For a great meeting destination, it may be hard to beat a gaming resort. After all, many properties offer outstanding facilities, along with all the excitement that comes in a place where there’s always something going on.
While each site provides its own unique features, casino resorts offer some common attributes that make them a good fit for successful meetings. Perhaps most distinctive is the availability of on-the-spot entertainment. During evenings or other times when they’re not engaged in sessions, meeting participants can enjoy gaming, whether that means dabbling with a new experience or returning to a favorite activity.
Some resorts are also known for bringing in top-flight entertainment. While such factors are certainly secondary to the availability of the right meeting facilities and services, casino resorts can be outstanding in those areas, too. And entertainment can be a plus both in boosting attendance and enhancing the experience of those who attend any given conference.
When it comes to gaming, one of the first locations that comes to mind is Atlantic City. Enjoying a long history as a popular destination, it offers a combined inventory of more than 17,000 rooms. Many of its casinos and hotels boast Atlantic Ocean water views, and the city’s famous boardwalk, which covers five miles, is a top attraction.
“While some of our attendees enjoy gaming, others do not. The (IP Casino Resort) has ample space and activities for everyone.”
Jennifer Burroughs, Regional Sales Secretary
Shelter Insurance, Ridgeland, MS
Jim Wood, president and CEO for Meet AC, points out that the city has an attractive selection of casino properties with unique meeting space and amenities.
“The beautiful seasonal weather, plus our world-class dining and entertainment, all have major appeal to meeting planners,” he says. “Atlantic City is now very bullish on the meetings market, and we want your business.”
Wood also cites the diversification of the destination and the flexibility that can be found, with multiple resources under one roof where people can meet, sleep, eat and network.
“Atlantic City can offer fantastic midweek room rates and can certainly be attractive to planners,” he says, adding that as the city has modernized, attracting meetings is a major focus.
Wood points to recent developments with two properties as examples.
“The reinvestment and rebranding of both the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino will benefit Atlantic City greatly both in terms from the 7,000 jobs that both properties have created, plus the significant economic impact the properties will have in our community as a whole,” he says. “The opening of these two properties is further testament to solidifying Atlantic City’s position as the No. 2 gaming market in America.”
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which just opened in June, offers more than 2,000 rooms and more than 150,000 square feet of meeting and event space. It can readily accommodate large groups with facilities, including an arena that holds up to 7,000 people for general sessions or other events, and planners will like the variety of room choices for everything from breakouts to office functions.
Another outstanding property is Bally’s Atlantic City, which offers 80,000 square feet of meeting space. The 28 meeting rooms are all situated on a single floor, with easy combination of space to adjust to group sizes and types of activities. Planners can choose from three ballrooms, including one overlooking the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
A hotel that hosts more than 600 meetings a year obviously has the facilities and staff to meet a variety of needs. That’s the case with the Tropicana Atlantic City, which along with more than 2,000 guest rooms, has 122,000 square feet of space. Recent additions include an advanced gym facility, more guest rooms and the purchase of the former Chelsea Hotel, which is linked via a skyway bridge.
At the Borgata, which added enhancements totaling $50 million two years ago, meeting needs are met by 70,000 square feet of function space. The hotel’s 2,000 guest rooms all boast floor-to-ceiling windows for great views.
The sprawling Harrah’s Atlantic City offers more than 2,500 rooms and suites in five towers. Meeting rooms accommodate groups from 25 to 500 people. Those facilities are leveraged by the 125,000 square feet of event space at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, which, as the largest meeting facility of its kind in the region, readily handles larger groups.
The well-known Caesars has more than 1,400 guest rooms in four towers. For meetings, some 28,000 square feet of event space includes not only an array of meeting rooms, but also a renovated theater seating 1,500 people.
Resorts Casino Hotel, which this year celebrated its 40th anniversary, has 942 guest rooms and suites in two hotel towers. More than 64,000 square feet of meeting space includes 24 meeting rooms, 14 with natural light and ocean views, four ballrooms and two theaters.
Also of interest to planners is the Atlantic City Convention Center. It provides more than 48,000 contiguous square feet of exhibit space, along with 45 meeting rooms featuring an additional 109,000 square feet of event space.
Atlantic City is just the start. Around the country, a variety of impressive properties offer both gaming opportunities and the space and services needed for successful meetings.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is a prime example, according to Janice Jefferson, sales director for Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi.
