Lighting Up the Netherlands: The Holland Casino Rotterdam

The Holland Casino Rotterdam wasn’t New York City-based ICRAVE’s first international project, but it was one of its most precarious—the casino almost never happened. Halfway through the design phase, the government of the Netherlands passed a very high tax on gaming, which put the design firm in a tough position: proceed or call it quits? Lucky for casino-goers, the project forged ahead.

The Holland Casino Rotterdam was an expansion project with an existing facility to work around, but the ICRAVE team still started basically from scratch. Lionel Ohayon, founder of ICRAVE, said the company literally gutted all 25,000 square feet of the existing gaming floor, ridding it of what Ohayon called low ceilings and a hodge-podge of different themes with no cohesive concept. “It was really important to us to make that environment much more welcoming and warm so the experience began right at that point,” he explained.

To better facilitate overseas work, ICRAVE hired a local architect in Holland to assist with the drawings and to translate English to Dutch, and vice versa. ICRAVE also worked with a lighting designer in Holland, an element that played a large role in the ultimate look of the casino. “One thing that’s interesting about casinos in general is that they have a very different scale of how many people come in at different times of the day and week,” he noted. “So it was important to create a lighting scheme that allowed the client to expose the whole space or create an atmosphere of high energy or a subdued energy, and literally be able to turn off different areas.”

This allows the property to “section off” the less busy areas of the floor and reopen them easily when the casino is crowded. It also allows for changing the energy of the gaming floor, from sexy to calm, exciting or peaceful. “It’s really unlike any casinos we’re used to in Vegas, where you walk in and you get a sense of a huge floor,” Ohayon explained. “What we did was create layers of screens and used light to create a sense of discovery and the more you keep going, the more you discover different environments.”

These layers cater to any guest that enters the door. “By creating a hybrid of restaurants, a wine bar, a night club, a lounge, poker pit, there’s a reason for everybody to make it a night out as opposed to just a gaming hall,” Ohayon noted. “We think there’s a fresh, young, optimistic feel to the design. A sense of discovery.”

Building on the idea of spaces and discovery, each area of the casino has a distinct feel. The lobby uses channel glass, custom backlit screens and high-end furniture to create the feel of a swanky and welcoming resort.

Upstairs patrons will find what ICRAVE dubbed “Slot Heaven,” which is the “more relaxing” of the slot areas. “Slot Heaven is wooden and has light drapes and soft lighting in an intimate environment where we broke down the gaming halls into groups of six or eight slot machines,” Ohayon said.

The other slot area of the floor houses tickers and displays promotions and events. For example, when someone wins a jackpot, the ceiling’s digital lights automatically flash in celebration of the win.

Just beyond Slot Heaven is a casual wine bar with a “very cool” triple-height space wine tower, according to Ohayon. The central bar, meanwhile, is a very high-energy area literally in the center of the casino. “It’s got an amazing lit canopy, which draws the energy out from the center of the casino and is made out of gypsum reinforced fiberglass,” Ohayon said.

Next to that, the restaurant has a custom-wood screen wall that allows interaction between the casino floor and the diners. A cascade coil wall separates the center bar from the slots and has an 1,800-square-foot LED multi-color ceiling.

The casino’s poker pits exude warmth with leather décor, suede walls and hanging red light fixtures. Beyond those pits is the casino’s Wii bar, which offers exactly as its name promises. Ohayon said people can hang out, play Wii and grab a drink while they’re waiting to get on a poker table or just to take a quick break from gambling. Such a major diversion from the gaming floor might seem out of place for an American casino, but Ohayon said differences like this were partly why working on the project was so exciting. “Culturally, we learned the differences between working in America and working in Europe,” he said. “There are different value sets people have in terms of gambling itself. It was a really interesting process. Rotterdam’s a pretty famous city for architecture that’s outside the box. Part of that lends to their ability to allow us to try new things for the casino experience.”