With the Encore Boston Harbor opening this weekend, I started thinking about the pros and cons of planning a corporate meeting or event at a casino hotel.
First things first, a casino hotel might not work for every company or occasion, but there are very good reasons to consider them. Since these properties receive revenue from gaming as well as other traditional profit centers (i.e. guest rooms, food and beverage, etc.), casino hotels can often offer a better value for planners, or at least a higher quality product for less than they would pay elsewhere. In addition, given their inventory and volume of business, concessions such as suite upgrades, food and beverage discounts, and other bells and whistles may be easier to come by.
The gaming cash flow and the competitive landscape (i.e., everyone vying to be the latest and greatest) also drives more frequent renovations, expansions, and additional high-tech improvements that are appealing to guests but can also elevate the level of meeting, especially one with considerable production or IT needs. In most cases, casino resorts offer built-in benefits such as on-site restaurants, entertainment, shopping and spas in addition to gambling. The allure of these amenities is a sure way of attracting attendees to your meeting or event.
Casino hotels try to outdo one another by offering more luxury, style and “sense of place,” often in the form of a theme or concept (i.e., The Luxor Hotel and Casino transports you to ancient Egypt and The Bellagio to Northern Italy), so that once you arrive you will want to stay for a long time, mainly on the casino floor or in the restaurant outlets. While this is a benefit for the casinos, it can be a challenge for event managers. We need to make sure the content is what is keeping guests in their seats, not the slot machines. It is important to offer a compelling program – a great keynote speaker, interactive panel discussions, relevant case studies and topics that engage the crowd.
Casino resorts tend to be big; some can even be classified as gigantic. This is great news for large conventions and trade shows that require a significant amount of meeting space. However, if you are a smaller group, attendees may feel lost in such a huge space. Planners may also feel a bit overlooked, if larger meetings are taking all the attention (read: producing more revenue). Make sure the meeting requirements fit the space you are booking. If you are looking for an intimate setting without distraction, a casino hotel may not be the answer.
Back in the day, many considered meetings held at casino hotels to be a boondoggle for business travelers. While to some extent, the reputation still exists, the gaming industry has made great strides to change the perception, advance non-gaming activities and promote a more sophisticated image. In addition, increased infrastructure for meetings – airlift, transport partners, event vendors and outdoor pursuits are more widely available. For example, the Encore Boston Harbor has spent millions of dollars trying to mitigate the anticipated traffic issues. Yes, casinos still offer a 24/7, crowded, let the good times roll environment, but it’s tough to beat the value, great flight options, meeting space and services that they offer.
Love it or hate it, wherever they are – casino hotels are here to stay.