Las Vegas is considered the gambling mecca of America, and Atlantic City has long been known as the gambling capital of the East Coast, but there are dozens of luxurious casino resorts throughout the country that provide meeting planners with a fabulous venue for those who like a little action in their events.
The appeal of these resorts is that attendees can do it all under one roof — meet, eat and sleep, as well as enjoy some incredible amenities, such as a fitness center, spa and an array of dining and entertainment options just steps from the meeting rooms.
Kait Busone, events director at The Annexus Group in Scottsdale, Arizona, enjoys hosting events at casino resorts due to their convenience, versatility and entertainment for guests. She regularly runs meetings at Talking Stick Resort.
“They offer unique spaces for all size groups from outdoor poolside receptions for large events to private dining space in their restaurant for small meetings,” she says. “There are also plenty of activities for our guests to enjoy on-property during their downtime.”
Tina-Marie Wassman, principle, TNC Events LLC, most recently held a 500-person meeting in August at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, and has run large conferences at other casino resorts as well. “They offer a dedicated conference space with lots of natural light, high-tech guest rooms where almost everything can be operated from an iPad, a variety of different dining experiences, great networking areas, entertainment, a fabulous spa and fitness centers, plus a professional business center,” she says. “It’s an easy sell to get people to come when it’s being held in Las Vegas.”
Susan McGonigle is a 40-year independent planner who handles the annual Chrysler meeting, and this year’s conference was the largest meeting Atlantic City’s Resorts Casino Hotel has hosted in the past 15 years. “They bent over backwards to give us even more than promised, and that’s something that you appreciate being in this business,” says McGonigle, who is president of Susan McGonigle Corporate Events in Carle Place, New York. “When you need something done and you don’t have to wait for it, that’s what we look for. It’s a trust factor that makes events run smoother.”
McGonigle also has run meetings at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, and finds that casino resorts are in high demand among conference attendees. What she looks for when deciding on where to host a meeting is a venue that’s ready when they’re supposed to be, that someone is there coordinating the program and that the quality of the food is tops. These are all things that she finds in spades at both casino resorts she has worked with.
Guillaume Beland, president and general manager of MSOP Entertainment Inc., Montreal, Canada, recently held an event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and says when planning a meeting at a casino resort, it’s important to meet directly with the people who work on the event; visit the location several times; and develop a local network of resources that can facilitate the creation of an ultimate experience.
“Pretty much anything can happen. Only two weeks before our event, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, one block away from our event site,” he says. “Extensive planning, a solid team and great relationship with the local partners will always help surmount the biggest hurdles.”
Just eight years old, Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale offers more than 100,000 sf of both indoor and outdoor meeting space, as well as 50 table games, 800 slot machines and poker tournaments almost every day.
“Our main ballroom is 25,000 sf, and when you exit into our prefunction space, all of our glass walls completely disappear and guests can experience the fresh air coming in,” says Michael Maggart, director of sales for the resort. “Additionally, we have 12 breakout rooms, six of which offer natural light, and one unique space in a two-story 650-foot showroom, with built in AV and an amphitheater-like setting.”
Don Ross, vice president of catering and convention services, Las Vegas Caesars Entertainment, which represents nine hotels in Nevada, notes the company has more than 1 million sf of meeting space in Las Vegas, with Caesars Palace offering 300,000 sf connected to the newly redesigned Palace Tower. These include both large and small ballrooms that are extremely flexible and can be turned into a countless number of configurations that can accommodate hundreds of breakouts.
“There are lots of aspects that make Las Vegas great for meetings, and we can accommodate meetings of all sizes,” he says. “Attendees can take an elevator right down to the meeting space from their hotel floor. It is so convenient and everyone loves it. Meeting planners have unlimited options when it comes to dining, entertainment and special venues. We have the resources to virtually fulfill any request.”
Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas also offers a special venue program allowing planners to contract one property and have access to everything all nine hotels have to offer. For example, you can host your general session at The Colosseum, have lunch in the Versailles Ballroom at Paris, and then a closing party at Drai’s night club at the Cromwell, all under one contract.
William H. Jackson, director of sales and marketing at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, says the hotel can provide rooms for up to 1,000 people for meetings in its 64,000 sf and 24 different meeting rooms.
“If you are a meeting planner that requires a lot of meeting space, this is a good location for you to consider because of our large block of space and number of breakout rooms,” he says. “We have a very caring, professional staff, and 70 percent of our meeting clients have been here before.”
Ann W. Stack, director of marketing for Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Dover, Delaware, says the great thing about hosting a corporate meeting at any casino resort is the fact that everything is all under one roof.
For example, at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, there are nine restaurants, lounges and bars, an award-winning spa, nightclub, retail shopping and a large variety of gaming options including slots, table games and poker.
“We have over 40,000 sf of versatile meeting space, from a boardroom for 14 people to expo space for 1,600 people,” Stack says. “We offer full-service meeting planning, a dedicated onsite convention services manager to handle all the details leading up to the event, throughout the event and post-event wrap-up meetings.”
The Inn of the Mountain Gods, located in Mescalero, New Mexico, features more than 40,000 sf of indoor meeting space, as well as some outdoor dining opportunities such as the Deck on the Green, which offers a beautiful view of its golf course, and the Deck on the Lake, where meeting guests can enjoy a delicious barbecue lunch and take a boat out on the lake.
