Today, nearly every state in the country allows gambling in some form, and casino cities are popular destinations for meetings, conventions and conferences. These gaming destinations offer amenities not always available in other cities: world-class cuisine, high-end spas, top-tier golf courses, rip-roaring nightlife and, of course, the opportunity to roll the dice and court lady luck.
Reno is home to more than two dozen casinos, and that’s not counting every bar or store with a slot machine. Of those, nine are large hotel properties with between 800 and 2,000 guest rooms, said John Leinen, vice president of convention and tourism sales for Reno Tahoe USA, the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.
Although it’s a well-known gaming destination, when it comes to the meetings market, Reno is usually up against nongaming destinations such as Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon. That’s why Reno’s nongaming amenities — its downtown dining, outdoor activities and friendly vibe — are just as important as its gambling options.
“Part of what makes us the ‘biggest little city in the world’ is the friendliness of the people here,” Leinen said. “We hear how friendly and warm everybody is, and we make people feel comfortable and at ease.”
Reno’s economic development explosion is driving investment in local casino resorts. The Grand Sierra, which has 200,000 square feet of event space, recently underwent a significant renovation, and the Nugget Casino Resort is renovating its guest rooms and will soon redo its 110,000 square feet of meeting space. The Atlantis, Eldorado, Peppermill and Silver Legacy casino resorts are all tackling various degrees of renovation. A sky bridge connects Atlantis and its 50,000 square feet of flexible event space to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. The Peppermill has 106,000 square feet of space, and the Silver Legacy offers another 90,000 square feet of convention space.
Before Mississippi changed its laws in 1990 to allow gambling, Tunica was a small agricultural community on the Mississippi Delta. That changed when the first Tunica casino opened in 1992.
“One came in, then another one came in — they were all such a success, [gaming] exploded in the area,” said Bill Canter, director of marketing and sales for the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Today, Tunica’s eight casinos all have meeting and function space, although three also have dedicated sales and meeting staff.
Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall has the 11,000-square-foot River Palace Entertainment Center and the 5,040-square-foot Delta Room, which can be broken down into four smaller spaces. The largest event space at Horseshoe Tunica is the 10,000-square-foot Bluesville performance hall and the attached 3,000-square-foot private Founder’s Lounge. Gold Strike has 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 9,000-square-foot ballroom that can be used as three smaller rooms.
All the casinos offer in-house dining and live entertainment, and with Memphis and Clarksdale just a short drive on either side, “there’s a wide assortment [of musicians],” Canter said.
Tunica’s Gateway to the Blues Museum opened earlier this year. Housed in an old train depot, the museum can host events for up to 150 people and has its own recording studio where guests can write and record their own blues songs. The Tunica RiverPark and Museum sits on the banks of the Mississippi River and can host events for up to 300 people.