Center for Gaming Research


Caesars Palace

Presented annually since 2003, the Sarno Award for Lifetime Achievement is the highest honor afforded any individual involved in the design and construction of casino resorts. It is named for Jay Sarno, the grandfather of casino design, who envisioned such well-known casino resort properties as Caesars Palace and Circus Circus in the 1960s.

This exhibit features entries for all of those honored with the Sarno Award.

2013: Dick Rizzo
Martin Stern, Jr.

Richard J. Rizzo is the vice chairman of Tutor Perini Building Corp., Inc.

Rizzo oversaw the development of many of the following casino resorts and attractions in Las Vegas, including: Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino; CityCenter Las Vegas; The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa & Casino; Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas; Luxor Las Vegas; Palms Casino Resort; and Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. He has also overseen construction of several casino resorts across the United States, including: MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.; the Mohegan Sun expansion in Montville, Conn.; Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa in Cabazon, Calif.; Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif.; the Resorts Casino Hotel expansion in Atlantic City, N.J.; Resorts World Casino New York City; the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa, Fla.; and the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J.

Biography and Project Listing | Casino Design article

2012: Terry Lanni
Martin Stern, Jr.

J. Terrence (“Terry”) Lanni is best known for his long tenure as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of MGM Mirage (now MGM Resorts). 

Mr. Lanni joined MGM Grand, Inc. on June 1, 1995, as president and chief executive officer and a member of the Board of Directors.  In July 1995 he was named to the position of Chairman of the Board.

Mr. Lanni stepped down from MGM Mirage in 2008 after having overseen two of the largest mergers in gaming history; MGM Grand's 2000 acquistion of Mirage Resorts, which created MGM Mirage, and MGM Mirage's 2005 acquisition of the Mandalay Resort Group. He was also a key figure in the construction of CityCenter, a project made possible by the mergers he orchestrated.

Biography | Casino Design article

2011: Martin Stern, Jr.
Martin Stern, Jr.

An architect whose designs defined the Strip from his 1953 low-rise addition to the Sahara to the current day, Stern was an innovator whose designs for integrated casino/hotel/ convention complexes have become the industry paradigm. His circular tower addition for the Sands, which opened in 1967, redefined the casino and was a Strip landmark until its implosion to make way for the Venetian. 

Stern’s most enduring contribution to the Strip was his trailblazing fusion of convention hotel, casino space, and retail, seen first in 1969 in Kirk Kerkorian’s International (now the Las Vegas Hilton) and the original MGM Grand (now Bally’s Las Vegas), which opened in 1973.  These behemoths (both were billed as “the world’s largest resort hotel” when they opened) integrated high-rise hotel towers, parking garages, convention space, gaming, entertainment, and shopping for the first time, and the International pioneered a tri-form, y-shaped design that was often imitated. 

Bio & Project Listing | Gallery | Martin Stern Jr. Career Retrospective | Index of Materials in Special Collections

2010: Paul Steelman

Paul Steelman

Steelman is chief executive officer of Steelman Partners, an international architectural firm that specializes in the multidisciplinary facets of entertainment architecture, interior design, graphic design, and lighting. Steelman Partners has designed and constructed over 3,000 projects throughout the world, including prestigious developments for MGM Resorts International, SBM Monaco, Foxwoods, Swiss Casinos, Hard Rock, Caesars, Harrah's, Showboat, Sands, Venetian, Waldorf Astoria, Asian Coast Resorts, Fontainebleau, Holland Casinos, Tatweer Dubai and many others.

Bio & Project Listing | Gallery | UNLV Gaming Podcast Interview Part I (mp3) Part II (mp3) | Paul's Blog | Steelman Partners

2009: Roger Thomas
Roger Thomas

Roger Thomas is executive vice president design for Wynn Design and Development. He created the interiors of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, which opened December 2008. He led the interior design of Wynn Macau which opened to the public September 5, 2006 and most recently directed the interior design of Encore at Wynn Macau which was completed in April of 2010.

Mr. Thomas was Senior Vice President and Director of Interior Design for Atlandia Design, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mirage Resorts Incorporated, and the principal of Thomas Design Group, an operating unit with Atlandia. For 20 years, Thomas Design Group designed the interiors of the company's many properties, including the Golden Nugget hotels in Las Vegas and Laughlin, and the most important properties on the Las Vegas Strip: the Mirage Resort, Treasure Island and the world-famous Bellagio Resort.

