Although other casinos may reap more profits, no casino in the U.S. is more efficient at extracting money from gamblers than the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Illinois. Bear Stearns & Co. calculates that Grand Victoria’s “win-per-position”–the average amount that each of the casino’s slot machines and game tables takes in–is about $804 per day.
“There’s nobody higher than that,” maintains Eric Hausler, Bear Stearns casino industry analyst. “Nobody’s close.” (The win-per-position at Las Vegas casinos typically runs between $200 and $300.) Grand Victoria’s success is not based on stingier slot machines or tougher dealers, but rather on customer volume.
There are only four casinos in the Chicago area, and Grand Victoria is the only casino north of the Eisenhower Expressway. “You have a few licenses in an incredibly populated, wealthy area,” explains David Anders, senior gaming analyst at Merrill Lynch. “You put those factors together and you can come up with some relatively large win-per-position numbers.” Grand Victoria is the envy of many in the casino industry. “It’s a gold mine,” says William Thompson, gambling expert at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
In “Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition,” author Bill Friedman argues that a casino’s floor design ultimately determines the casino’s success by attracting or putting off gamblers. Friedman’s conclusions are based on twenty years of observing visitors in Nevada casinos, then taking detailed measurements on areas where play tends to be highest.
Because a sense of intimacy and energy is important to gamblers, Friedman argues that casino’s slot machines should be jammed into smaller, distinct areas with low ceilings rather than displayed in huge spacious areas with tall ceilings. “A gambler is looking for excitement,” explains Friedman.
“When you have a big open area, it seems deserted and dead, no matter how much activity is going on at eye level. All of that empty space above just sucks the energy out of it.” Friedman also argues against central pathways through a casino because few people are inclined to leave the path to gamble.
Friedman says places like the Circus-Circus, Stardust, Westward Ho, and Harrah’s Las Vegas are effectively designed and destined to succeed. On the other hand, the newer mega resorts like Treasure Island, the MGM Grand, and New York-New York “make good profits, but they’ll never reach their potential of people visiting to play,” says Friedman. Although the elaborate properties draw hoards of visitors, he says they fail to turn enough of them into gamblers.