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Paul Steelman


Paul is widely regarded as one of the foremost casino architects working in the world today. Casino International was lucky enough to meet up with Paul to discuss his work – past, present and future…

asinos are, by and large, attractive buildings, designed to catch the eye, to give the promise of fun, or luxury, or both. Designing such a building, a place which might entail the investment of

billions of dollars, is not an easy task; there are many, many aspects to consider when taking on such a task. Top architect Paul Steelman is perhaps best known internationally for his work on the Sands Macau, which famously earned back its investment within a year of opening, and was, of course, the first ‘Vegas- style’ casino to open in Macau. Paul talks to Casino International about his work.

Casino International: How did you come to be

almost synonymous with casino architecture?

Paul Steelman: I started this over 30 years ago,

working as an architect, and my first job was with Steve Wynn. I worked with Steve Wynn for 9 years and got my schooling through Steve and a guy called Joel Bergman. They really taught me the business in a very unusual way, and it’s a way that works. A lot of people like how we [Steelman Partners] do business, and how we design things; we’re very cost-conscious, very conscious of focus groups and of what the public wants, and we’re not all about architecture. We’re also about the business of gaming and how architecture affects it. For years we have been developing rules and formulas to assist our clients with some decisions they should automatically make. That has been the basis of our business. Our firm has designed over 3,000 projects, which is pretty incredible.

CI: What are the fundamentals that a casino

building should realise?

PS: There’s a lot of fundamentals a casino should

do. It has to be built for the right price, first of all. Second, it has to have a great location. Third, it has to be a great building that attracts people on a continual, not a singular, basis. There’s a lot of ingredients in that formula, as to how to do it. We have a set of design rules that a casino should

follow to be successful. The parking garage, quick and easy transportation elements… the parking garage is the first and last thing a customer sees and there’s a

34 APRIL 2010

PS: An architect’s standard answer is ‘the next one’! I would have to say The Sands Macau. We were able

to do something new, unique, and really different. It became very, very, very successful; and even today, it sits at six years old and is still in third place in Macau after the Venetian and the Wynn – much bigger facilities – have overtaken it. At one stage it made over $500million a year; it cost $181million in construction and it was a unique interpretation of gambling, strictly for the Asian market. It’s quite shocking to me that more people haven’t copied it now. They are still trying to put Las Vegas

lot to bear in mind regarding that. Then there’s sight orientation rules, energy usage, green energy buildings, the interior finishes, the lighting… We also know that we have to have a design that lasts, it has to have what we call ‘legs’ and stand the test of time. We break it down to these fundamental rules, and

we say to our clients that if you want to break one of these rules, you’d better really be sure about it because all of these have worked for the last 20 years very well, and in many locations.

“We were able to do something new, unique, and really different. It became very, very, very successful…”

CI: What’s your favourite casino property you have worked on?

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