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Have a Seat

Comfort and ergonomics come together in casino chairs

Have a Seat

Pull up a chair, witness a new gaming star.

Seating gains increased respect in the comfort-driven casino world. Luxury is a necessity for an industry that crunches numbers to predict patron value, but can’t measure revenue lost from someone’s aching back.

Chairs, once ancillary units, now affect time on device more than most hospitality functions. An operator may survive with a standard hotel room or restaurant menu for gamblers who simply want action, but a substandard seat may be costly. An uncomfortable patron often stops gambling, and may leave the property. Players want bells, whistles and foam.

Seating is an intangible domain. It can’t be linked to specified levels of play, yet it holds a unique role in the action. Gaming establishments have become more attuned to their chairmen, and chairwomen of the board.

Companies respond with newer, specialized chairs. Their initial efforts concerned durability, with gaming’s 24-hour demands tripling those of its office-world counterparts. Later enhancements include lumbar support, foam injection, curved edges, friction-reducing coating and flexible wood framing. More width for bigger players and proper height to match a machine also became prominent.

So did the fancy “ergonomics” tag. Themed high-limit areas, the aura of exclusivity on some games and the interactive components some chairs have with slot machines raise the value of prime seating.

Chair companies face both a major obstacle and benefit. Unlike suppliers who produce printers, tracking systems or cash access, they can’t link a chair to revenue gained. Customer play is considered a reflection of the loyalty program, or the games, but not the seat. By the time someone realizes a chair is ineffective, it has already caused lost revenue.

On the flip side, companies can easily ascertain their market. Painstaking hours of research and development, followed by focus groups and experimentation, are not required. Companies already are in the chair business. Quick negotiations can yield a lucrative custom gaming order.

One recent trend involves casinos endorsing the high-limit sector for seating choice. As that sector grows, the chair becomes more than an accent piece. It becomes a signature.

High-Limit Heaven

Youngstown, Ohio-based Gasser Chair Company has manufactured made-to-order commercial seating for the hospitality and gaming markets for more than 70 years. The company wants its chairs to elevate a space rather than simply fill one.

Gasser sports gaming seat types in several areas: slots, table games, poker, high limit, bingo and sports book. The high-limit segment generating gaming excitement also caught this company’s attention. Gasser took out a second display booth at G2E in 2015 to focus on high-limit gaming. It has also rolled out the Chairman and Paragon Series to address the industry trend.

“The high-limit area is its own animal,” says Christine Dravis, account manager for Gasser Chair. “Players want to be treated a little special, and we’ve seen an increase in those types of requests.

“With the high-limit area, you may be dealing with something that fits the specific design of a casino room,” she adds. “The casinos will often make their own decisions regarding color coordination with the carpets, the walls and everything else, and then they will make a request to us for a chair that is not only comfortable and durable, but is unique for their environment.”

Many properties have themes they wish to incorporate. Dravis says Gasser deals with the “must-haves” an operator wants, whether that’s a specific chair width, color, wood frame or ergonomic feature. Then, it produces the order.

The Chairman Series is ideal for sit-down slot players. Its noted features include a plush three-pillow backrest, targeted primarily for high-limit rooms. The chair is “rich-looking,” Dravis notes, citing an important aesthetic linked with high-end seats. It also has a patented “halo” disc base, enabling easy movement for maintenance personnel so the unit won’t dig into the carpet.

The Chairman Series has a molded ergonomic seat with Pommel, an eco-friendly powder-coated base, and a round foot rest with arched supports. A full rotation swivel and optional wood-arm caps are included in this model, which is on the floor at Wynn Palace in Macau.

The Paragon series is created for a sit-down table game. Paragon 5-V contains a fully upholstered seat and back, box-sewn seat with arm wrap, five-vane polished aluminum base, twin wheel casters and five locking positions.

The Paragon 158 has many of the same characteristics. It also sports a halo base with arched support and circular foot rest. The Paragon Series is showcased at the Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, California.

Just as G2E highlighted Gasser’s acknowledgment of the high-limit market growth last year, ICE in 2016 planted some seeds for this year and beyond.

“Everybody knows the big trend now is toward millennials,” Dravis indicates. “Virtual reality games are starting to come to the forefront. While addressing that is more on the people that manufacture the slot games, once we see those games and what kinds of bells and whistles they have, then we can adjust our seating. The newer millennials are geared toward sports, like wrestling, soccer and horse racing. The market will have to react.”

Dravis envisions the millennial trend resulting in separate areas of the casinos for them, and perhaps requiring theater-type chairs.

Anticipating the future has been a company trademark. Several decades back, George Gasser, one of its founders, convinced gaming magnate Bill Harrah that stools in front of slot machines would let customers play longer. Gasser had noticed gamblers taking stools from the bar over to the slot machines to extend their time on device.

Fortunately for the company, Gasser did not “sit” on this information. He returned to Youngstown, built a simple round seat and basic four-leg frame with a footrest and secured the company’s entry into the lucrative gaming world.

Innovations followed. Gasser Chair Company introduced a 10-year warranty, the longest warranty of its kind for commercial seating. It promoted casters and swivels to provide greater ease for restaurant and lounge seating. In the hospitality and gaming industries, excess wear and tear, especially along the perimeter of the backrests of chairs, had been a long-standing problem.

