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Gaming Destinations are Solid Bets

Casino resorts are like tiny cities because the properties pretty much have it all: restaurants and cafes, bars and lounges, spas and shops, concert venues and pool complexes, golf courses and, of course, gaming. And casino properties often boast plentiful meeting space so planners can spread out but also keep their attendees together. Gaming destinations work well for conventions and conferences because they offer world-class cuisine, high-end spas, top-tier golf courses, high-octane nightlife and the allure of courting Lady Luck.

Here are some destinations around the country that are known for their gaming resorts and that prove popular for meetings and events.

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake Charles, Louisiana, is home to three casino resorts, including one that’s moving onto land and reopening after a major rebrand. The Isle of Capri closed in 2020 because of the pandemic and damage from Hurricane Laura, said Taylor Beard Stanley, senior sales manager for Visit Lake Charles. Caesars Entertainment now plans to bring the casino ashore and rebrand it as a Horseshoe Casino that will boast more than 60,000 square feet of casino space, a redesigned hotel tower and renovated meeting space when it opens in fall 2022.

The Golden Nugget offers more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 18,000-square-foot Grand Event Center. Groups can also arrange private dinners at several restaurants and events at the outdoor concert venue. The 1,100-room property offers an 18-hole golf course, a spa and a 2-acre pool area. The casino has over 1,600 slot machines, 87 table games and seven live-action poker tables.

The neighboring L’Auberge Casino Resort offers more than 26,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 14,000-square-foot ballroom that opens onto the 10,000-square-foot Event Center Terrace. The resort is also refreshing its nearly 1,000 hotel rooms.

Some planners arrange group blackjack lessons or give away chips as door prizes, and sports betting also just became legal, so both casinos recently opened sportsbooks, Stanley said. 

Both the Golden Nugget and the L’Auberge have beaches and marinas. Planners can arrange private dinner cruises and private fishing charters. 

“The fun thing about that is that if you go out and catch a great fish, you can come back and the restaurant will cook it for you,” Stanley said.

Coastal Mississippi 

The Mississippi Gulf Coast stretches 62 miles between the Louisiana and Alabama state lines, and it could easily be dubbed the Mississippi Gold Coast.

“The glitz and glamor that’s associated with our gaming properties puts you at another level,” said Karen Conner, director of marketing and sales at Coastal Mississippi.

The coast boasts 12 casinos, many of them in Biloxi, that offer 24-hour gaming and entertainment, fine dining and resort amenities like spas and golf courses. Of the dozen casinos, four offer event space that works well for meetings and conferences. 

The region’s largest property is the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, an MGM property that has nearly 1,800 guest rooms and 50,000 square feet of meeting space. The Beau Rivage is about to start a renovation of all sleeping rooms. 

The IP Casino Resort Spa is a Boyd property that offers 1,088 rooms and 65,000 square feet of meeting space, and the Golden Nugget has 721 guest rooms and 22,000 square feet of meeting space.

The 300-plus-room Hollywood Casino is the smallest of the meeting properties but still offers 14,000 square feet of function space. 

Also in Biloxi, the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center has 400,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space and an 8,200-seat arena, and the complex sits directly across the street from the beach.

Quad Cities, Iowa/Illinois

Four cities, three casinos, one massive river: In 2016, all the Quad Cities casinos that straddle the Iowa-Illinois state line moved off the Mississippi River and onto land. The dramatic shift saw the casinos pour millions into brand-new hotels and land-based gaming resorts, which meant more amenities and event space for meeting planners.

“We were really the first in the U.S. to kick off this whole riverboat gaming experience,” said Dave Herrell, president and CEO of Visit Quad Cities. “That was something we started, and now that’s transitioned to a land-based experience.” 

The area is going through another big transition as Iowa’s largest hotel, the Isle Casino Hotel, transforms to a Caesars property. The 509-room hotel property sits on the banks of the river and offers over 40,000 square feet of event space between the Isle and the connected Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center. The other Iowa-side casino, the Rhythm City Casino Resort, has 106 guest rooms and 16,000 square feet of meeting space. 

The former Jumer’s Casino in Rock Island, the only casino on the Illinois side, began a propertywide rebrand in September as Bally’s Quad Cities Casino and Hotel. The 205-guest-room Bally’s has a 7,400-square-foot event center.

“There’s a lot of capital investment going into those three,” Herrell said. Caesars is investing in upgrades, while sports wagering, legalized by both states in 2019, will offer new gaming experiences.

Henderson, Nevada

Las Vegas is arguably the most famous gaming destination in the world. And right next door is its sister city of Henderson, Nevada, a smaller, quieter burg southeast of Sin City that offers its own elegant casino resorts and shuttles that run guests to the Strip.

“The Las Vegas Strip is so close, but you get to keep your group together for networking purposes,” said Ed Kirby, national sales executive with Visit Henderson.

The M Resort is on the Strip, but it has a Henderson address. The resort boasts 390 guest rooms and nearly 90,000 square feet of meeting and event space. In addition to 92,000 square feet of gaming, the M offers several restaurants, a spa and a 100,000-square-foot pool area with two infinity-edge pools.

The Green Valley Ranch Resort sprawls over several acres just about 10 miles from the Strip. The property completed a remodel about three years ago that redid the lobby — including a new lobby bar — updated all 65,000 square feet of meeting space and refreshed the 495 guest rooms. Guests can dine at the resort’s eight restaurants or mingle at a number of bars and lounges.

Meeting attendees will also find nine golf courses in the area, 180 miles of trails and water sports like paddleboarding, kayaking and an inflatable obstacle course on Henderson’s Lake Las Vegas.

Northern Indiana

Two casinos in northern Indiana offer meeting spaces — or will soon — and are located close to the region’s other popular attractions, like Amish country, Indiana Dunes National Park and the University of Notre Dame.

In South Bend, the Four Winds Casino opened in January 2018 just minutes away from Notre Dame and a short drive from Amish country. The casino offers gaming, live music, bars and restaurants, including a steakhouse and a buffet. An expansion of the 4-year-old casino already underway includes a new 23-story hotel tower with 317 rooms. The project will also add a spa, a convention area, meeting space, a ballroom, a lounge, a bar and grille and a rooftop swimming pool. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2023.

Thirty miles west of South Bend, Michigan City sits on the shores of Lake Michigan, just barely below the Michigan state border and only a short drive to Indiana Dunes National Park. There, the recently renovated Blue Chip offers four event spaces, ranging from the 20,000-square-foot Stardust Event Center — which can be used for concerts or conferences — to a 3,400-square-foot ballroom. The casino expanded its meeting space in October 2019 with the 11,000-square-foot Fremont Ballroom and 3,800 square feet of prefunction space. Guests can stay in either the 22-story Spa Blu Tower, with over 300 guest rooms, or the Blue Chip Tower, with 486 guest rooms. In addition to the 24-hour casino, the resort offers restaurants, entertainment and Spa Blu.