Inside casinos, it wasn’t always easy to pull up a chair for your derriere.
The first slot machines were introduced to gaming halls in the 1890s, roughly 30 years after the Nevada Legislature legalized gambling. But look at any old photos of gambling halls and casinos, and one thing is conspicuously absent – seating.
The idea of gamblers standing for hours in front of slot machines is hard to fathom, but for decades, gamblers rarely had a place to rest their rumps. A few stools might be on hand, but comfort was not the focus.
This went on until 1959, when Gary Platt walked into a Las Vegas casino to play blackjack.
The furniture salesman perched on a rickety and uncomfortable stool. Looking around, he saw people standing at the slots. He knew he could make it better.
And he did.
Thrones ‘fit for a king’
Platt pitched the idea of adding stools in front of slot machines to casino operators. Each time, he was told it would make casino aisles too narrow.
He worked some connections and finally found a small Las Vegas casino willing to gamble on his idea. Platt would deliver two dozen, 12-inch-square stools with straight legs – no tripping the gamblers, no crowding the aisles. And they would be free.
Two days later, the casino called back. Gamblers loved them. The casino wanted another 100 stools.
Platt hadn’t invented the slot machine stool. But he had just upped the game.
Platt and others made and marketed casino seating for decades under the name L&B Manufacturing before he and two other men launched Gary Platt Manufacturing in 1996. The following year, they moved from Southern California to southeast Reno.
This June, the company produced its one millionth chair.
Now, the company produces a chair – largely for casinos, but some for other hospitality venues – roughly every two minutes, with its chairs found in casinos across five continents.
In Australia, gamblers prefer rounder chairs, giving a more encompassing, hugging feeling, according to Gary Platt Manufacturing Chief Executive Officer Joe Esposito. In Europe, gamers prefer “teeny, tiny chairs.”
And in America, the seats have to handle an ever-widening burden. No longer the 12 inches originally marketed by Platt; seats now span widths of 17, 19 or 21 inches. Gary Platt Manufacturing recently crafted custom chairs for a Southern California casino that span 28 inches across.
The chairs are more like “thrones, almost fit for a king,” Esposito said. “They want to have people comfortable, staying longer, pushing the button one more time.”
Designing and building a chair is both an art and a science that combines design and engineering. The chairs must not only be comfortable but look cool as well.
And they need to be able to take a beating.
“People really beat the crap out of chairs at casinos,” Esposito said. “They knock them on the floor, cigarette burns, sit on them at weird angles.”
The backside knows
Juan Escobar started working at Gary Platt in 1997, just after the company opened in Reno. He’d worked for the company’s predecessor, L&B Manufacturing, prior to that in Riverside County.
He saw the production of the first chair in Reno, and now he’s seen the millionth. He learned English working at the company. His daughter, who was 1 year old when he started working in Reno, now works alongside him. So does his wife.
“This is my house. I spend more time here than at my home. If you do what you love, it’s never hard,” he said.
And even after his shift is over, his work isn’t done.
He knows what casinos in town do and don’t have Gary Platt chairs. His favorite casino is a joint in Sparks. The food is plentiful and cheap. But the seating, well, that’s another story.
They lack style and comfort. Hard as a rock, they don’t contour to his body.
Within minutes, his backside knows he’s not sitting on a Gary Platt chair.
Amy Alonzo covers the outdoors, recreation and environment for Nevada and Lake Tahoe. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s how you can support ongoing coverage and local journalism.