When selecting a location for a corporate meeting or incentive program, planners often seek venues that offer a good balance of exceptional meeting facilities with fun-filled amenities that attendees truly will enjoy. As such, more and more meeting planners are turning their attention to gaming resorts.
For Tiffany Gravelle, CMP, CUDE, president and CEO at Hello Tiffany, hosting meetings and events at casinos and other gaming resorts offers a wealth of inclusive onsite resources, such as plenty of hotel room choices, full-service spas, workout facilities, several onsite restaurants, live entertainment, gaming credits, banquet and meeting rooms, alternative locations for receptions like pools or upscale lounges, ample valet parking and concierge.
“Gaming resorts specialize in keeping a captive audience with over-the-top service and experiences,” Gravelle says. “It benefits them to keep their attendees onsite, enjoying the facilities and spending their money in the casinos. Casinos also have the unique opportunity to create their own raving fans and repeat guests after the conference is over.”
Take the MGM Resorts International properties, for example. From Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino to MGM Grand Hotel & Casino to the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, there are many different types of gaming properties offered by MGM that will suit the exact preferences of event attendees. And MGM makes a concerted effort to renew, refresh and redefine many of its properties by adding interesting dining and entertainment options, and expanding their reach to the meetings market. Recently, MGM Resorts completed the expansion of its Grand Conference Center, adding 250,000 sf to the facility. Now MGM resorts boasts more than 4 million sf of meeting and convention space. In addition, properties such as Mandalay Bay, ARIA Resort & Casino, and Park MGM also recently underwent expansions to offer more space to meeting planners.
What’s more, Park MGM recently partnered with Cisco to establish a state-of-the-art meeting space for collaborating, white boarding, video calling and file sharing using unique innovative technology. Called the Ideation Studio, this unique meeting space offers an exceptional collaborative environment that includes four distinct layouts and 10 rooms for groups of six up to 24. The variety of options provide the right solution for that next strategic planning session.
Of course, maintaining a healthy work/life balance is also taking center stage at The Mirage Hotel & Casino, which now features MGM’s Stay Well Meetings concept. Featuring a video with guided meditation narrated by new-age guru Deepak Chopra, the Stay Well Meetings concept also uses air purification to reduce allergens and fumes, optional aromatherapy to support attendee relaxation, and advanced lighting systems to provide circadian lighting to emulate natural light throughout the day. Chroma therapy, or different color themes, is also used to boost energy or inspire moods. Stay Well Meeting attendees also are given access to the Cleveland Clinic Wellness online programs tackling nutrition, stress and sleep problems. The Cleveland Clinic also consulted on meeting menus and nutrition.
Spanning more than 90 acres on the south end of The Las Vegas Strip, M Resort Spa Casino also has proven to be a favorite destination for meeting and event attendees. The more than 92,000-sf, state-of-the-art conference and meeting space at the M Resort includes a pavilion, grand ballroom, multiple reception areas and a convenient business center.
Equipped to meet the needs of small- to mid-sized meetings and events, the M Resort also features a plethora of gathering spots throughout the resort, including LUX, the expansive 16th-floor function space, a wine cellar and the Villaggio Del Sole Pool and Entertainment Piazza, which includes outdoor event terraces. Of course, no visit to M Resort Spa Casino would be complete without spending time in the casino or the award-winning spa — a 23,000-sf oasis to rejuvenate mind, body and spirit.
M Resort Spa Casino offers more than 92,000-sf of state-of-the-art conference and meeting space.
Emily Murnen, founder of Wild Elm Events, an event planning company, recently held an event at the M Resort. Murnen says meeting planners should consider gaming resorts for a meeting or event because they can often offer a higher quality product for less than other comparable hotels or resorts. “Concessions, such as suite upgrades, amenities, food and beverage discounts, or A/V discounts, are easier to come by than at other resorts that don’t bring in revenue from gaming,” Murnen says. “Gaming resorts also tend to frequently update or renovate their facilities, and they have restaurants, entertainment, and spas onsite, which is a benefit to the attendees.”
