Last year was the highest grossing ever for the United States commercial gaming industry.* Meeting planners who hold gatherings at casinos may just feel like they’ve hit the jackpot, too. Casino-based events provide one-stop convenience—the amenities of convention centers and bountiful hotel rooms, plus activities, dining, and nightlife.
“There’s so much to do at casinos, day and night, that people stay on the property and spend time together,” says Anna Galioto, partner, firm administration, for Citrin Cooperman Advisors LLC. To facilitate team bonding, she suggests requesting a private craps or blackjack table. The partners in her firm always have a blast playing together, “especially,” she says, “when they’re winning.”
Atlantic City is the gaming and gambling capital of the East Coast with nine major casinos offering everything from poker and penny slots to sports betting. And the oceanside resort city, which is within driving distance of one-third of the U.S. population, has a lot to offer planners beyond games of chance: 2.2 million total square feet of meeting space and 17,500 hotel rooms.
The Atlantic City Convention Center is one of the largest on the East Coast, spanning nearly 31 acres. It has five exhibit venues, 500,000 square feet of space, and 45 meeting rooms.
Jeff Hirschfeld, owner and president of CHAMPS Trade Shows, has been holding his annual business-to-business trade show in Atlantic City since 2011, most recently in May 2022. “Ease of travel and accessibility to the entire East Coast are of prime importance to us, plus Atlantic City provides many hotel price point[s],” he says, explaining why he keeps returning to the destination. The attractions that attendees can enjoy after-hours are a big draw, too. “Our show closes at 6 p.m., and Atlantic City takes over!” he adds. “You can play in the casinos and walk the boardwalk or beach, and the night buzzes with shows and entertainment. Then, [there are] the wonderful smiles [from Atlantic City residents] and hospitality of the local businesses that welcome us with open arms.”
More than ever, there are compelling reasons to roll your dice on Atlantic City, starting with renovations at almost all the major casinos and massive upgrades taking place throughout the city. A portion of the boardwalk destroyed by Hurricane Sandy has been rebuilt; an area known as the Orange Loop will soon have new hotels, restaurants, and an entertainment venue; and Kentucky Avenue, which was once the hub of Black culture, is being reenergized with hotels, a satellite location of the city’s African American Heritage Museum, and a recording studio. Plus, there’s talk of creating an entertainment area at Bader Field, a waterfront property that was formerly the city’s municipal airstrip.
“While people think of Atlantic City as just a gaming destination, we are so much more,” says Larry Sieg, president and CEO, Meet AC. “With state-of-the-art meeting venues, a growing culinary scene, headline entertainment, the pristine beaches, and the world-famous boardwalk, the experiences are endless. Located in the heart of the Northeast and surrounded by many major cities, it’s the perfect destination to hold your next meeting or convention.”
Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino
This summer, Bally’s will unveil its sweeping $100-million renovation. The hotel has upgraded its rooms, lobby, and bar, and added The Yard, a 10,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor beer garden-style entertainment venue.
One of Atlantic City’s largest casinos, Bally’s has 87,000 square feet of event space all on one level. The 33 meeting rooms include one that can accommodate up to 2,000 people. Bally’s 1,200 guest rooms and suites are divided across four towers, and if a group needs additional rooms, the hotel partners with The Claridge, a Radisson Hotel that is connected to the property. Dining options abound: Bally’s is home to nearly a dozen restaurants, ranging from a high-end steakhouse to a burger joint.
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
Borgata, a stylish 2,800-room casino-hotel located on Renaissance Point, offers 100,000 square feet of meeting space in its Water Club, Central Conference Center, and Event Center.
Five years ago, the Central Conference Center was created out of space that was formerly a nightclub, and its striking architectural details loan a sophisticated feel. That hip vibe doesn’t mean the latest tech features have been sacrificed—on the contrary, the conference center boasts high-definition digital projection and customizable lighting experiences.
The Event Center has a ballroom that can accommodate 3,200 guests theater-style and a massive theater that seats up to 3,500 under 30-foot ceilings. The Water Club offers 18,000 square feet of contemporary event space, 800 guest rooms, and a two-story spa.
