Aria Resort & Casino, Las Vegas

Just holding a meeting is no longer enough. These days, they also have to include “experiences” that will energize attendees for the tasks ahead, and that they’ll remember for years to come—all while still being productive, of course.

Gaming resorts provide both. In fact, the quality of the meeting facilities at these resorts is often state of the art. The quality of the dining, recreation and entertainment is also outstanding. In addition, because these resorts offer an all-in-one “experience,” attendees never have to leave the property. And that cuts down on transportation costs and security concerns.

Now, you can have very productive meetings and fabulous experiences—in some of the best gaming resorts in America, including the following.

High-Tech Heaven

Aria Resort & Casino opened in Las Vegas in December 2009 as one of the key links in the magnificent CityCenter. It’s a Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond property—and it’s a great place to meet.

“This is Las Vegas, and attendees love to come here,” says Amanda Voss, executive director of sales at Aria. “The location itself provides memorable meetings. Also, we’re a full-service resort in an urban core, so attendees never have to leave the area for dining, shopping or entertainment. That not only saves the company money, but also increases the opportunities for networking and idea-generation, as well as the chance to get to know your colleagues from around the country.”

This resort is a high-tech junkie’s dream, with 4,004 technologically advanced guest rooms that actually remember your preferences. Guest rooms recognize when you enter for the first time, and actually “greet” you as you enter—the lights come on; the curtains part as if by magic, with the city or the mountains spreading out before you; and the TV turns on to display a list of automated controls for personalization. And your personal preferences are remembered every time you’re in the room.

With 300,000 sq. ft. of high-tech meeting space, Aria is well-positioned in the Las Vegas meetings market. After-meeting options include three pools, 16 eateries ranging from Spanish to Japanese, Zarkana by Cirque de Soleil, nine bars and nightclubs, The Spa & Salon at Aria, shopping and 150,000 sq. ft. of gaming—featuring 145 table games, 1,940 slot machines and a 24-table poker room.

Aria’s not just another pretty face, however. This property is the largest hotel in the world with LEED Gold status.

The World of the Native American

Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino
Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino

In south-central New Mexico, up in the mountains and away from the desert heat, sits a place of intense beauty and spirituality.

Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino is situated on the Mescalero Apache reservation, with 273 guest rooms and 40,000 sq. ft. for meetings. It also offers planners and attendees a setting very conducive to productive meetings.

The spirit of the Apache people lives on at these lands, overlooking the sacred Sierra Blanca (White Mountain). Some are descendants of famous figures in American history, including the great Apache chiefs Geronimo, Cochise and Victorio.

The property has four excellent restaurants, Club 49 nightclub, a championship golf course, a fitness center, a casino and recreational opportunities that include horseback riding, boating, ziplining, hiking, biking and skiing.

Inn of the Mountain Gods is a great bet for meeting planners because it offers the best of both worlds. Attendees are able to experience the myriad recreational opportunities offered by this stunning location, as well as exciting entertainment and Las Vegas-style gaming experience featuring everything from penny slots to table games, including blackjack, craps, poker, three card poker, roulette, ultimate Texas Hold’em poker and Mississippi Stud.

Tulalip Resort Casino, Washington

When you walk into AAA Four Diamond Tulalip Resort Casino, on the Tulalip Reservation in Washington state, you’re immersed in the Northwest Coast Salish culture. It’s a world of ancient tradition and ceremony, colorful art and handicrafts, and mystical stories handed down from generation to generation and told by carved totem poles.

Yet, this Seattle-area resort also boasts modern luxury and amenities, including 370 guest rooms and 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. T Spa—filled with river rocks, bamboo floors and natural foliage—is a stress-relieving sanctuary. And speaking of sanctuaries, another is Oasis Pool, situated in a glass atrium with a cascading waterfall and footbridge.

Among the eight eateries and lounges, award-winning Tulalip Bay provides elegant gourmet dining options, while Blackfish offers the opportunity to try some Tulalip specialties. There’s traditional native entertainment such as Slehal games and salmon ceremonies, a very stylish casino, live music at Canoes Cabaret and well-known stars such as Wanda Sykes, The Doobie Brothers and America performing in the 3,000-seat Tulalip Amphitheater.

Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, California, with its 2,500 slot machines, 110 game tables and a poker room, is known for its summer concert series, which takes place in its 5,000-seat outdoor amphitheater. The 300-room AAA Four Diamond resort is owned by the United Auburn Indian Community, which is indigenous to the Sacramento Valley. The casino annually donates $1 million to local nonprofits.