Murnen says that while gaming resorts aren’t right for every event, they can be a great fit for planners that are looking to host a high-quality event for less money. “Make sure to do a site visit to know the layout and condition of the meeting space and guest rooms,” Murnen says. “Don’t be shy asking for concessions. Let your attendees know what to expect and some options to do in their downtime.”
Gaming is also at the heart of the AAA Four Diamond-rated Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The resort wrapped up a $1.5 billion expansion in the fall and is now home to three hotel towers, including the world’s first and only iconic, guitar-shaped hotel tower with 638 luxury guest rooms and an adjacent 168-room tower overlooking a new pool lagoon. The property also unveiled an expanded gaming floor boasting nearly 200 table games and more than 3,000 slot machines, a new Rock Spa, 13.5 acres of recreational waterscape, an entertainment venue, retail shops and much more. Of course, when it comes to getting down to business, the Hard Rock’s 120,000 sf of meeting space, including a 38,000-sf Exhibition Hall, offers the perfect place for trade shows, large corporate groups and social fundraisers. The resort’s flexible meeting space can also be reconfigured to accommodate groups as large as 5,000 attendees or smaller, more intimate meetings.
Of course, no consideration of gaming resorts as a meeting spot would be complete without evaluating The LINQ Hotel + Experience. A meeting or event experience at The LINQ includes cutting-edge technology and 31,000 sf of meeting space, which can be configured many ways. The LINQ can accommodate up to 1,000 attendees.
CAESARS FORUM is directly connected to The LINQ. This much-anticipated venue is a $375 million, state-of-the-art conference center debuting this month. Offering 550,000 sf of space able to accommodate 10,000 attendees, the conference center will be the first facility of its size built on a single level. In addition to featuring two massive, pillar-less ballrooms, CAESARS FORUM will include two additional 40,000-sf ballrooms and 100 breakout rooms, along with the Forum Plaza, Las Vegas’ first 100,000-sf outdoor meeting and event space.
Gaming and Beyond
As an event coordinator in Las Vegas, Tia Coward, of Snap Events, has planned and been to many events held at casino resorts on The Strip and throughout the valley. “Although they sometimes tend to be more expensive, they offer so much more bang for your buck,” Coward says. “It’s very convenient for you and your attendees who have easy access to entertainment after your event — at the slots, movie theaters, restaurants or clubs without having to leave the venue.”
Indeed, in today’s fragmented work environments, companies and organizations need to maximize the time their meeting attendees spend face-to-face. That’s why Mohegan Sun is a favorite of sorts among planners interested in balancing the gaming experience with the business at hand. The resort, in Uncasville, Connecticut, is considered an integrated resort — housing two meeting facilities under one roof. With 275,000 sf of indoor space, the resort offers plenty of meeting space options. In addition, Mohegan Sun also boasts a 10,000-seat arena and an 18-hole championship golf course.
With more than 40 dining venues and an array of entertainment options, meeting attendees can continue their networking well after the formal meeting has ended for the day. The choices include 14 unique venues from private restaurant dining rooms, a variety of bars/lounges to a comedy club and country-western themed venues.
“The gaming resort experience is well worth it thanks to all of the lavish amenities and variety of activity options in one location,” says Heather Harrington, meeting planner and corporate training and development manager at Engineering Consulting Services (ECS). “Planners should pay attention to a gaming resort’s entertainment calendar to try and align their events with upcoming performance acts. Those who are used to hosting events at smaller hotels should make sure to be aware of and take advantage of the resort’s larger meeting dimensions.”
ECS recently hosted an annual, three-day administrative staff training event at Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover, Maryland. Approximately 60 ECS employees attended and there were general sessions along with breakout sessions for more individual training. “We chose Live! Casino & Hotel because our Baltimore location did some work with the property when their flagship Live! Hotel was under construction a few years ago,” Harrington says. “It was a no-brainer to choose Live! and show our staff the final project.”
Live! Casino & Hotel features more than 40,000 sf of meeting and event space. In addition, The Hall at Live! is the resort’s new 75,000-sf, three-story multiuse concert and event venue featuring some of the nation’s best touring acts, comedians, championship boxing and other entertainment. And the venue’s configurable event space can accommodate from 54 to 1,600 attendees.