Between meetings, attendees can enjoy Borgata’s 161,000 square feet of gaming space, 14 food and beverage locations, and indoor and outdoor pools. For after-dark gatherings, the two-story Premier Nightclub has a capacity of 1,400. borgata.mgmresorts.com
Caesars Entertainment Casinos
Caesars Entertainment committed to investing $400 million in its three Atlantic City resorts—Caesars Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, and Tropicana Atlantic City—by 2023. The first phase, a $170-million upgrade of 600 rooms and suites at Caesars’ Centurion and Ocean towers and Harrah’s Atrium Tower, was completed in 2021. The second phase, to be completed in 2023, will include the Nobu Hotel Atlantic City within Caesars.
“Caesars Entertainment is reinvesting in Atlantic City and will continue to make upgrades to remodeled rooms at Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Atlantic City, and Tropicana Atlantic City, as well as new dining concepts with celebrity chefs and other exciting additions, within the next two years,” says Jim Ziereis, vice president of hotel sales, Atlantic City region, at Caesars Entertainment.
Each of the Caesars properties has ample meeting space and a slightly different vibe. Caesars Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, an iconic casino with a Roman theme, has 28,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 17,000-square-foot ballroom.
Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City Waterfront Conference Center can claim the largest ballroom between Baltimore and Boston, one that’s attached to more than 2,600 guest rooms. Overlooking Absecon Inlet and the Marina District, Harrah’s offers a variety of venues, including a pool oasis that sits under a 90-foot-high glass dome, and is ideal for a closing reception for up to 2,000 guests.
Tropicana Atlantic City boasts The Quarter, filled with retail, dining, entertainment, a spa, and an IMAX theater. For events, a Broadway-style theater seats nearly 2,000 people.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
The arena at this rock ’n’ roll-themed venue can accommodate up to 7,000 attendees for a general session or a trade show with 300-plus booths. In all, Hard Rock has 150,000 square feet of exhibit space, including an indoor pool area with a capacity of 200.
Originally opened in 1990, Hard Rock has invested $500 million in renovations and recently announced another $20 million in capital improvements to its suites, gaming areas, dining, and beach amenities.
“There are endless opportunities at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino… for work and play,” says Donna Ward, vice president of sales at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. “Attendees are able to enjoy a wide array of activities from live entertainment to relaxing spa treatments, as well as a variety of culinary experiences.”
Ocean Casino Resort
Like many of the casino resorts in Atlantic City, Ocean Casino Resort is upgrading its property. This oceanfront destination will complete a $75-million reinvestment this year, bringing 12 floors of new hotel rooms and suites on board. In addition, Ocean will debut a $5-million sports and entertainment venue this summer, complementing its recent $25-million casino floor transformation.
“This new venue will enhance the guest experience by providing an unbeatable atmosphere right in the heart of the casino floor,” says Bill Callahan, general manager of Ocean Casino Resort.
Ocean Casino Resort, which spans 20 beachfront acres on the boardwalk, has 160,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including 90,000 square feet of outdoor space with views of the Atlantic Ocean. The guest room count is 1,399, while the gaming space spans 135,000 square feet.
Resorts Casino Hotel
Resorts Casino Hotel, Atlantic City’s first resort, sits on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Many of the 942 guest rooms and more than half of the meeting rooms have ocean views. In total, the property has 64,000 square feet of meeting space, including its Conference Center. The guest rooms in the Rendezvous Tower, at 525 square feet on average, are some of the largest on the boardwalk.
Integra Realty Resources, a national real estate research firm, chose Resorts Casino Hotel for its first in-person meeting in more than two years. “We were drawn to the property for its uniqueness and historic significance,” says Antoine Charvet, corporate communications director. “Resorts has all the amenities we needed to satisfy our attendees and is perfectly situated on the boardwalk, surrounded by great attractions and entertainment options, all the while with pricing that didn’t break our budget.”
Golden Nugget Atlantic City Hotel, Resort & Marina
Golden Nugget is the only Atlantic City casino that sits on the marina with striking views of the Atlantic City skyline. The property has 95,000 square feet of meeting space, including an outdoor event space adjacent to its H20 Pool deck and private event space in the Chart House restaurant overlooking the marina.