While a recognized leader in interior design for the hospitality industry, Mr. Thomas also designed corporate offices and aircraft interiors for Mirage Resorts Inc., as well as the private residences of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen A. Wynn, then chairman of Mirage Resorts.

Bio & Project Listing | Gallery | Unicaworld interview and tour | Strip Podcast interview | Vegas Gang interview | Wynn Resorts

2008: David Rockwell
David Rockwell

Rockwell, founder and CEO of the architecture and design firm Rockwell Group, has spearheaded the creation of an array of hospitality and entertainment properties, including the Casino of the Earth and the Casino of the Sky, both at Mohegan Sun. His work and design for Mohegan Sun has helped turn the tribal gaming property into the one of the largest and most popular gaming complexes in the world.

In addition to his renowned interpretation of Mohegan Suns casino floor, Rockwells past projects include the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles and, in New York City, the Elinor Bunin-Monroe Film Center at Lincoln Center, the W New York and the W Union Square. Rockwell also has taken his creative vision to Broadway, where he has designed sets for hit musicals such as Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Legally Blonde.

Bio & Project Listing | The Rockwell Group

2007: Brad Friedmutter
Brad Friedmutter

Friedmutter and his team have designed dozens of casino resort properties throughout the country, including Station Casinos’ Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock Casino Resort properties in Las Vegas, and Thunder Valley Casino near Sacramento, Calif.; the Ritz Carlton at Lake Las Vegas; the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas; the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, La.; and many others. The company also is responsible for expansions at Harrah’s Atlantic City, Showboat Atlantic City and others.

With nearly three decades of experience working in the gaming and hospitality industries, Friedmutter collaborated directly with Steve Wynn on the Golden Nugget Hotel Casino in Las Vegas and later at Mirage Resorts. He also served as vice president of design and construction at Bally's Las Vegas.

Bio & Project Listing | Global Gaming Business Podcast | The Friedmutter Group

2006: Joel Bergman
Joel Bergman

Joel Bergman brings 43 years of experience in casino resort design and has established a reputation worldwide as a leader in the hospitality industry. He is intimately involved in the design, planning and programming of projects throughout the United States and internationally. He has brought innovative, cutting-edge, sustainable and energy efficient design to all forms of entertainment architecture ranging from boutique retail venues to large scale mixed-use resorts; including hospitality, dining, retail, performance and gaming projects.

Bio & Project Listing | Bergman Walls & Associates

2005: Donald Brinkerhoff

Donald Brinkerhoff

Brinkerhoff has operated his own landscape architectural firm since 1958, and many of his innovative techniques have become today’s industry standards. His importance to the field was recognized in 1998 when he became a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the profession’s highest peer-awarded honor. Brinkerhoff and the team at his award-winning firm, Lifescapes International, Inc., have been involved in 15 leading projects on the Las Vegas Strip, including Wynn Las Vegas, as well as casinos across the nation and around the globe.

Bio & Project Listing | RD&E profile | Gaming Today article | Lifescapes International

2004: Jon Jerde
Jon Jerde

The Jerde Partnership is a visionary architecture and urban planning firm that designs unique places that people love to visit and go back to time and again. Nearly one billion people visit Jerde Places every year.

Located around the globe, Jerde Places are iconic, “go to” destinations that pulse with life through a carefully orchestrated procession of public spaces, shops, parks, restaurants, entertainment, housing and nature. They transform the economic and social landscape of neighborhoods, cities and regions and deliver astounding results across the board -- economic success and recognition for developers, businesses and cities and amazing experiences for the people who work, eat, stay, shop, play, wander and live there.

Bio & Project Listing | Casino Design article (pdf) | The Jerde Partnership

2003: Jay Sarno
Jay Sarno

Sarno was a unique visionary in the gaming world. He created two of the industry's most successful casinos, Caesars Palace and Circus Circus, and planned an ambitious 6,000-room resort called the Grandissimo that brilliantly foreshadowed the current stage of casino development in Las Vegas.

Above all else, Sarno created the idea of the themed casino. He wanted his resorts to completely embrace the visitor with a theme that transported them to a fantasy world where all of their desires would be fulfilled--and they would gamble to their hearts' content. Above all, he placed an emphasis on casino design that hadn't been seen before in the business.

Bio & Project Listing | Hall of Fame page