The Gregory Hills Hotel gaming room is sophisticated and highly functional. Designer Paul Kelly reveals the art and science (and a dash of feng shui) behind the comfort and glamour.

Story: Paul Kelly

When we came into the Gregory Hills  Hotel it was basically a box and a small box at that, maybe about 150sqm. The first thing we needed to do was expand the room. We have certain spacings we use between machines and for walkways that we know will work, so we had to blow some sections of the room out and cut off some walkways to make the room suit what we wanted as far as the flow. In other words, the size of the space matters for the principles to work.

One of the key things for us is the flow through the room: letting people walk past the machines while not interrupting players, so there’s a river of energy that runs through. All the rooms are based on feng shui, and on the concept of customers feeling very safe and secure: everyone can see everything. It’s not dark because people walk into these rooms with money so we maintain excellent sightlines and good light levels — patrons must feel comfortable enough to put money in the machines and stay in the room.

Gaming is not just about playing the machines, it’s about the whole experience: the room, the other players, the buzz — it’s an escape, like going on a holiday or cruise. We have to take people on this journey, that’s how we get them to stay. Interior design is key to this. Our work now has an opulent resort feel — the old rooms where you had black ceilings, fussy carpet and wallpaper… that’s all finished; anything too Asian in feel is finished; anything that’s highly themed is well and truly finished.


When we determine the flow of a room, certain machines need to be positioned in certain areas. The machines in the centre of the room are more generic but the serious punters, who play the highly volatile machines (that require a bit more money to win) want to be in a more private area, so we put those machines where people can walk past but can’t spectate.

Then obviously there are the ‘101 basics’ like the access to the room, full smoking, bar service, and the proximity of the toilets. That’s all ‘a given’, but the major concern is getting these surroundings to match the visual experience of the machines so people feel the excitement just by being there. Players want to experience the thrill of luck in an environment that goes beyond what they imagine: that’s the key.

There are two main sections at the Gregory Hills Hotel: the main gaming floor and the garden areas. The garden areas are super advanced: there are lush tropical settings, water features with handcrafted brass domes, sandstone wall cladding with brass recesses, lots of lighting and pot plants with water featured throughout, along with pebbles, tiles and marble. Inside there’s a generously high ceiling with a decorative hanging system based on an LED wrap which extends  up to six metres — that’s the centrepiece of the room. There are carved decorative screens, aluminium and timber wall cladding and gold polished stainless steel and mirrored sections — wherever you look there’s a little glisten of light from a machine being picked up here or there. It’s exciting.


It is a fully compliant gaming room — patrons are free to smoke. Even though it’s completely covered overhead there are open sections of light above and it’s naturally ventilated. The climate control is excessive — we want to provide ultimate comfort for players whether it’s a 40° day or a 3° night.

There’s also a scented misting addition to the air conditioning system that pumps a certain dosage into the air. It’s a feature common to casinos and upmarket hotels — Crown has a certain smell to it, as does a W Hotel, for example. For the Gregory Hills Hotel, it’s a variation on the Crown scent, like a very light aftershave with hints of leather and tobacco. It’s the smell of opulence.

Wherever we can, we use indirect lighting and there’s beautiful soft glow that wraps around the whole room. It’s a very warm light — the colour temperature is 2700K, which is the temperature we see as being ‘just right’ in these rooms. The lighting changes as the day goes on in a 24-hour program, and a lot of the lighting comes from the machines as well as the natural light.


The Gregory Hills Hotel was a $1m+ contract. It’s a lot to spend on a ‘humble pokies room’, but gaming accounts for a considerable chunk of the venue’s income. So the cost of these rooms is high but the fitout is of the highest level. And it’s working: most Paul Kelly Design rooms’ revenues increase by 30 or 40 percent after a renovation, which is significant considering what these rooms can potentially turn over. In just four weeks at Gregory Hills Hotel the gaming surpassed the six-month target. For a startup pub it’s an amazing legup.

The gaming market has been very good to Paul Kelly Design. We’re one of only a few to design rooms to this level and have the results to back it up. We’ve done some 80 to 100 gaming rooms, so we have a number of tricks and techniques that ensure our rooms become more successful than anybody else’s. And, we can track our success: every quarter we know where the turnover has gone in the hotels we’ve worked on. We have all the metrics and that’s the reason we get these rooms.


Paul Kelly Design: (02) 9660 8299 or