Choctaw Casino Resort, Durant, OklahomaChoctaw Casino Resort, Durant, Oklahoma

Choctaw Casino Resort, which sits on 50 acres southeast of Oklahoma City in Durant, will unveil a 14-story, 268-room tower and 20,000 sq. ft. of new event space in June. Durant is already one of the top tourist destinations in the state thanks to the AAA Four Diamond resort and nearby Lake Texoma, the 12th largest lake in the United States.

The expansion will push the resort’s total number of guest rooms to more than 700. Other amenities include a full-service spa and a three-level convention/entertainment venue with more than 100,000 sq. ft. of event space. There are two performance venues: a state-of-the-art 5,500-seat center that hosts major acts; and an intimate 1,000-seat hall. There are eight Choctaw casinos in Oklahoma.

Bright Lights, Big Entertainment

Omnia NightclubOmnia Nightclub, Caesars Palace Las Vegas

Headquartered in Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment has 10 resorts there and 40 nationwide. This famous entertainment giant has 23,219 guest rooms in the city, at hotels such as Caesars Palace, The Cromwell, Bally’s, and Harrah’s. And its total square footage for meetings exceeds 1 million.

Combined, Caesars’ Las Vegas resorts have more than 50 restaurants, brought to the city by luminaries such as Gordon Ramsey and Guy Fieri. Additionally, these resorts feature some of the most exciting nightclubs in America. The newest is Omnia, which opened in March in Caesars Palace; others to check out include Drai’s at The Cromwell and Chateau at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.

Qua Baths & Spa, Caesars Palace Las Vegas Qua Baths & Spa, Caesars Palace Las Vegas

Spas at these hotels are state of the art—and elicit an air of pure paradise. In Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace, for example, there’s a room where snow descends from a domed ceiling.

Big-name entertainers who perform at Caesars resorts include Elton John, Mariah Carey, Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn. And major shows such as Jersey Boys also are offered.

“Gaming resorts have so much more to offer,” says Michael Massari, senior vice president of national meetings and events at Caesars Entertainment. “There’s a much larger inventory of guest rooms and meeting space, so delegates can conduct their business and have fun at the same place.”

Caesars resorts are known, of course, for the style and excitement of their gaming, with everything from poker to blackjack, slots, roulette and craps. In fact, you may have seen Caesars Entertainment resorts on TV: It’s the home of the World Series of Poker.

Westgate Las Vegas Hotel & Casino Westgate Las Vegas Hotel & Casino

Westgate Las Vegas Hotel & Casino is no stranger to meeting planners, either. Many of its groups are repeat customers because of the number of rooms (3,000), the large amount of meeting space (200,000 sq. ft.), and the many great culinary and activity options.

In addition, the history of this building is legendary. Elvis lived here for a while (no recent sightings, though!), and performed here when the property was called The International and then Las Vegas Hilton. The resort has six excellent restaurants, including Benihana. There’s a slate of hot new shows, and newly renovated public spaces and guest rooms. And there’s more to come.

Westgate, in fact, is making substantial upgrades to all aspects of the property—to the tune of $100 million. Edge Steakhouse, a modern twist on the traditional steak house, opened in April. Two other restaurants opened in December: Sid’s Cafe and Concierge Lounge, which serves breakfast in the morning and signature cocktails in the evening.

The sleek International Bar opened in January. A total renovation of the pool deck was unveiled in March. The renovated spa and fitness center also opened in March, and the complete remodeling of the convention center will be completed this fall, with significantly upgraded technology and design elements.

There’s 95,000 sq. ft. of nonstop gaming action, from state-of-the-art slots and classic table games to the world’s largest Race & Sports Book.

Casinos With a Country Twang

Valley Forge Casino ResortValley Forge Casino Resort

Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, is worlds removed from Las Vegas. but when it comes to great entertainment, this resort has plenty of offer.

George Washington would be very surprised if he went back there today. Not far from where he and his men crossed the Delaware sits this world-class resort with two properties, Radisson Hotel Valley Forge and The Casino Tower, and a combined 485 guest rooms. Meeting planners can avail themselves of 100,000 sq. ft. of convention center space and 54,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space.

