For many, gaming resorts represent the ultimate getaway while serving as an exciting setting to conduct business and educate meeting and convention attendees.
“Attendees enjoy going to meetings, events and conventions at gaming resorts because many operate as a city within a city,” says Greg Jenkins, a partner with Long Beach, California-based Bravo Productions. “The multiple dining options, shops, spas, fitness centers, pools, nightclubs and gaming is available 24/7. You don’t have to leave the gaming resort to find something to do.”
And even those who aren’t lured by the gaming tables, these resorts have added lots of non-gaming activities as an alternative for fun. For example, most gaming resorts offer concierge services that can arrange for everything from golf outings and sightseeing excursions to river rafting, helicopter rides and tickets for various shows. The fact that gaming resorts are self-contained and have versatile function space is also a big draw to meeting planners as they represent one-stop shopping for many. Many of the facilities have their own in-house catering, A/V services, show production and event services, such as floral designers, trade-show laborers, print and signage shops and entertainment vendors. Plus, most meeting and convention spaces are large enough to accommodate groups from 500 to 5,000. Many attendees enjoy flying a day in advance to experience the resort and/or stay a day or two after the meetings as a mini-vacation.
Daniel Chan, CMO of Freemont, California-based Dan Chan Presents, has hosted meetings at gaming resorts in both Las Vegas and California, and has found that these venues are much better for keeping attendees engaged. “In some industries, there are continuing education credits that are required to keep licenses. In other incentive rewards based events, people may stray off-site to do things, and participants may come back late for meetings,” he says. “With dining on-site and everything else on-site, convention attendees don’t have to go off-site to do anything.”
His last experience involved more than 2,000 people at an optometry conference, and it was one of the best events in terms of metrics. “Gaming resorts are an excellent place for conventions because when you host in an all-inclusive resort, the number of attendees is kept high,” Chan says. “Keeping the participation numbers high is a crucial metric when we measure success.”
Las Vegas gaming resorts have the exceptional ability to dazzle both new and return visitors by constantly upping the ante with new ways to meet, entertain and gather. They offer lifestyle, luxury, convenience and something for everyone all under one roof. It is an environment that is high energy and perfect for unique experiences for all group sizes. The weather is spectacular, and attendees leave feeling appreciated, invigorated and motivated. That’s why Las Vegas is the destination of choice for Chris Chan, founder & CEO of Washington, D.C.-based 3C Strategies LLC., who has run events at a number of Las Vegas gaming resorts, including Caesars Palace, Harrah’s Las Vegas, Bally’s Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
“Most recently, we hosted an event at a hotel with over 500 guests on the Las Vegas Strip,” he says. “We’ve found Las Vegas is usually a very customer-friendly environment, and provides ample opportunity to provide glowing recommendations. I’ve had many great experiences hosting and planning meetings and events at a variety of hotels.” The appeal of holding meetings in Las Vegas for Chris Chan is that gaming resorts have everything a participant needs at their fingertips. “Being able to provide all resources in the building means fewer people leave the event for very long, lowering attrition rates and late walk-ins for our program audience,” he says. “It’s often helpful to have the in-house shipping and customer service professionals nearby as well.”
Moreover, there’s always entertainment options and good food options at gaming resorts, which is a huge plus for participants. “Attendees can obviously gamble, but having the flexibility to grab some food, go shopping, take in a show or movie, and hang out at a bar within feet of their rooms is a huge convenience,” Chris Chan says.
Ethan Taub, CEO of Newport Beach, California-based company Goalry, has held numerous corporate events in Las Vegas over the years, his last in late 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic halting the plans for last year. “The lax environment makes people be themselves more, leading to more honest and creative ideas. The vibes people get when they enter fill them with a lot of positivity and energy, which is always great for meetings,” he says. “I also think that it’s a great place to build bonds with either your team or other businesses as it really allows you to get to know someone, a key aspect of team building and business.”
While he thinks some may disagree with his opinion, seeing it as a distraction or a waste of funds, he has seen big dividends among his staff. “Even if my team walks away without much more insight, the morale will skyrocket and continue for a while,” Taub says. “It also gives us something to talk about in the office, further boosting morale.”
Jenkins enjoys hosting meeting in Las Vegas because of the plethora of hotel rooms, large spaces for meetings and conventions, and the nightlife that speaks for itself. His most recent experience was staging an event and meeting for a paper and plastics group at Wynn Las Vegas for 500 attendees. “The space to stage, the general session and breakout meeting rooms was more than we could actually use,” Jenkins says. “The events were hosted at different locations — one outdoors and another in one of the ballrooms that had a stage, theatrical lighting built into the room and stage, etc.”
While Bravo Productions provided sets and scenery, the Wynn crew was responsible for most of the installation and all rigging, production and show managers. “When you are used to working with your own crew and know how they work, it’s putting a lot of trust in people you have never worked with before,” Jenkins says. “We tended to over communicate even more so as a result.”
During downtime, his attendees have done everything from sightseeing tours along the Strip and Red Rock Canyon, an outing to Hoover Dam, and attending Cirque Du Soleil shows — all group activities coordinated through the venue’s catering director and sales team. “We often hear attendees remark that it’s ‘adult escapism’ that is attractive,” Jenkins says. “While many gaming resorts are now ‘kid-friendly,’ they are still largely popular for adults.”