“This region, which comprises 12 unique coastal cities, provides planners with a perfect year-round destination that offers a plethora of unique experiences for groups of all sizes,” she says. She points to outdoor activities such as kayaking, boating, fishing and hiking, along with world-class gaming and other entertainment options to accompany the meeting experience.
Shelter Insurance has held two recent annual conferences at the 32-story IP Casino Resort Spa, which offers 1,000-plus guest rooms, an attractive spa and plenty of gaming. Meeting space includes a ballroom that holds up to 1,310 guests, depending on the configuration. A second ballroom accommodates 24 to 300 guests, and other meeting rooms range from 575 to 19,000 square feet.
“The results were excellent,” according to Jennifer Burroughs, a regional sales secretary who plans Shelter meetings attended by the company’s top performing agents, a group of about 100.
“We had a wonderful private event atop the hotel in Restaurant 32 the first year and a private poolside event the second year,” she says. “The staff was incredibly accommodating working through a rain shower to ensure our event was a success.” The group also held a dinner and awards banquet each year in one of the ballrooms, with the food and service rated as outstanding.
Burroughs says the Gulf Coast is an ideal meeting location.
“Our group is permitted free time during the day, and the coast has a wide variety of activities available to suit everyone’s taste,” she says. “Many attendees took advantage of the beach activities, while others took fishing charters or sightseeing cruises.”
Variety is also a strong point, with the resort offering activities around the clock for those that enjoy late nights or early mornings.
“While some of our attendees enjoy gaming, others do not,” Burroughs says. “The resort has ample space and activities for everyone.”
She notes that her company holds conferences at different locations in its operating territory of Mississippi and Tennessee, but that Biloxi and the IP have been her favorites. She says the resort staff, as well as those at the Biloxi Visitors Center and the Gulf Coast Visitors Center, have been helpful and welcoming.
“All our needs were met, and all questions satisfied,” she says.
At Biloxi’s Beau Rivage, event venues include a 17,000-square-foot ballroom with a capacity of 1,800, a 7,200-square-foot ballroom holding up to 750 people and another ballroom with 4,400 square feet of space. All three can be configured into smaller rooms of varying sizes.
For small- to mid-size groups, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi, with 479 guest rooms, offers a 13,000-square-foot facility with room for 800 guests, as well as smaller rooms decorated with rock ’n’ roll memorabilia. Outdoor events can be held poolside.
No doubt the king of gaming destinations is Las Vegas, which provides some truly outstanding options. For the sheer range of choices, it’s hard to imagine any location more attractive to planners. With more than 146,000 hotel rooms, the city attracted more than 6.6 million convention delegates in 2017, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. More than 21,000 conventions are held annually.
Always a popular choice is Caesars Palace, which bills itself as the best-known casino resort in the world. Planners can choose from facilities totaling 300,000 square feet. Among them are two huge, pillarless ballrooms that can each accommodate up to 5,500 guests. They can also be reconfigured into as many as 25 separate breakout rooms.
After a recent expansion at the Tropicana, its new conference facility can be divided into as many as 38 breakout rooms. The 100,000 square feet of facilities include a ballroom that can accommodate 2,700 guests and a variety of breakout rooms and other spaces.
At Wynn Las Vegas, 200,000 square feet of customizable meeting space accommodates groups of all sizes. A 50,000-square-foot ballroom is divisible into nine sections, plus a wide range of other rooms offers a variety of configurations. Combined with its sister property, Encore, meeting options are plentiful, and attendees can enjoy top-flight Vegas entertainment.
Aria Resort and Casino, already a prime destination for conferences and events, expanded its property in February by opening an additional 200,000 square feet of flexible meeting space across four stories. All told, an impressive 500,000 square feet of meeting space is now available.
The Venetian boasts five huge expo halls ranging from 100,000 to 380,000 square feet. Other facilities include two large ballrooms, two junior ballrooms and several other meeting spaces of various configurations.
M Resort has more than 92,000 square feet of flexible space, including a pavilion and ballroom. The conference center features multiple meeting rooms that can be subdivided. Three outdoor terraces provide nearly 17,000 square feet of dining and entertainment space.
In Reno, top choices include Peppermill Resort Spa Casino, with 1,600-plus guest rooms. Meeting needs are addressed with 106,000 square feet of event space, including several ballrooms, penthouse suites and smaller meeting rooms.
The more than 200,000 square feet of meeting space in Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort includes 45 rooms located in a separate wing of the resort, away from the lobby and casino area. The resort can accommodate groups from 10 to 4,000.