Gasser designed and patented a specially extruded vinyl edging to guard against such damage, and the company subsequently introduced the “Protective Edge” on its entire seating line.

In recent years, the company delivered player-adjusted seat height and the halo-base to make chairs easier to move and reduce abrasive carpet wear.

Sitting in Style

StylGame Group specializes in the design and production of ergonomic products for the gaming world. The products are made in Italy, where the company was founded in 2001. A Las Vegas office opened in 2010.

The company offers an array of products for traditional gaming devices, including the ergonomic-driven Play in Comfort Series and an interchangeable option via the Royal Stool, in which customers can select different seat models and frames.

“It’s been proven that if the player is able to enjoy his moment at the fullest, he extends his playing time, therefore increasing the proceeds and the value of the slot machine,” says Roberto Ronchi, the export sales manager of StylGame.

“Besides that, this company was born inside a territory historically characterized by the production of chairs, where the ‘Made in Italy Quality’ is enhanced by an ancient artisan experience, careful to the choice of raw materials and to details,” he adds.

Ronchi says in-depth research several years ago—which entailed ergonomics, slot bases and optimal dimensions for the cabinet—brought StylGame into an era it still enjoys. The study led to the Play in Comfort line, which keeps building. The program began in 2009 with a product defining the correct combination of player, chair and machine. In 2012 came the Top Line, which outlines correct dimensions of the slot bases, further improving the gaming station and player comfort. Last year saw the innovation of Play in Comfort, Global Experience, which fully involves the player in the game dynamics.

The element that distinguishes Global Experience is the Service Call, an integrated system able to optimize the service offered to the player and consequently the comfort, Ronchi explains.

Service Call allows the player to get the hall services (cash, bar-restaurant and technical assistance) without stopping play. It also extends time on device, a critical component of bottom-line effectiveness, he asserts.

Ronchi believes an important industry shift has begun.

“Until recently, the producers of the slot machines did not give much importance to the seat,” he indicates. “Now, aware of the ergonomic studies done and of the positive results achieved, some of them have started to design and sell the slots combined to the correct seat, specially designed for the type of machine produced.”

Ronchi says youth will be served going forward. An industry shift toward millennials exceeds mobile apps and age-appropriate game themes. It’s visual. In Ronchi’s assessment, bright makes right.

“We believe that the more popular amusement and aggregation sites will be those more highly specialized and complete,” he contends. “The tendency of the new casinos is to have light furniture and brighter environments to attract a younger target. Consequently, we are conceiving a new line of more modern chairs, technological and innovative from the point of view of the design.”

Fred Brendel, the U.S. sales manager for StylGame, says customer reactions in the chairs speak volumes to him. The comfort zone might be on “medium.”

“Being in the business, when I go into any casino, I’m watching how people are reacting to their experience with the chairs,” he says. “If the foam is too soft, they will often be shifting positions. If it is too hard, the initial impression is that this is not a comfortable chair. I think medium density is the ideal foam.”

Ideal is an appropriate term. That’s what the unit must feel like for a player.

“A 1 percent or 2 percent change in time on device can mean millions of dollars over the course of time,” he says. “We don’t want players to be focused on the chair. We want them focused on the game.”

Unless, of course, the chair and game are one, a trend accomplished by placing speakers next to one’s head, for example, and combining the use of the chair and the machine. The trend continues to rise for theme-based games utilizing the chair and machine, he indicates.

Noblesse Gesture

Patir, established in 1991 by Seref Patir as a family-run business, has developed into one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of premium casino and hospitality seating. Headquartered in Munich, Germany, the company runs the gamut of gaming demand, ranging from VIP casino and traditional casino to live and card-game chairs and roulette units. Office poker and bingo chairs are included in the product line.

The designs and technical features are produced by the company and protected by international patents, according to Dennys Patir, the company’s business development director and Seref’s son.

Its recently released Noblesse Collection features exceptional finishings and new models of seats that offer players increased comfort, Dennys Patir contends. Its first installation was at Elexus Resort & Casino in Cyprus, one of the most prestigious casino projects in Europe in 2015. Yet, the company retains a keen eye for the American market.

“Our biggest market is Europe, where we are the leading manufacturer of high-quality casino seating, but we are recording strong sales growth in the Americas,” says Patir.

“This is why we decided to establish our branch in Las Vegas.”

The new accessory range for the Noblesse Collection includes a stylish metal hand-pull that allows a high maneuverability of seats. An extended gas-lift cover and the quilted stitched pattern applied on the backrest cover provide a touch of elegance, Patir notes.

PVC elements are available in shades of complementary color (seat holder and protective edge parts) and are designed to increase the robustness of seats. The collection includes the new material DEPAR, which comes with upgraded features like flexing endurance and tear strength.

Operators can choose the ideal base and combine it with the desired upper seating. All Patir models are interchangeable. The company can either customize chairs from the existing product range or create something new for customers.

And so, the race continues. Gaming gradually relies more heavily on its chairs, and the companies hustle to gain market position.

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.

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