The resort boasts plenty of features with a western theme, including Deuces Wild Buckin’ Bull Saloon, where attendees can enjoy a fusion of country, rock and everything in between. Here, they can try their luck on the mechanical bull, sip their drinks from a glass boot and sample chicken wings served in a metal bucket.

Among the acts who perform here are Heart, Smokey Robinson, KC and the Sunshine Band, country singer Josh Turner, comedian Jenny McCarthy, and Cheech and Chong.

Valley Forge isn’t resting on its laurels, either. The resort recently completed a $1 million renovation of the technology infrastructure in the convention center as well as a $2.8 million renovation to the 243 guest rooms at the Radisson.

Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Reno, Nevada Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Reno, Nevada

Another first-class gaming resort with plenty of western features sits far across the country. Atlantis Casino Resort Spa is located in Reno, Nevada, which is near Lake Tahoe and is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains. Reno boasts a colorful Old West history and a lively downtown.

Atlantis provides 824 guest rooms and 50,000 sq. ft. for meetings. After the meetings are over, attendees can frolic in two pools and dine at one of eight restaurants, including the AAA Four Diamond Atlantis Steakhouse, serving what some have called the nation’s finest steaks.

There’s a luxurious 30,000-square-foot spa called Spa Atlantis. The casino has games ranging from the latest in slots and video poker to dynamic table games, Keno, and a non-smoking poker room. And the theater hosts plenty of country-and-western performers such as Wynonna Judd and LeAnn Rimes, as well as other major stars.

At Atlantis, one of the world’s great playgrounds is right outside your door. Attendees can be on some of the finest golf courses in America within 30 minutes. They can sail or row on Lake Tahoe; hike or bike on magnificent mountain trails; and take a sightseeing cruise on the lake, past virgin forests and sky-piercing peaks.

Business + Leisure = Bleisure!

La Reve - The Dream, Wynn Las Vegas “La Reve – The Dream,” Wynn Las Vegas

Entrepreneur Steve Wynn calls his two-hotel Las Vegas resort the Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort. Wynn Las Vegas has 2,716 guest rooms and 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, while Encore Las Vegas has 2,034 and 60,000. Combined, there are 25 restaurants and lounges—and more Forbes Travel Guide award-winners than any other resort in North America.

Wynn boasts the swank Tryst nightclub, while partiers at Encore can choose from among three clubs. Also, the Wynn features an intimate aqua theater-in-the-round every night, with a unique show called “La Reve–The Dream.”

The Wynn casino offers 111,000 sq. ft. of gaming, including a 27-table poker room where you can dine at your seat. The Encore has broken its gambling space into nine pavilions, with a total of 95 games. And there are even five gaming tables surrounded by the pool!

There’s a championship golf course designed by Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn. And after your game, you can work out any kinks at The Spa at Wynn, with 45 treatment rooms, or the spacious Spa at Encore, with 37.

The two resorts are separated from The Strip by a 140-foot mountain. At night, the mountain turns into “The Lake of Dreams,” a theater performance utilizing light, water, horticulture, architecture, music and imagery to create an exciting multisensory experience.

“Meeting planners feel at home here,” says Chris Flatt, executive vice president of hotel sales and marketing, “and they really appreciate the attention to detail. It’s our job to anticipate and deliver the promise, so they can focus on their attendees and guests.”

Planners who’ve held meetings here will tell you that the promise is definitely delivered.

Pala Casino Spa & Resort Pala Casino Spa & Resort

Pala Casino Spa & Resort, tucked away in the scenic Palomar Mountain area of northern San Diego County, offers 507 guest rooms and 40,000 sq. ft. It’s an easily accessible getaway that’s simultaneously peaceful and exciting.

The Oak Room Restaurant, one of 11 on the property, specializes in prime steaks and seafood. The Cave, opening this month, is located in an underground wine cave and offers Mediterranean cuisine with an Italian flair.

Choices, the Buffet features the largest buffet in Southern California. After dinner, attendees can boogie at The Infinity and Center Bar nightclubs, or they can watch performances by A-listers such as Ringo Starr and Kid Rock.

Pala boasts a full-service spa with 14 treatment rooms and a salon; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and an attractive Las Vegas-style casino with 2,000 slot machines, 87 table games and a 13-table poker room. Also, the surrounding mountains offer recreational opportunities galore.

People notice these things; Pala has won an AAA Four Diamond Award for 12 consecutive years.