For planners wanting a more intimate space (by casino standards), the Golden Nugget might be a good match. “Being a smaller property in the city provides us with the ability to offer one-of-a-kind service to each of our clients, which is something we take great pride in,” says Bernie Sefcik, Golden Nugget’s director of sales.
Beyond Atlantic City
All bets are not off if you book your meeting outside Atlantic City—as luck would have it, there is a smattering of casinos throughout the Northeast.
Live! Casino & Hotel in Philadelphia, which opened in early 2021, has 208 hotel rooms with the services and amenities of a luxury hotel. The 15,500-square-foot Event Center accommodates up to 1,000 people, while outdoor space offers views of the city skyline and the Stadium District.
For team building, Live! can organize a dine-around experience, classes in table games, chef tastings, or an art walk. Another appealing option is a sporting event or stadium tour; the casino is within walking distance of four major league sports arenas.
“In addition to the flexible meeting spaces available in the Live! Event Center, guests hosting an event will have access to the many amenities that make Live! Casino & Hotel [in] Philadelphia a truly all-inclusive and versatile meeting destination,” says Kelley Maddox, vice president of sales at Live!.
Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, with 100,000 square feet of meeting space, is the largest full-service hotel and gaming resort in suburban Philadelphia.
“Beyond the meeting, guests can entertain themselves on our gaming floor, place a bet via our sportsbook partner, FanDuel, and indulge in our on-site dining options,” says Sybil V. Davis, director of sales at Valley Forge Casino Resort. “And in the warmer months, guests can enjoy Valley Beach, our spectacular outdoor pool and bar area.”
Outside the Philly area, Wind Creek Bethlehem casino is poised to double its event space and room count in 2022. The sprawling property features a rejuvenating spa, and an all-new hotel tower, which will bolster Wind Creek’s room count to over 500 hotel rooms.
Still farther north, the Pocono Mountains region is home to the Mohegan Sun Pocono and the Mount Airy Casino Resort. Mohegan Sun in Wilkes-Barre has more than 20,000 square feet of convention center meeting space that can accommodate groups of 10 to 1,600. Mohegan Sun has multiple strikingly designed meeting rooms and the Keystone Grand Ballroom. Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono has the Grand Ballroom, which can be reconfigured into as many as six event spaces, and a total of over 20,000 square feet of event space.Mount Airy’s upscale hotel offers for-fee in-room amenities ranging from macaroons to long-stem roses.
New York, which ended 2021 with 31 casino gaming locations, is one of the top five commercial casino markets in the United States, according to the AGA. Most of the casinos in New York are Native American-owned gaming properties, and they are sprinkled throughout the state with a concentration in the central and western areas.
The Oneida Indian Nation built Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona in 1993, making it the state’s first casino. Located 30 miles east of Syracuse and spread over 3,400 acres, the property, which was named the No. 1 Best Overall Gaming Resort in New York by Casino Player magazine, has a 5,000-seat event center, 125,000 square feet of gaming space, two spas, five golf courses, and five hotels with a total of 780 guest rooms.
The Big Apple has only one casino hotel—Resorts World New York City in Queens. It connects to the Hyatt Regency JFK Airport, a new eight-story hotel with 400 rooms, 5,000 square feet of state-of-the-art conference and meeting spaces, and a Sugar Factory restaurant.
Connecticut only has two casinos, but according to the AGA, the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino have a combined economic impact of $3.71 billion.
Uncasville’s Mohegan Sun has 275,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, including the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena and two convention centers. The property also has two new restaurants for group buyouts and private parties, TAO Asian Bistro & Lounge and GAME ON.
Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket is one of North America’s largest integrated casino-resorts with 2,230 guest rooms and 150,000 square feet of meeting space.
At a recent meeting that planner Anna Galioto of Citron Cooperman Advisors held at the Mohegan Sun, some attendees took a “Casino 101” class to hone their craps and blackjack skills. Others opted for a spa day, golfing, or a baking class, making desserts that were later served to the group. Everyone ended the day a winner, which sums up the experience of hosting meetings at a gaming destination.