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Lighten Up

Showcase your casino and hospitality areas with subtle but effective lighting

Lighten Up

Let there be light. Or, LED there be light.

Throughout gaming properties, sharp illumination upgrades the blueprint.

Bright lights reflect a grand branding image in the lobby or enhances the pizazz of gaming tables, carpets and chandeliers. This dynamic also impacts signage, water displays, marketing walls and dance-floor theme changes.

Guest rooms unveil the subtlety of illumination, with periodic light changes presenting the constant feel of new quarters.

In the security realm, lighting improves multiple closed-circuit video cameras, giving color rendering benefits to help catch cheaters and improve facial recognition software. Bright walkways, parking lots and garages also address safety concerns.

Finances share the glow. Replacing several thousand incandescent, halogen and fluorescent lamps with LED lighting can save hundreds of thousands of dollars. That makes bean counters beam.

The application and necessity of excellent lighting appear limitless. That’s why architects and designers blend these principles into their planning, while vendors target operators with specific products.


Tailor Lights to the Audience

HBG Design, based in Memphis and San Diego, has a rich history accommodating casinos of all sizes. Dike Bacon, principal, has a multi-faceted perspective of how his company “sees the light.”

“We’re working with a lot of clients today who are seeking to attract a younger demographic, and that calls for a completely different approach to lighting design,” he indicates. “In many of our projects, we’re designing more integrated lighting as an architectural feature—in other words, the lighting becomes an intrinsic part of the overall design, not a separate feature. When we do use lighting features, there’s more variety and individuality in the selections, which helps to emanate a more residential feel.”

The who is just as important as the what. Emily Marshall, design leader at HBG, says baby boomers attract the lighting element of a warm, ambient glow and higher lighting level. These clients like the focal point of high-quality light fixtures. Custom light fixtures can be a spectacular touch point for a luxury brand, Marshall says.

The ideology can be expressed in many ways.

“Restaurant venues are using lighting more and more as an integrated design element and less as a decorative element,” Marshall says. “In general, there are less of the large ‘statement’ fixtures in these spaces. The trend now is toward a mix of functional architectural and decorative lighting that becomes a design element integrated into the interior architecture.”

The design of the WD Steakhouse at Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, for instance, creates a rich, layering effect through the lighting design. The lighting highlights an architectural detail and pattern of the wood walls, while repetition of decorative fixtures creates interest in the ceiling element, according to Marshall. The restaurant’s booths are designed to be a more intimate and residential feeling with a warmth from individual pendant lights.

Rooms offer another venue.

“We’re creating style variety through multiple room packages at the same property,” Marshall adds. “Designing three or four distinct variations in the light fixtures—in addition to the carpet design, fabric selections and furnishings—gives guests an experience that differs each time they visit a property. They never feel like they’re staying in the same place twice.

“Focal art lighting is showing up in four- and five-star guestrooms, along with a mixture of decorative lighting that generates an eclectic feel, like a decorative pendant at one side of the bed and a portable lamp at the other,” Marshall adds. “Reading lights have been integrated into the design for a few years and continue to be a great functional and decorative light source. Art is specially lit in the foyer of many of the guest rooms we’re designing, using either an architectural art light or sconce over the piece which adds another rich layer of detail. The well-lit art becomes a focal point, something special that elevates the space.”

Design variation is not easy to accomplish on a budget, but economies of scale are not lost in the process, Marshall says. The challenge for designers is to work with manufacturers to explore distinctive design elements without incurring more cost.

“We’re also collaborating much earlier with lighting designers than ever before,” Marshall indicates. “Technology has changed so rapidly, and allows you to do so much more from a design standpoint.”


Lights Make the Architecture

St. Louis-based Thalden Boyd Emery fashions a rich history in local, destination, commercial, Native American and international casinos. In its specialized tribal realm, TBE has worked for more than 110 Native American and First Nation properties. The company has inserted tribal culture, heritage and identity into its projects.

TBE has revealed the astounding use of lighting in its projects. And while this sector finds new emphasis in outlets like LED walls that enable video and marketing messages, its entire role remains paramount.

