay Sands, Singapore, by Moshe Safdie and Associates

Come 2009, Las Vegas Bay Sands will be a $3.6bn (£1.8bn), 557 000m2, all-singing, all-dancing scheme. Designed by Boston-based architect Moshe Safdie and Associates, this is a mixed-use development, where the casino sits alongside a host of other entertainment offers. Although no interiors details for the casino are available, it will be in good architectural company: three 50-storey hotels with a ‘sky garden’ covering almost a hectare bridging the towers, an Arts and Sciences Museum, 93 000m2 of waterside promenade and shopping arcade, a 93 000m2 convention centre, two 2000-seat theatres and a garage that can accommodate 4000 cars. Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian Casino Resort in Las Vegas, will see its complex at Marina Bay joined by a second casino scheme, this one designed by Gehry Partners, with a third to follow. The site, which sits on 170 000m2 of reclaimed waterfront property opposite downtown Singapore, is billed as the world’s most expensive casino resort.

Masquerade at Harrah’s New Orleans, US, by Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo

With its 223m2 ‘ultra lounge’, hi-tech video tower, 10m ice bar, live shows and music, night sky-themed ceiling mural, not to mention the gaming tables and slots, Masquerade is a full-on experience.

The operator, Harrah’s, was after a revamp and extension of its existing casino, so WATG created the new look around the theme of the masquerade – which translates here as New Orleans baroque. As well as the ornate ‘period’ fixtures and fittings, there is a hi-tech element in the shape of the 13m video tower. This acts as the centrepiece and beams audio, video and special effects like faux-fire and intelligent lighting. There are more innovations on the ceiling, with the 16m ceiling displays and fibre-optic galaxy, which is intended to suggest the great outdoors.

This casino, which opened in 2005, is designed to be one-of-a-kind – hip and ultra modern.

Rank’s G casino, Manchester, by Cadmium Design

Rank has been rebranding its Grosvenor Casinos as G, opening one in Luton in February, and another – the Manchester venue featured here – last year. Cadmium managing director Paula Reason describes the interiors as a box of chocolates – each zone has a different flavour. The aim was to break down the boundaries between the various activities and make the environment feel accessible to the gambler and non-gambler alike. That means no sticky carpets or dark, smoky corners. ‘The entrance is like an exploding box of delights,’ she says. Rather than a conventional reception desk, there’s a series of oval welcome pods. Play is at the heart of the new brand, she says, hence the display of toys and board games, and the giant Perspex wall of hand-drawn laughter images. The gaming floor boasts a giant oval fibre-optic ceiling. To enhance the welcoming atmosphere, security cameras are positioned on lamp stands, complete with lampshades.

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