The décor of any casino is designed to be over-the-top. The extravagance is part of the experience, and visitors want to feel like there was no expense spared in the décor of their favorite gambling dens. And with average casino construction costs reaching billions of dollars these days, the opulent décor is built into the cost of doing business. Casino décor varies according to taste; some are good, some are bad, and some are downright gaudy.
Caesars Palace Las Vegas
As is obvious from the name, Caesars Palace is going for a Roman Empire theme. The classical theme implies dominance, victory, and respect. The elements of the classical theme are clean, strong, and authoritative, from the Doric and Corinthian columns, to the ornamental frescos and porticos. White marble, stone, and plaster adorns every important space. Classical architecture is the most imitated and instantly-recognizable styles of architecture in the world. Just think of any government building or monument in Washington, D.C. and you’ll instantly get a mental image of the classical ‘empire’ style.
Caesars Palace is one of the original megaresorts on the famous Las Vegas Strip, built in 1966 on leased land owned by Vegas mogul Kirk Kerkorian. No expense was spared in the decoration and construction of the hotel casino, and the architects even imported actual Roman statues and figures from Italy. The theme was designed to make the visitor feel like a ruler or a conqueror, and in the early days, female hostesses in togas and sandals would greet guests with a welcome which included the introduction, ‘I am your slave.’ Since then, the greetings have been adjusted to match the times, but the megaresort is just as opulent and extreme as ever. Caesars is one of the only original Vegas casinos which hasn’t been completely torn down and reinvented. Instead, it has been renovated and expanded with more columns, Roman baths, shopping Forums, and towers of suites. A Roman statue in the parking lot has all of his limbs, one of which is hailing a cab.
The Venetian Las Vegas
It’s one thing to copy classical Italian design, but it’s another new level of grandiose to replicate a classical Italian city. The Venetian Las Vegas has done exactly that. The owners took the architectural genius behind the design of the watery city of Venice—and transported to the dry Nevada desert. The Venetian features replicas of the famous monuments, piazzas, and bridges of the Serene Republic of Venice. A replica of Venice’s famous Rialto Bridge spans—you guessed it—a Venetian canal, complete with gondolas plowing the waterways.
The décor of The Venetian reflects the pinnacle of Italian architectural design that is Venice. Lavish buildings with elaborately-carved earth tone facades fill the open spaces around the hotel resort. The interior spaces are even more ostentatious, with miles of marble halls, intricately-detailed paintings and frescos, and massive corridors glowing with the wealth of the Old and New Worlds. The more expensive suites are designed to mimic that of the finest hotels in Venice, and the standard rooms, while slightly more austere in decoration, are some of the largest rooms in Vegas. The resort opened in 1999 at a cost of $1.5 billion, one of the most expensive resorts at its time of opening. Built on the former site of the Sands Casino, The Venetian Las Vegas is the second largest hotel resort in the world, right behind The Venetian Macau at number one.
Bellagio, Las Vegas
For sheer impact and eminence, nothing beats the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The imposing, regal building dominates the Vegas skyline, and if The Venetian uses half the water in Nevada for its canals, Bellagio uses the other half for its lake and famous fountain. The gigantic, dancing water fountain is synchronized to music like Viva Las Vegas by Elvis, and Lucky Be a Lady by Sinatra. The lobby of Bellagio features a giant chandelier made up of over 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers, which covers 2,000 square feet of the ceiling. This wildly-colorful and expensive decoration is the very definition of gaudy. But Bellagio doesn’t say that like it’s a bad thing.
If the name of the decoration game is grandeur, then the gaudy décor of Bellagio flaunts it. The busy, expensive interior screams money at the top of its marble lungs, but the eye candy everywhere overloads the senses—which is the general idea. Indoor fountains with floating stuffed swans, fake butterflies hovering overhead, and giant mushrooms together form a botanical gardens that would make Alice from Wonderland envious. But the biggest high rollers in the world hold sway in Bellagio’s ‘Bobby’s Room,’ betting up to $1 million per hand of poker. Which speaks for itself.
Casino de Monte-Carlo, Monaco
The Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco is oozing with Old World elegance; it’s the original grand casino every other casino in the world is trying to outdo. The lavish lairs of Vegas seem fake by comparison. The Monte Carlo marble murmurs tales of history like no other. The casino opened in 1863, long before the first bricks or stones were laid in Las Vegas. Royalty and nobility feature large in its storied history; in fact Princess Caroline of Monaco came up with the idea for the casino. Their royal coffers were a bit dry, it seems.
The luxurious Beau Arts décor of the casino is apparent in every detail of the Monte Carlo, leaving the visitor with the impression of entering an elaborate royal hall or an elegant opera theater. With its position on the French Riviera along with Cannes and St. Tropez, this gorgeous casino is the natural stomping ground for bluebloods and nobility. And if that’s not enough, it’s got James Bond as an unofficial ambassador. Several Bond films were set there, and Ian Fleming based Casino Royale on the Monte Carlo Casino.
City of Dreams, Macau
Macau is fast becoming the premier casino destination in the world. In 2006 it surpassed Las Vegas in sheer revenue. This independently-administrative region of China was a former Portuguese colony. Casino revenue forms the dragon’s share of the economy, and casino moguls from around the globe have splashed down billions building casino megaresorts on the Macau peninsula and islands. One such megaresort is the City of Dreams. CoD is made up of several towering resorts to form one uber-megaresort.
The billions that were spent on the construction and decoration are immediately apparent. Lavish, ornamental, dynasty-inspired details adorn every meter of the mega-space. Giant golden dragons clutching huge pearls greet you in lobbies, or slither along ceilings. Lakeside tea rooms and pools spill over with the rich décor of a jungle empire. The main entertainment spectacle, the Dancing Water Theatre, one-ups the Bellagio fountain by adding a 3,700,000 gallon pool with water jets, fireworks, and live performers.
Carpets from Hell
While the magnitude and variety of extravagance varies with each casino, one thing unites them: ridiculous, ugly, psychedelic carpeting. With the exception of some of the restaurant spaces, the gaming floors of megaresorts seem deliberately designed to disorient. The reasons for the crazy casino carpeting are hotly debated among Ivy League academics who apparently have nothing better to study. One says it is a trick to hide fallen chips, another says it simply hides the carpet wear better.
Hunter S. Thompson wobbled onto the casino floor on LSD in the infamous casino carpet scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The hideously-clashing colors and shapes swam before his feverish eyes, transformed into giant snakes and lizards, and slithered up the legs of oblivious gamblers. Eventually, the gamblers became reptiles themselves, lounge lizards in disco clothing. The good Doctor of Journalism nearly lost his mind (again). This friendly warning is a community service announcement: Do not mix acid and casino carpeting.
Sensory overload is what Vegas, Macau, and other global gambling centers are all about. Overstimulation of the senses seems to be the ultimate goal of every casino resort design. Combined with the distinct lack of windows and clocks in casinos, the effect is the very definition of surreal. While land-based casinos represent the pinnacle of human overindulgence, even the most hard core gamblers have to take a break from time to time. Thankfully, the internet gave us online casinos like Planet 7 to save our retinas from the best and the worst the megaresort casinos can throw at us!