“It is the opportunity to express entertainment value of the gaming property,” says David Nejelski, creative director and principal for TBE. “The architecture can rise and fall based on the quality of the lighting. It allows us to incorporate the vibrant colors. The design elements play a feature role in the general illumination of the property.”

At the Harrah’s Ak-Chin property outside of Phoenix, for example, architects made the most of an overhead canopy structure.

“We worked extensively on the architecture and design combination to express a traditional tribal basket image within the canopy structure,” he says. “There are elements within the chandelier structure that symbolize cultural meaning. It can be an immersive experience, vibrant and dynamic.”

Thalden Boyd Emery is guiding the property through an expansion set for 2018 completion. A ballroom that can accommodate 2,000 people for an event or 1,000 for dinner, a lounge and 230 new guest rooms and suites are in the lineup.

Solid lighting may resemble the role of an umpire, soccer official or boxing referee. It can be a subtle catalyst for a quality product.

“If it is done well, you may not even be conscious of it,” says Chief Boyd, principal at TBE. “There is a good experience; you see the space and experience it well. Everything feels right. If the lighting is done poorly, you have an experience that is not memorable. For instance, you can look at this theme space that you put together, but it does not come off well because it does not have the proper lighting.”

Boyd references a project for the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino outside of San Bernardino in California. It may reflect food for the financial soul. The project includes a grill food court, two bars that have been completely transformed and a third that will be introduced.

One of the design elements was light, combined with water.

“David did a bar in San Manuel and it was just off the charts,” Boyd says. “The lighting varied the colors at different times of the day, in seemingly unlimited ways. It can enhance a property dramatically. We also have lighting integrated with the water feature. There are global effects, a sense of movement on the water. We used lighting to supplement the water effect. It can be tailored to seasons, or messages, holidays and sporting events.”

He’s on to something. The effect of lighting on water can be spectacular. One significant non-gaming establishment, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, unfurled a fountain light display on water that thousands of spectators flockef to for months. If it can be a major selling point for a non-casino.


Branding Lights

Lux Led Lighting, based in Santa Barbara, California, offers stylish, versatile and feature-rich LED lighting solutions for hospitality, commercial and residential spaces. Over the past year, it has been working with a casino brand in Las Vegas to outfit its guest rooms.

Matt Miller, director of business development at Lux Led Lighting, says casino game plans reflect long-term thinking.

“Casino resorts have changed their course on trends, demanding products that not only match their brand and aesthetic, but offer quality and durability in their design,” Miller asserts. “Instead of opting for trendy or flashy lighting fixtures, they are looking for products that are built to last. In addition to durability, casinos are sourcing for integrated options that appeal to the many travelers coming through their doors. The gaming sector is especially responsive to LED technology, since many of these establishments are operated 24 hours a day.”

Miller says the lamps in the company’s Brooklyn collection are well suited for both hotel guest rooms and lobbies, given their integrated capabilities.

Powering up cellphones was once an activity reserved for the room after a long night, but Miller sees more casinos source out task lighting for their lobbies to provide guests that are not staying on-site with a softly-lit space to relax and recharge.

“The biggest demand of the modern traveler is connectivity; they want to be able to have easy access to their portable devices,” Miller says. “Our lights serve many purposes for casinos. They offer a sleek, timeless design that fits into ever-changing design schemes, they provide a convenient opportunity for guests to plug in phones or tablets, and more literally, they are built to illuminate a room for 50,000 hours.

“The Brooklyn collection is an intuitive investment for hoteliers in the gaming industry who want a long-lasting product for a new build, or need to spruce up a resort undergoing a renovation. The collection’s slim profile allows it to easily fit into any layout, and the desk lamp’s integrated USB and adapter ports are a simple alternative to installing additional outlets in the room.”


Way to Go

Sonneman—A Way of Light is a lighting design and manufacturing company based in Larchmont, New York. It has been embedded within the residential, commercial and hospitality sectors for years, and has begun to see an increased interest from casinos.

Robert Sonneman, the CEO and lead designer for Sonneman, touts his company’s Suspenders LED system.

“It is a powerful example in its message of utility and simplicity,” Sonneman says. “The fundamental architecture of Suspenders is based upon linear elements suspended from each other by vertical elements. The structural system is comprised of three main components—horizontal power bars, vertical hangers and suspended LED luminaires—which can be configured as individual lighting sculptures or as a tiered web of infinite scope and variety.”