“We are the perfect location for corporate meetings because of our beautiful facilities, from large, comfortable meeting space to our brand new boardroom that has four LED high-definition satellite programming, HDMI connections, dedicated wireless connections and much more,” says Charles Meeks, executive sales and catering manager for the resort. “We offer all the AV any meeting would need to make their meeting a productive and successful one. You can also bring in your own equipment at no charge.”
With 1,470 rooms available, the Tropicana Las Vegas is a bit smaller than some of the other hotels and resorts in the Sin City, but that’s why Gavin Mealiffe, vice president of sales, says it’s perfect for corporate meetings.
“We create a more focused and comfortable experience so attendees truly can feel like they ‘own’ the place,” he says. “We offer just over 100,000 sf of meeting space as well as some incredible outdoor meeting spaces including Sky Beach Club, our Resort Pool and several terraces. What makes it special is the size, where groups will be meeting in our space that conveniently connects to our Club Tower, creating fantastic networking opportunities.”
The full-service experience includes the most advanced audio-visual equipment through its partner Encore Event Technologies, as well as fast and reliable internet connections from COX Communications.
Tony Yousfi, vice president of sales for Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, says the best thing about holding a meeting at the hotel is that meeting guests are just five minutes from their sleeping room to the meeting space, and there’s no need to walk through the casino.
“We have 300,000 sf of meeting space, and while we have groups of up to 5,000, about 80 percent of our business is 200 or less,” he says. “Our meeting rooms have natural light, and our corporate planners know that when they come in, we mean business. They have their objectives, and we focus on helping them achieve them.”
When working with casino resorts, meeting planners often look for partners who can help them put on a perfect event in the smoothest way possible.
“It’s important to arrive at a complete understanding of both the client’s expectations and vendor’s expectations, and take the venue’s best practices and maybe alter those expectations if needed,” says Ric Smith, an independent meeting planner based outside of Chicago, who has worked with at least seven different casino resorts in his 25-plus years in the biz. “Casinos aren’t for everybody, so you want to ensure that there’s enough that everyone is happy, and all needs are met.”
Busone can’t overemphasize how important it is to be able to trust a resort to anticipate one’s every need, and she has found that in spades with Talking Stick.
“As event planners, there are some situations we just can’t plan for, but I never stress because I know the resort staff will accommodate my needs…with a smile,” she says. “That begins with communication before and after each event and eventually builds a relationship where everyone’s invested in success.”
Maggart says the best way to do that is by understanding all needs at the beginning, knowing what they want to accomplish and what all meeting requirements are.
“We want to understand what was successful in the past for them and really build on the concept at our resort,” he says. “It’s asking the right questions, understanding their goals, and then doing everything in our power from the sales person to conference services manager all the way down to the banquet team to help them accomplish those goals.”
When meetings aren’t in session, attendees may love playing slots, throwing craps or sitting down for some blackjack, but not everyone wants to take the risk required when gambling.
“From a corporate standpoint, not everyone is into the casino aspect of it, so you need to make sure there are other things that can occupy their time,” McGonigle says. “There should be a spa, golf nearby and other fun things to take advantage of. These resorts offer those things so everyone is happy.”
The Inn of the Mountain Gods is nestled in the Sierra Blanca Mountains away from traffic and notice, so attendees can find some peace and tranquility.
“After a long day in meetings, you can step outside for some fresh air and beautiful surroundings. We have mountain bikes, horseback riding, clay shooting, golf, skiing, zip line, boating and walking trails,” Meeks says. “Although we are about 21/2 hours from Albuquerque, most meetings and conventions see a very large increase in attendance because of our location. Once we get a new group to meet here, we have them for a very long time.”
Outside of the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, there’s plenty to do for non-gamblers.
“We offer tax-free shopping, live harness racing, simulcast horse racing, and the Dover International Speedway’s Monster Mile is located onsite and hosts daily tours of the NASCAR track,” Stack says. “Delaware does not have sales tax, which results in a significant saving for the planner.”
Taking advantage of the beautiful Scottsdale weather, Talking Stick Resort boasts an open-air spa on the top of its 14-story building overlooking Camelback Mountain, 36 holes of golf and live entertainment options throughout the property.
In Las Vegas, Mealiffe says meeting guests can take advantage of the Tropicana Las Vegas’ award-winning pool surrounded by lush landscaping; the Mandara Spa, which offers relaxation and an opportunity to revitalize both before and after the meetings; and a wide variety of restaurants.
The Las Vegas Strip also offers plenty to do. At Caesars Palace, the two largest ballrooms are adjacent to the iconic Garden of the Gods pool, so meeting planners can take a break or hold a reception at the pool.
“Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace is another wonderful option for after hours. The design is beautiful and calming with large facilities and is available for a group buyout,” Ross says. “Attendees can enjoy the Linq Promenade where the High Roller (observation wheel) is located. It’s a great place to people watch and to have dinner or a drink. Street entertainers and musicians perform nightly.”
Being on the Atlantic City Boardwalk is popular with meeting guests, Jackson says, because it has access to the beach, shops, an aquarium and the Steel Pier amusement area, which has the third-largest observation wheel in the country.
At some resorts, sometimes problems arise — such as sharing your space with other groups; noise and disruption beyond your control; overspending on unnecessary items; and not living up to your contractual agreement. The fix, most planners agree, is being able to offer solutions that work for both sides, mediate and produce.
Wassman says there always will be things that go wrong, but it’s how planners react to these challenges that define them and the success of a meeting.
“It’s important to work with the team to present and find a solution to the problem or challenge,” she says. “Communicate your expectations and set the tone.” C&IT