By Ben Blaschke
Gary Platt Manufacturing is not only the world’s leading supplier of casino chairs, it was also the company that revolutionized the casino seating industry.
If you’ve ever wondered what separates one casino chair from another, the story of Gary Platt’s winning bid for MGM National Harbor – Washington DC’s brand new integrated resort – provides a case in point.
Three years before the property finally opened its doors in December 2016, one of the US furniture company’s rivals began work on a concept they hoped would win the hearts and behinds of MGM management. Then, a year out from launch, Gary Platt Manufacturing had a go.
“We didn’t even switch the design, we just built a version of their chair, their concept – and when they sat in ours and sat in our competition’s version, they threw everyone else out,” laughs Gary Platt President Skip Davis. “They had senior management all the way up to the President of MGM and the General Manager of the property sit on them and their decision was ultimately based on comfort.”
First founded in 1996 in a tiny warehouse in Los Angeles, the success of Gary Platt Manufacturing has always been built around a unique appreciation of a client’s needs. It was, for example, this philosophy that saw the company move to Reno during those early years because Reno was home to its lone customer, IGT. It was also what led the start-up towards the native American market – one it recognized as being severely under-served.
But it was the company’s ground breaking Extended Play line of chairs, first released in 2003, that revolutionized the industry and saw the company become a major player in international casino supply.
“It was completely different to everything that was being offered in the casino seating market at the time,” says Davis. “We quickly went from selling 10 or 15 models that were a variety of the old style seat – very small seats with small backs and flat foam – to primarily the Extended Play line. In a very short period, 80% of our chairs were this new Extended Play and it just sat completely different from what people were used to seeing. It totally changed their thoughts.”
Not surprisingly, the idea that by simply offering a more comfortable chair players would remain at the tables longer proved irresistible to operators.
Gary Platt delivered more than 4,000 new chairs for the opening of MGM National Harbor in December
“That was our play from the get-go,” continues Davis. “Time on device was our big coin phrase and our play to this day is that people pay a ton of money to market their property and get customers in the door. Those customers should never get up from a game because they feel fatigued in terms of the ‘sit’ of the chair.
“We needed to make a chair that was attractive enough and comfortable. We wanted people to sit down and say ‘Wow’.”
These days Gary Platt Manufacturing produces around 75,000 chairs a year, making it the number one global casino chair supplier as well as the top supplier of chairs for electronic gaming machines due to partnerships with the likes of IGT and Aristocrat.
The company has also changed the way operators approach chair design in general. Two decades ago, casino seating was almost an afterthought. Now it takes years of planning to arrive at a concept that is both comfortable and ergonomically sound while simultaneously meeting an operator’s stringent design brief.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to give our customers a product to fit their needs and they need it to work for their customers,” offers Davis, whose Asian clients include Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands. “The ones who are really tuned in are the ones who are really focused on their customer experience and the chair is an important part of that.
“It’s the one thing that customers truly have contact with when they are sitting at a game and playing. It’s the seat. And they don’t think about it much but it’s got to be ergonomically correct, it’s got to give you back support, it’s got to give you leg support without stressing your legs. It sounds really simple but if you sit in the different casino seats that are available today you’ll see a lot of people don’t get it.”
Which brings Davis to another key point – don’t mess with a winning formula.
“It’s one of our primary philosophies,” he says. “In our market these days we deal with operators who are interested in the return on every investment they make, including the chair. We also work with designers who view the chair as an aesthetic complement to the environment around it.
“As a result, sometimes we get designs that just don’t sit well so we try to work with the designers and the operators to get them to agree to a hybrid that still has the comfort but gives the designers something that they’re looking for.
“But we’re lucky that we have an in-house designer who is probably the world’s best when it comes to ergonomics and comfort and we have a proprietary foam supplier who has been supplying our foam for 15 years, so there is none better.
“Some of our competitors will mess with their densities and elasticities to meet customer demand but we won’t touch our formula. It is what it is. We’re not making it softer and we’re not making it harder because it’s right.
“We stick to that and we don’t even discuss it with our customers because we don’t want to change it.”