Recent Articles

Royal River Casino elevates guest experience with VIP lounge

Picture a guest at a Midwestern casino. What do you see? A lone patron sitting at an isolated slot machine for hours?

The owners of Royal River Casino Hotel in Flandreau, South Dakota, want to change that perception to one that features an outstanding guest experience. The casino’s leaders are savvy enough to know that to thrive well into the future, they need to attract upcoming generations, and to appeal to younger generations, they need to provide experiences valued by those generations.

So in order to address recent shifts in social preferences, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe partnered with LEO A DALY to undergo a major repositioning of the 80,000-SF property. The goal is the transformation of the guest experience and the expansion of the casino’s offerings to a younger crowd, while still accommodating current customers.

Evolution in Casino Design

Evolution in Casino DesignThat’s where Royal River’s new 820-SF VIP lounge comes in. The first step was to create an intimate and contemporary lounge. The administrative space was converted into this revenue-generating space in the middle of the gaming floor. The lounge features an inviting, modern fireplace encouraging visitors to relax and visit with friends.

In the past, casino design revolved around keeping visitors in the property by making them feel almost “lost.” Today, LEO A DALY’s design thinking focuses on making guests comfortable – if a guest is comfortable, he or she will stay longer because the experience is more enjoyable.

The central location of the lounge is secluded from the rest of the floor. This provides an exclusive space to give the guest a place to break away from the noise and smoke of the casino floor and to enjoy a social experience. A sophisticated displacement air system supplies air down to the floor to push the smoke up and out, eliminating smoke collection in the space.

Honoring the Tribe’s Heritage

The design of the new lounge, which partially flows onto the casino floor, is a sophisticated homage to the tribe’s heritage and its relationship to nature. Wood slat “ribbons” wind and wrap through the casino, evoking the winding Big Sioux River that flows nearby. Intimate lighting and soothing wood details within the lounge reference the rolling hills of the region and encourage guests to relax while connecting with friends.

Porcupine quills are a constant in the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe tradition. Black and white quills are represented in the lighting. These elements celebrate the heritage and traditions of the tribe while giving identity to the space itself.Critical Piece in Transforming the Guest ExperienceThe impact of the new lounge, which opened in October 2017, is being felt.

“The space is a critical piece in the overall transformation of the guest experience at the casino,” says James McDermott, general manager of the Royal River.

McDermott says the lounge is a versatile space that offers a new, high-end experience for diamond-level guests. Events will include parties and meet and greets with entertainers who perform at the casino.

In addition to attracting a vibrant demographic, management is excited about the possibilities the lounge provides not only for the property and its special guests, but also the community. McDermott said the space can be rented for corporate meetings and retreats. Events range from informal cocktail parties to five-course meals with wine pairings.

“The VIP lounge provides a new amenity for the community,” McDermott says. “We are located in a town of 2,300, and there are no other spaces like this in town for rental. Before the space opened, we didn’t have a dedicated, intimate location for private events, and the ambiance of a high-end cocktail lounge is perfect for these types of experiences.”

Learn How LEO A DALY Can Help You Transform Your Guests’ Experiences

We can help you reinvigorate your property and even create revenue-generating spaces. Contact Cindy McCleary, managing principal of our Minneapolis studio, to learn more at or 612.341.9588.