The Eldorado Resort Casino is ideal for smaller meetings. Its 12,000 square feet of meeting space includes a boardroom, one placed on the 25th floor with views of the Sierra Mountains.
Atlantis Reno’s 50,000 square feet of meeting space includes two 12,000-plus square feet ballrooms, substantial pre-function space, multiple breakout rooms and a new executive boardroom. The resort is also connected to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center with a glass-enclosed skybridge, providing an added 500,000 square feet of available event space.
And Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada, has 110,000 square feet of meeting space, including an executive conference center. Facilities include two ballrooms, a trade show pavilion and 23 breakout rooms.
Planners interested in gaming resorts will find the nation’s far southwest also offering a number of popular destinations. At Tucson’s Casino Del Sol, operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, a conference center features a 19,000-square-foot grand ballroom with room for 30 to 1,800 guests, along with banquet and reception halls for up to 2,000 guests. An 8,000-square-foot pre-function space encircles the area, and all told more than 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space is available.
Additions in progress at Casino Del Sol include a new 151-room hotel and RV park, along with a 9,600-square-foot expansion with added breakout meeting rooms to complement the existing convention facility.
Talking Stick Resort and Spa in Scottsdale has more than 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 25,000-square-foot ballroom that can be arranged in multiple sets. Its conference center offers 12 meeting rooms in flexible configurations. For speeches and large gatherings, a “showroom” accommodates 650 guests.
Another beautiful mountain location is offered by the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Mescalero, New Mexico. Sometimes referred to as an oasis in the sky, this resort casino is operated by the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Planners can take advantage of 40,000 square feet of meeting space. Fifteen individual meeting rooms, varying in square footage from 600 to 3,600, are configurable to accommodate groups of different sizes. The resort’s convention center tops 29,000 square feet with more than 4,500 square feet of pre-function space.
In the northwestern corner of the country, Washington’s Tulalip Resort Casino, operated by the Tulalip Tribes, has 370 guest rooms and 30,000 square feet of event space. Meeting facilities include a 15,000-square-foot ballroom, a 4,800-square-foot junior ballroom that’s divisible into four equal-size meeting rooms and 6,000 square feet of pre-/post-function space. A 450-seat area with a stage is available for special presentations.
Also located in Washington, ilani offers a new 30,000-square-foot meeting and entertainment center including a 22,400-square-foot ballroom that’s divisible into six meeting rooms.
Back east, Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun, which offers access to three distinct casinos, boasts 275,000 square feet of meeting spaces, including a new $80 million expo and convention center. Among the resort’s facilities are the 38,000-square-foot Uncas Ballroom with 23-foot ceilings, 14,000 square feet of pre-function space and a variety of individual meeting rooms.
At Foxwoods Resort Casino, also in Connecticut, an expansive 47,533-square-foot ballroom offering adaptable room divisions is complemented by a 15,000-square-foot ballroom with 10,000 square feet pre-function space and another covering 25,000 square feet that’s divisible into five sections. Other meeting rooms are also available, and additional space can be accessed at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, located next to the resort.
Brand new this summer is MGM Springfield Resort in Massachusetts, offering 42,500 square feet of meeting space. These facilities will be leveraged by the large-scale convention capabilities of MassMutual Center, a multipurpose arena and convention center located in downtown Springfield.
In Maryland, MGM National Harbor, with its 234 guest rooms and 74 suites, specializes in smaller groups but also offers plenty of meeting space. Facilities include a 16,000-square-foot ballroom, three 1,800-square-foot meeting rooms and two boardrooms.
Farther south in Hollywood, Florida, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino offers 120,000 square feet of meeting space. Planners can choose from 32 different room configurations, and there are several smaller rooms for breakouts or board meetings. An 8,000-square-foot event center seats 3,500 guests. Facilities include a 7,000-square-foot, poolside function area and a 38,000-square-foot exhibit hall divisible into 10 spaces.
Not far outside the continental U.S., The Bahamas also offer attractive gaming resorts. At Atlantis Paradise Island, a 50,000-square-foot ballroom is complemented by 40,000-plus square feet of pre-function space along with 30 meeting rooms.
At Baha Mar, planners can choose from three oceanfront hotels: the Rosewood, the SLS and the Grand Hyatt. Among other options, Baha Mar’s Performing Arts and Convention Center offers 200,000 square feet of state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor convention space for groups of all sizes.
Whether the location takes advantage of beachfront access, mountain views or city attractions, gaming resorts can be ideal meeting sites. They represent an option any meeting planner might well consider. I&FMM