Summing Up

While gaming options are primarily featured at many of these properties, they offer plenty of other activities for groups. This provides planners with an abundance of choices that can help to refresh and stimulate attendees for meeting sessions. 

Steve Winston is an award-winning writer who has traveled extensively and writes for national and international magazines.


-Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas –
-Atlantis Casino Resort Spa –
-Caesars Entertainment –
-Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino –
-Pala Casino Spa & Resort –
-Tulalip Resort Casino –
-Valley Forge Casino Resort –
-Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino –
-Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort –

Fun Facts About Las Vegas

Las Vegas

-The first time Paul Anka performed in Las Vegas, he was too young to be allowed in the casino.
-Bugsy Siegel, the famous gangster who built the Flamingo Hotel, named it after the long legs of his showgirl girlfriend.
-Everything is big in Vegas. For instance, the neon cowboy who towers over Fremont Street, Vegas Vic (pictured), is the world’s largest mechanical neon sign.
-Howard Hughes checked into the Desert Inn, and refused to check out. When Hughes finally was asked to leave, he had the last laugh: He bought the hotel.
-Camels were used as pack animals in Nevada as late as 1870.
-More than 41 million people visit Las Vegas each year.
-Seventeen of the 20 biggest hotels in the United States are in Las Vegas.
-The Las Vegas metropolitan area population the past few decades: 1980, 463,087; 1990, 741,459; 2000, 1,375,765; 2010, 1,951,269; 2014 (estimate), 2,069,681. This means the metropolitan area is estimated to have grown by more than 400 percent from 1980 to 2014.
-Las Vegas’ first casino was licensed in 1931.
-There are more than 1,700 licensed gambling places in Las Vegas.
-60,000 people move to Las Vegas each year.
-The city hosts nearly 4,000 conventions annually, and hosted 22,103 in 2014.

More Exciting Gaming Properties

Several other gaming resorts and hotels also offer outstanding entertainment, restaurants and other features.

-Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central, with 3,896 guest rooms, is the largest Sheraton in the world. Located in the heart of the Cotai Strip, it offers plenty of enticing options, including signature restaurants, poolside cafes, a fitness center and Shine Spa for

-Sheraton, featuring 15 treatment rooms and signature treatments inspired by the five elements of Feng Shui: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The property also has more than 214,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including the 52,648-square-foot Kashgar Grand Ballroom. The hotel also uses three junior ballrooms at the Sands Cotai Central complex.

-Talking Stick Resort, a luxurious AAA Four Diamond property in Scottsdale, Arizona, features signature dishes and panoramic views at the award-winning Orange Sky Restaurant; Vegas-style entertainment and local favorites in the TSR Showroom; and 36 holes of championship golf at Talking Stick Golf Club, one of the most scenic and challenging golf courses in Scottsdale. The property also has 497 guest rooms and more than 100,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space.

-Situated on The Las Vegas Strip, MGM Grand Hotel & Resort is the second largest hotel in the world by number of rooms (5,044) and the largest hotel resort complex in the United States. The property—which includes five outdoor pools, rivers and waterfalls that cover 6.6 acres—features world-renowned performers at MGM Grand Garden Arena. It also houses dozens of shops, and several night clubs and restaurants. The 602,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space includes the 380,000-square-foot Grand Conference Center and the 92,000-square-foot Marquee Ballroom.

-Located on The Strip across from MGM Grand, New York-New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino is a great choice for groups wanting a taste of the Big Apple. It boasts many features meant to evoke New York City, including towers configured to resemble the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. Also, restaurants, lounges and meeting rooms are named after New York City neighborhoods and landmarks. The hotel offers 2,024 guest rooms and 21,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

-Named after the city of Luxor (ancient Thebes) in Egypt, Luxor Las Vegas hotel and casino is housed in a 30-story pyramid topped with a 315,000-watt light beam. Located on the Las Vegas Strip, it is owned and operated by MGM Resorts International and features 4,407 guest rooms, celebrity performers, award-winning shows and 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

-M Resort Spa Casino, a boutique hotel and casino in Henderson, Nevada, five miles south of The Strip, has received a Forbes Four Star rating every year since it opened. It has a 23,000-square-foot, world-class spa, and offers musical performances inside Ravello Lounge, Hostile Grape Wine Bar and M Pavilion. The property boasts 390 guest rooms and more than 92,000 sq. ft. of open and flexible meeting spaces, including the 25,000-square-foot M Pavilion.