Roll out the bad carpet

Our reporter rates some of the area’s gaudiest casino floor patterns

Reno Hilton

Reno Hilton

Photo By David Robert

So there I was at the Peppermill, a glass of red wine in my hand. Sometime during that last hour, I had gone from the relatively tipsy stage to one of moderate drunkenness. I was not playing the slot machines, nor was I at the craps tables. I find “gaming” revoltingly dull. Nope. I was doing what any healthy, well-adjusted Nevada girl would do in lieu of gamblin'.

I was staring at the carpet.

I had become sort of perversely attracted to it, really. It’s so blatantly anti-elegant. You may know what I’m talking about. Perhaps, amid that tropical, mirrored circus of slots (i.e., the Peppermill’s first floor), you’ve glanced down to find outer space—planets, stars, whole galaxies, even rainbows (rainbows?!)—lurking at your feet.

“It’s like some sort of celestial Queer Nation,” said my friend and co-worker Adrienne Rice, who was carpet-gazing with me that evening. “It’s like a galactic Silver Dollar Court.”

Casinos, nine times out of 10, dress their gambling areas with some of the most garish, gaudy carpet designs known to humankind. The carpet in the Peppermill really isn’t so bad, but others—well, I wouldn’t wish them on the floors of my worst enemies. If you entered a single-family home, an office building, or even the average restaurant and found carpet that tacky, you’d be appalled, morally offended even, and would probably never return.

There are some obvious reasons why casinos don’t have nice mauve, one-tone carpets or hardwood floors. People—lots of people—walk on the carpet. People spill things on the carpet. Occasionally, people who’ve experienced a bit too much noise, booze and monetary loss throw up on the carpet.

But I think there’s a psychology behind casino carpeting, too.

"[They make it] obnoxious so that you want to look up,” suggested one of the nice fellows employed by the Peppermill.

Indeed. In the over-stimulating environment of a casino, the eye has no place to rest, no respite. To prevent dizziness—or mild insanity—you have to focus on what’s directly in front of you. Like a slot machine, for instance.

Casino designers have created a gaming milieu that discourages the wandering eye; tall machines block your view and mirrors disorient you. Furthermore, because ceilings are high and carpets are “obnoxious,” the tendency is to look neither up nor down. The best thing to do is to stare straight ahead and mindlessly drop in quarters.

I say be different. Risk dizziness, risk insanity even, by looking around you—particularly by looking at your feet. It is, however, best to be prepared for the worst when checking out casino decor, so here’s an abridged guide on what to expect. Based on my four-chip rating system, one stands for “yuck” and four stands for “rad.”

Harrah’s Reno

Ambitiously multi-carpeted, Harrah’s wins kudos for its sheer number of designs: I counted four, but there may be more.

I first entered the casino on the Center Street side. Sky scenes must be popular, because once again, we have some stars. No rainbows, though; instead, there are red, green and purple swirls that have sort of an ocean wave look. Adrienne may have called it “celestial Baywatch,” had she been there. She wasn’t, but my dad was.

“When I have a hangover and close my eyes, this is what I see,” my dad remarked.

On the plus side, the sprawling swirls give a feeling of spaciousness. The eye moves easily from one wave to another, preventing claustrophobia.

Harrah’s also offers a modified space scene—more stars, less swirl—on the second floor, a vaguely art deco design in the registration area and a more masculine, ordered pattern in the card table area.


Photo By David Robert


Unlike Harrah’s, the Eldorado believes in continuity. Here we have the same design, or nearly the same design, throughout. I can tell you that burgundy is the predominate color, but I can’t even begin to describe the elaborate pattern. It manages to somehow be obnoxious and boring at the same time.

Silver Legacy

The most convincingly classy of the bunch. The second-level carpet is especially pleasing; it’s soothing and feminine and has a definite Persian look. It’s mostly beige, with pale blue, green and salmon accents—a nice change from the dark reds and blues of most casino carpet.

Downstairs, on the main gaming floor, the carpet is darker and less soothing, but the pattern is still mature and relatively classy. It makes sense, of course, to have duller colors and a busier pattern on more trafficked areas, so I can forgive the Legacy for not carrying the cool beige carpet throughout.

Circus Circus

First of all, let me just talk about that kiddie arcade area. The carpet is god-awful. There’s no pattern, only a red and yellowish print; it looks like somebody threw up on a dead cheetah. However, my hatred for this carpet might not be shared by all, so in an effort to be fair, I got the opinion of a helpful “midway operator” in the arcade.

“It’s full of gum,” was her response.

Downstairs on the gaming level, the carpet is much more decorous. The pattern, done in reds and browns, looks like a cross between a chandelier and a roulette wheel. Not half-bad.

Flamingo Hilton

Some casinos are vociferously committed to echoing their theme in the carpet. Case in point: the Flamingo Hilton, where the carpet is a haven for flocks of flamingos. Now, the Hilton may be filled with rooms boasting beautiful, elegant floor coverings, but I never got that far; I just ducked into the casino, saw that carpet and got out. Those damn birds scared me off.


I’ve already gone into some detail about the Peppermill’s rainbow-filled galaxies. This carpet is shamelessly unsophisticated, but in a really charming way.

Reno Hilton

The Reno Hilton is clearly going for the “gambling in your own backyard garden” look. On the first level and on the walkways of the second level, you get to walk on a leafy bed of greens. This carpet is relatively understated. In the gambling areas, however, the carpet is loudly and boisterously floral. It’s comprised of large squares that contain, alternately, large bright purple flowers and sprays of smaller purple ones. (I can’t really identify the flowers, but then again, I have limited flower-recognition skills. They fall somewhere between a tulip and a poppy, I think.)

Like the Peppermill, the Hilton abandons all pretenses of sophistication and goes right for the fun stuff. I prefer this to botched attempts at elegance.

I was scheduled to get a sneak peek of the brand-new Siena, but unfortunately, something else came up. However, my editor, Jimmy Boegle, did tour the Siena and came back with a report on Reno’s newest and freshest casino flooring. According to Jimmy, the Siena’s carpet may be some of the nicest in town.

“It was designed to look like cobblestones, fitting in with the Siena-like theme of the casino,” Jimmy said. “Tan-colored with red highlights, the faux stones occasionally appear in a spiral pattern, kind of like the horns on a big-horned sheep.”

“It’s different,” Siena owner Barney Ng told Jimmy. “We chose the carpet so it will fit the actual environment of the casino.”

Hmmm. Maybe casino owners are beginning to understand that when it comes to floor coverings, the carpet should not make your head spin.