With LED bulbs consuming less electricity and producing much less heat than their halogen counterparts, a single transformer can power many LED fixtures, contributing to the unlimited potential for expandability, Sonneman says. Suspenders has a maximum electrical path of 30 feet in every direction, meaning a single transformer can power a total length of 60 feet. Each LED luminaire has an integrated driver to prevent voltage drop, ensuring an LED fixture at the end of an electrical path will be just as bright as an LED luminaire directly next to the power supply.

The suspended LED luminaires are available in singles, clusters of three LEDs arranged at perpendicular angles, or a combination of the two. There are more than 40 iterations of luminaires. The power bars are available in a variety of lengths and curvatures, and can be suspended by the hangers at perpendicular or staggered angles in space.

Security Vision
Parking lot illumination protects guests and employees

“Let there be light” spans an important arm of gaming properties: the parking lots. Although much of the lighting realm tends to entice, this element signifies safety. Customers don’t want concerns reaching their cars or walking to and from a property.

This is a tricky budget item. It’s hard to monetize an area that resembles the eating of vegetables: sensible, not scintillating. One cannot correlate investment dollars with revenue gained, but would instead have to consider the overall effect of a weakened brand if lighting was below standard.

This may be an ideal time to discuss the situation. One emerging practitioner is Optec LED Lighting, a supplier of high-efficiency, super-bright LED fixtures for indoor and outdoor applications.

Throughout the past year, Optec Displays, Optec LED Lighting’s parent company, has stepped up its gaming profile. This presence, along with a strategic partnership with SuzoHapp, has increased the visibility of this Ontario, California-based outfit.

“Upgrading casinos’ exterior lighting to LED luminaires makes everything appear brighter and safer—and that translates into a better customer experience,” says Jeff Gatzow, vice president of Optec LED Lighting. “LED luminaires (or light fixtures) provide consistent and uniform illumination without having any light spilling to adjacent properties. Retrofitting parking lots and structures to LED offers a welcoming and safe environment for patrons and employees, while reducing owners’ maintenance and energy expenses—a winning combination.”

The super-bright LED lighting features a patented thermal management system that provides efficient heat dissipation and extended LED life, he asserts.

Casino parking structures and parking lots operate around the clock just like the facility itself, and according to Gatzow, thus must be targeted for lighting. Would this investment be an “LED pipe cinch” for operators?

“The 365/24/7 schedule has many owners and operators looking for ways to reduce energy costs and consumption, while making the structures and lots safer for guests and employees,” he contends. “One way to achieve these objectives is by upgrading to exterior LED luminaires, which are playing a major role in the effort to improve safety, reduce energy usage and costs, and improve overall ambiance.”

Gatzow says parking structures face unique lighting challenges. A mix of pedestrian and vehicle traffic within the confined space creates an environment demanding adequate, reliable lighting. This ensures public safety and minimizes accidents, reducing glare and light trespass, he says.

For decades, U.S. parking garages have relied on conventional lighting technology, such as metal halide, high-pressure sodium mor linear fluorescent, he adds. Gatzow cites a U.S. Department of Energy 2014 study, “Energy Savings Forecast of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications,” verifying that these high-lumen, long-life technologies have traditionally dominated parking-garage applications, accounting for more than 95 percent of installations through 2013. However, with the rapid improvements in technology, LED luminaires provide significant advantages over traditional luminaires for parking- garage applications.

LED uses 50 percent to 80 percent less electricity than traditional lighting, Gatzow says. The lights last up to 100,000 hours, with average lifetimes of 10 or more years. Typically, an exterior LED installation will realize a payback in five years or less from energy and maintenance savings. An even quicker payback can be gained if rebates are available through a local utility company.

Security video cameras are essential in casino parking garages and lots. An important, although often overlooked, bonus for safety and security from an LED upgrade is the much-enhanced quality of video footage. New LED installations improve visibility and safety for casino guests and employees, and the security cameras’ surveillance capabilities are greatly increased due to better illumination, Gatzow says.

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.