Designers Rethinking What A Pennsylvania Retail Sportsbook Should Be

Written By Kevin Shelly on October 10, 2019 - Last Updated on May 4, 2020

As trends in gambling go, the reimagining of old-school sportsbooks as sports lounges has major momentum.

Think of the newfangled sports lounge as man-cave meets casino; a blend of tech, comfort, drink, food, community, entertainment, and even sports.

Online sports wagering is driving the conversion to lounges

You can thank online wagering for the push to gentrify Pensylvania’s sportsbook spaces into lounges. The trend is national, the lounge-ification of sportsbooks.

Just check in with Dwayne MacEwen, a busy Chicago-area principal and creative director for the architectural design firm DMAC.

Early in the month, his firm debuted the updated permanent retail sports lounge at the casino Rivers Pittsburgh to rave reviews.
This week two new Rivers-branded lounges at the home of the NHL’s Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia were unveiled. Rivers Sportsbook is the official book for the Flyers, but there is no betting counter at Wells Fargo Center. Rather, the lounges promote online wagering via the BetRivers betting app.

Sports lounges are a trend, but not a fad

Soon, perhaps even next week, the temporary retail sportsbook space at SugarHouse Casino will be reborn as a permanent Rivers-branded sports lounge. That’s part of the overall rebranding of SugarHouse to its new name, Rivers Philadelphia.

But that’s not all of his firm’s lounge work. MacEwen’s DMAC  has recently overseen the creation or recreation of six books as sports lounges. His firm is now in the midst of six more sports lounge jobs too.

MacEwen explained:

“We’re reinventing what a sportsbook is. This is not your Dad’s sportsbook by any means. Once you’re online, you can go gamble anywhere. It’s decentralized, in your pocket. So this is much more social, a cultural shift. We are bringing the man cave to the casino and sports arena. It is much more interactive.”

Lounges now meant to activate neighboring casino space

Reimagining what a casino sportsbook can be even comes with a buzz word all its own.

By making the sports spaces more spacious, visible, inviting, interactive, and accessible, the newly amped-up lounge spaces are meant to influence the adjoining elements of the casino, to “activate” the casino, explained MacEwen.

The guiding principle behind activation is simple enough, he explained:

“We’re making a space people want to be in. That changed the DNA of the casino floor. It blurred the line between the casino and the sportsbook. And that energized the casino.”

MacEwen said that’s already working in Pittsburgh, with more cross-traffic to-and-from the gaming floor and the sportsbook. That should carry through in the new Rivers Philadelphia retail book, he added.

Considerations for making a space into a lounge

His company, which does lots of hospitality work, had ideas going into the design for sports lounges, but doing two temporary pop-up versions helped refine his firm’s aims.

Instead of staring at confining walls and liquor-filled barbacks, the design aim was to make sure the view allowed either the sports arena or the casino to be seen, not segregated.

Other considerations were ergonomics, comfort, places to recharge phones, and plenty of “horizontal landing pads” for food and drink.

Seating is central to a lounge atmosphere

The major focus was seating. The firm quickly realized side-by-side seating was the patron preference.

MacEwen’s firm had to seek out seat models, trying out more than 20 options. In the end, they went with a custom design. Even with that, the chairs still need more tweaking, he added.

With seating side-by-side, that also meant spending more time and money on acoustics so customers can carry on conversations without shouting.

Using larger plush chairs made “making the math work” more challenging when balancing comfort and capacity, he said.

Broadcast events are still fundamental but have changed

Let’s not forget watching sports broadcasts is a central element of sportsbooks.

Instead of walls covered with many smaller screens, the lounges MacEwan has designed feature enormous screens.

That means nearly 700 sq. feet in the case of soon-to-debut SugarHouse/Rivers lounge. The screen is suspended from a robust truss, rather than hung on a wall, so as not block views.

The screen can show one giant image. But it is dividable to show multiple events, as well as tickers with news and scores. There’s even a booth to host live chats which are meant to encourage more engagement with in-game wagering done by competitive friends.

And lest we forget, there will be a 48-foot long bar.

It won’t be Dad’s sportsbook.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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