If you’re planning a meeting or event at a Las Vegas or Reno hotel, the odds that there will be a casino on-site are better than you’ll get at any slot machine or blackjack table. But what exactly does this mean for your group?
“From a planner perspective, gambling is not a selling point,” says Heidi Brumbach, who spent years in Vegas as both a performer and event planner and is now general manager of Event Depot in East Lansing, Mich. “It’s all the nightlife and everything else that Vegas has to offer.”
But PamInCa, president of the Independent Mystery Shopper Coalition (IMSC), who has planned three conferences for the IMSC in Las Vegas, says that “Ninety percent of our attendees used the casino.” How about you? Will a casino hotel be a boon, bust or nonissue for your function and your attendees?
>>The Big Picture
As might be expected, the presence of a casino at your hotel is part of a larger picture—and perceptions. “There’s that thought process, ‘Should we? Shouldn’t we?’” says Veronica Kistner, director of sales for the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa in Las Vegas. “‘Will people attend? Will I lose them?’”
“The scope of our membership ranges from ages 18 to 80,” notes PamInCa. “Some say, ‘The City of Sin, no way.’ So we planned another conference in Florida at Disney World for those not comfortable with Vegas.”
Peggy Ladd, manager of transmission business development for Ameren, has planned two meetings at a Las Vegas casino hotel. “I’m in the electric utility industry, a rather conservative group, so there is sometimes a concern about the appropriateness of Vegas as a destination,” says Ladd.
“A lot of guests from east of the Mississippi have never been to this kind of venue,” says John Carter, director of national sales for the Atlantic Casino Resort Spa in Reno. “That’s why site tours are very important, so planners can address issues and concerns about losing guests to outside influences.”
Planners who take Carter’s advice and do the necessary research will discover that Nevada casino hotels offer some distinct advantages for meetings and events.
In this economic climate, one of the most attractive is value for your money. That’s because casinos tend to be part of a package that often includes generous and top-notch meeting space, a spa, great restaurants, shopping, entertainment and more.
“When you come to a casino hotel as a meeting planner to a destination like Reno, think value,” says Carter. “The amenities are very high-end, the restaurants award-winning. Meal-to-meal, I’ll stack our food and beverage against any corporate hotel.”
“Properties that don’t have casinos are struggling,” says Kistner. “At our price point, you’re getting four- to five-diamond quality at two- to three-diamond prices.”
PamInCa found that non-gaming properties she considered didn’t have big enough banquet facilities or enough meeting space. Casino hotels offering several restaurants are also a plus. “Smaller properties without casinos don’t have restaurants open all the time,” she explains. “When attendees are from different time zones and may be hungry earlier or later than others, that’s important.”
“Casino hotels were traditionally built so you had to walk through the casino,” says Brumbach. Planners worried about having to traipse through a smoky, noisy casino to meeting space will find properties have broken with that tradition.
“Layout is very important,” agrees PamInCa. “At the Tropicana you only have to walk through a small portion of the casino.” And in several cases, attendees don’t have to ever set foot in the casino if so desired.
“I planned an event for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at Mandalay Bay,” Brumbach says, which has a dedicated entrance to its convention center. “The MGM Grand’s conference center and the Sands Expo Center also have entrances separate from their casinos.”
At Red Rock, “The hotel is attached to the casino, which is definitely a selling point,” says Kistner. “Business is business, pleasure is pleasure. There’s a perception that business isn’t done here, but it’s why we were built, for tourism, meetings and conventions.”
ATLANTIS CASINO, RESORT & SPA // 800.994.5900
EVENT DEPOT // 517.908.0013
MANDALAY BAY RESORT & CASINO // 877.632.7800
MGM GRAND HOTEL & CASINO // 877.880.0880
RED ROCK CASINO, RESORT & SPA // 866.767.7774
TROPICANA LAS VEGAS // 800.GO2.TRO
SANDS EXPO AND CONVENTION CENTER // 702.733.5556