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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Casinos That Welcome Meeting Planners

Casinos offer guests much more than gambling; they’re full-on resorts with spas, golf courses, water parks, nightlife — the whole package for meeting planners and attendees.

“Once you pull in, there’s really no need to leave the property,” said Christine Robinett, regional sales manager at Belterra Casino Resort in Indiana. “[At a casino] you’re building up the camaraderie; you’ve got that captive audience. You’re going to see your colleagues after the meeting is over.”


Pearl River Resort

Philadelphia, Mississippi

When people think of gambling in Mississippi, they go straight to the Gulf Coast or the gaming riverboats on the Mississippi River. But the Pearl River Resort sits on several hundred acres of Choctaw Nation land 130 miles east of the Mississippi River and includes a spa, the 23-acre Geyser Falls water park and two 18-hole courses at Dancing Rabbit Golf Club.

In September, the resort launched a $155 million renovation of its two casino hotels — Golden Moon and Silver Star — that “will give the whole resort a new look and feel,” said Patrick House, director of sales. Renovations will be done in phases and should be complete by summer 2015.

Golden Moon’s 571 guest rooms and Silver Star’s 500 rooms will be gutted and redone, and Golden Moon will undergo another big change: The hotel is converting its 9,000-seat arena back into a casino floor. None of the seven meeting rooms — six separate rooms that total nearly 6,600 square feet and the 5,000-square-foot VIP room — will be lost, but they will be upgraded as part of the remodel.

Silver Star’s meeting space will also be renovated; the space includes the 19,700-square-foot ballroom and five 1,000-square-foot rooms that can be combined into a single 5,000-square-foot space. The casino also has a lobby, an executive boardroom and four 600-square-foot, glass-walled skyboxes that overlook the ballroom.

Groups of 24 people can dine at Philip M’s Wine Room, which has walls lined from floor to ceiling with the steakhouse’s wine collection.


Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

Tulsa, Oklahoma

On the weekends, the Joint: Tulsa, a 2,700-seat amphitheater at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, features big-name acts such as Joan Jett, the Oakridge Boys and Mike Tyson. During the week, it’s a perfect place for conventions, meeting presentations and product launches.

“We have clients who have used it in the past, and they say they can’t go anywhere else now,” said Stacy McKee-Redden, director of sales and catering. “It’s like going to a concert. The Joint is a really cool place.”

The Hard Rock has a total of 75,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 23,000-square-foot convention center with a 15,000-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into as many as six smaller rooms. Next to the ballroom are three additional classrooms, two of which can be combined. The Grand Hall of the Cherokees can be split into four separate rooms or opened into one 4,900-square-foot space.

On the 18th floor, a soaring wall of windows in the 4,800-square-foot Sky Room offers 180-degree views of Tulsa. One floor up, McGill’s on 19 restaurant and lounge has two private dining rooms.

The hotel recently became entirely nonsmoking, including the casino and sports bar areas, and renovated 150 guest rooms in the Cherokee Tower, she said.

In addition to a golf course, spa and private group poker tournaments played with “funny money,” the Hard Rock delivers plenty of nightlife at several in-house clubs, bars and live-music venues. Although meetings are usually held during the week and most headlining acts play on weekends, some meetings do add shows to their events, McKee-Redden said. One group recently bought 55 tickets to catch Ringo Starr.

“You don’t have to worry about them going somewhere else to make it fun,” she said.