Casinos thrive on atmosphere, and music plays a huge part in that. Unfortunately for operators, traditional casino sound system designs are often a losing gamble. The traditional approach involves a series of high-powered amplifiers driving a chain of 60 to 70 speakers, with the goal of providing even audio coverage across the entire gaming floor. This design might make sense for a retail space or restaurant, but it doesn’t work very well for casinos.

From Loud to Quiet and Back Again

When standing on the casino floor, you may notice that the games are separated into individual areas, with sections for slot machines and table games like poker, blackjack and craps. And, if you take a closer look, you’ll see that each game has its own unique atmosphere.

For example, the craps table is loud and rowdy, with numerous players cheering for each roll of the dice, but the poker tables are much quieter and more serious. When it comes to audio and volume, different gaming areas have vastly different requirements—ranging from a noisy party atmosphere to unobtrusive background music. In addition, the layout of a casino is often rearranged annually and adjustments to the audio system often require major renovations.

Time for a New Approach

Audiovisual design and installation specialists at Technology West Group (TWG) recently took an innovative approach to casino sound system design for the MGM National Harbor resort and casino in National Harbor, Maryland. MGM wanted a networked audio system for the casino that would enable flexible and independent volume control across a wide range of audio zones—while requiring only minimal training and maintenance for staff.

“In older properties, you’ll often see traditional audio system designs that don’t work very well for the way a casino typically operates,” says Richard Reisig, General Manager at Technology West Group. “We run into a lot of property owners who hate the way the audio system sounds. When we really dig in, it comes down to sharing speaker zones between slots and table games, or transitions between high ceilings and low ceilings. The table games need different volume levels from the slots, and even within the table games area, the customers playing blackjack might want to listen to different volume levels than the customers playing the craps tables. With MGM, we made an effort to solve those issues.”

Staying in the Zone with JBL

Leveraging years of experience with casino audio systems, Technology West Group designed and implemented a complete audio system, which includes approximately 500 JBL Control 328CT in-ceiling loudspeakers and 70 JBL Control 312CS subwoofers installed in the casino floor. The system is powered by Crown DriveCore™ Install Series amplifiers and divides the gaming floor into separate zones that can be independently controlled using BSS Soundweb London BLU-806 signal processors.

The amplifiers and processors are installed in dedicated spaces below the casino floor, with wall-mounted control panels. The idea was to create a DMARK point, or a centralized technology hub, that enables the casino to rearrange the gaming floor without completely renovating the audio system.

“We use lots of amp channels to create very small, manageable zones, which is a change from how casinos historically cover a space,” explains Reisig. “First, it provides lots of level control options between slots and table games. Second, casinos are always rearranging the floor and moving slots and table games around, expanding or reducing poker areas. Giving them lots of smaller zones with independent level controls provides the flexibility to rework the casino floor— without having to make massive renovation changes to the AV system.”

Not only does the HARMAN audio solution offer exceptional sound quality, flexibility and ease of operation, it enables the MGM National Harbor casino to control the audio for different gaming areas and easily expand the system as needs evolve. It’s a smarter approach to casino sound system design, and we’re willing to bet it pays off big for MGM.

Do you have experience with casino sound system design or multiple zones in one expansive space? Share your insights in the comments.