The hotel’s location to the company’s flagship office in Chantilly, Virginia — only an hour away — along with the venue’s variety of amenities played a major role in Harrington’s decision to host the training at there. “Our admins loved the Las Vegas-style atmosphere of the property,” Harrington says. “The casino itself was a draw for our staff and they also enjoyed the catering from the property’s deluxe steakhouse.”
As Harrington explains, the draw of a gaming resort is that everything — dining, entertainment and nightlife — is in the same location as the event. “Meeting planners don’t have to coordinate with multiple vendors, and attendees can unwind after a productive day without having to leave the property,” Harrington says.
“Live! Casino & Hotel was also a great location because it gave our staff something to do at night as a team. Getting dressed up to celebrate with your colleagues at a casino steakhouse with live music is more exciting than having dinner at a hotel restaurant,” Harrington adds. “We noticed increased teamwork and bonding, such as when some of our admins with more gaming experience showed other team members how to play blackjack and pick out the best slot machine.”
All Under One Roof
Of course if combining an exotic locale with gaming amenities is more appealing, consider Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas. The ballrooms gracing Atlantis’ expansive grounds can accommodate up to 4,000 attendees and features the 50,000-sf Imperial Ballroom, with more than 40,000 sf of pre-function space. The resort’s Conference Center can host up to 4,000 attendees and boasts 30 breakout rooms, three boardrooms, a large staging area and a banquet kitchen equipped with additional pantries and state-of-the-art facilities for groups of all sizes.
When not in meetings or enjoying the casino amenities, event attendees at Atlantis can participate in various team-building activities. For example, Atlantis offers a Build a Boat & Hope It Floats Regatta. Team participants build a cardboard boat in the hopes that it will be a seaworthy vessel that will float across open water. The setting of Atlantis on Paradise Island also provides a wealth of memorable activities for attendees.
If Southwestern charm is more apropos of the group, consider the Scottsdale, Arizona favorite, Talking Stick Resort. This Four Diamond property features more than 100,000 sf of flexible meeting space, ideal for everything from full-scale trade shows to intimate board meetings. Looking for configuration options aplenty? The hotel conference center’s 12 meeting rooms can be configured into several setups fulfilling every aspect of a meeting to create highly productive settings.
What’s more, Talking Stick offers both indoor and outdoor meeting venues, providing a beautiful backdrop of the Sonoran Desert all while boasting award-winning catering; an award-winning spa; championship golf; live entertainment in the 650-seat showroom, Degree 270; Players Sports Bar; and Shadows, an elegant martini and cigar bar. For meeting planners looking to a variety of meeting options, Talking Stick includes the Salt River Grand Ballroom, which accommodates 2,000 attendees. The Showroom at the resort can accommodate 650 people and is an ideal location for large gatherings and keynote speakers.
Another Southwestern gem is the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino. Located in the heart of New Mexico, this gaming resort offers an ideal location for guests who want to experience the beauty of the great outdoors, while also delighting in the indoor amenities.
Well equipped to handle any group, Inn of the Mountain Gods presents award-winning accommodations with luxuriously appointed rooms and suites, a convention center with theater-style seating for up to 3,000 and technological capabilities to suit almost any need.
There’s an abundance of recreation options, including an award-winning, 18-hole championship golf course, an indoor pool and workout facility, horseback riding, hiking and paddle boating, kayaking and fishing on Mescalero Lake. For a truly exhilarating experience, the Apache Eagle ZipRider and the Apache Wind Rider ZipTour at Ski Apache each offer unique and breathtaking rides year-round. Winter months bring snow to the surrounding Sierra Blanca, inviting guests up for an afternoon of skiing and snowboarding at Ski Apache. From a gaming perspective, the Inn of the Mountain Gods offers a fun respite for attendees to try their hand at some of their favorite casino games.
The array of gaming resort options throughout the U.S. and Caribbean means planners have hundreds of options to please attendees no matter which activities they prefer. C&IT