Jenkins gives Wynn Las Vegas and Encore high marks. The venue includes 57 scaled meeting rooms, a 20,000-sf outdoor pavilion with an adjacent 20,000-sf lawn, and four pillar-less ballrooms ranging from 20,500 sf to 83,000 sf. It also offers a new two-level meeting and convention space expansion that sits on the southeast side of the resort’s private backyard and overlooks the golf course. What’s more, all meeting and convention space is powered by 100% renewable energy sourced and delivered directly from the 160-acre Wynn Solar Facility and on-site rooftop solar panels, which attracts sustainably minded meeting guests.
Both Wynn Las Vegas and Encore offer a hotel-within-a-hotel VIP experience, including private entrances, separate elevators, additional services, private pools and restaurants. These VIP accommodations are noted by the designator “Tower Suites,” creating a hotel-in-a-hotel environment — all just steps away from the meeting and convention space.
As the only resort golf course on the Las Vegas Strip, the 129-acre Wynn Golf Club course is set among lush landscapes unique to desert golf that include several water features and streams, 100,000 shrubs and 7,000 mature trees.
When it comes to Las Vegas, there is also no better city in which to network, and the chance to relax and recharge with new associates while having the time of your life after the convention ends for the day is a fantastic way to start life-long corporate partnerships and build friendships.
While many people consider Las Vegas to be the gaming center of the U.S., the city is not for everybody, and sometimes heading out West can be a chore for those on the East Coast. Thankfully, one doesn’t need to head to Las Vegas to take advantage of exceptional gaming resorts for meetings. In fact, the Northeast contains some of the biggest and more luxurious casino resorts around, which also offer plenty of world-class dining and fabulous entertainment.
One example is Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, less than 90 minutes from Philadelphia, New York City and northern New Jersey. The venue boasts the ultimate gaming experience, with more than 1,800 slot machines, 80 table games a sportsbook and poker room. As Pennsylvania’s first AAA Four Diamond-rated casino, the resort’s nearly 300 upscale guest rooms and suites are complemented by a 20,000-sf convention center and ballroom that serve as a state-of-the-art venue for private and corporate events, weddings and entertainment.
Attendees can discover a variety of signature restaurant options, including Guy Fieri’s Mt. Pocono Kitchen, and the award-winning Bistecca by Il Mulino. This all-encompassing, full service resort destination for outdoor enthusiasts and gaming enthusiasts alike, features a Sports Illustrated-recognized championship 18-hole golf course; a 16,000-sf spa, salon and exercise facility; a luxury indoor/outdoor pool — aptly called Get Wet; and a covered outdoor pavilion that hosts a summer concert series. Mount Airy is currently operating with enhanced cleaning and sanitization practices in effect throughout the property.
Another option is the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone Resort Casino in Upstate New York. The renowned, award-winning destination resort features world-class amenities, including four hotels, two luxurious spas, five golf courses, more than 20 dining options, a 125,000-sf, Las Vegas-style gaming floor, a cabaret style Showroom, a 5,000-seat arena and several nightlife venues.
Conveniently located 30 miles east of Syracuse, Turning Stone was named “Best Countryside Hotel/Lodge” in 2017 by Condé Nast Johansens, and the #1 Best Gaming Resort in New York by Casino Player Magazine in 2019.
Turning Stone, which offers 125,000 sf of meeting space, has also earned the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Four Star Award for The Lodge, Wildflowers restaurant and Skana spa; Forbes Recommended Ratings for TS Steakhouse and, for more than a decade, the AAA Four Diamond Award for The Lodge, The Tower Hotel and Wildflowers restaurant.
Atlantic City, N.J., is the most well-known option in the Northeast, with large gaming resorts that include the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino, Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City Hotel & Casino, Resorts Casino Hotel, Tropicana Atlantic City, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort.
While gaming is a big attraction to meeting attendees, there is so much more to do in the area, such as the Steel Pier Amusement Park, the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum and the Absecon Lighthouse. Plus, the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk offers plenty of shopping and other activities.
Staying on the East Coast, meeting planners can also find some top gaming resorts at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket and Mohegan Sun in Uncasville. Both gaming resorts have become favorites of the corporate meeting set because of their top-notch facilities.
Foxwoods currently offers more than 150,000 sf of flexible meeting and event space, including its three pillar-free ballrooms, ranging from 15,024 sf to 47,553 sf, which can accommodate meetings and conventions of up to 5,000 people. Meanwhile, Mohegan Sun offers 45 flexible and strikingly designed individual meeting rooms totaling 275,000 sf that can accommodate up to 5,300 attendees. Both have top entertainment options and plenty of things for people to do, in addition to the casinos.
Additionally, Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas is home to the largest convention center in the Caribbean, and the resort boasts a 141-acre waterscape called Aquaventure. In their downtime, meeting attendees can enjoy the thrilling slides and river rides. It is also home to the largest open-air marine habitat in the world with more than 50,000 marine animals.
For a change of pace, head to the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino in Mescalero, N.M., which, thanks to an ideal climate, has plenty of fishing, boating, zip lining and hiking available. Meeting planners can take advantage of the 29,000-sf event center, or dozens of smaller meeting rooms.
Another popular gaming resort is Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, which features 150,000 sf of gaming space. Also, the Hard Rock Event Center boasts 120,000 sf of meeting space, including a 38,000-sf, carpeted exhibition hall that can host trade shows, conventions, large corporate groups and more.
As vaccines continue to roll out and more meeting planners are expecting to get back to in-person events by late summer or fall, these gaming resorts are forecast to be as popular as ever. A meeting at a gaming resort is akin to royal flush — it’s always going to be a winning hand. C&IT