by Sarah J.F. Braley, Lisa A. Grimaldi and Michael J. Shapiro | March 01, 2018
Gaming resorts are alluring destinations for planners, in no small part because they also offer a lot of nongaming options. As these facilities increasingly turn their attention toward additional perks -- celebrity-chef restaurants, luxurious spa facilities, big-name entertainment headliners, state-of-the-art meeting and event spaces -- planners get a one-stop shop for attendees. When the meeting agenda ends each day, attendees needn't be winning at the slots to feel lucky.

Such improvements for both work and play are on full display here in our annual gaming roundup, which covers news of note from New Jersey to California and a whole lot in between. Read on for the latest developments.

New Jersey
If all goes according to plan, the Garden State's sole gambling destination will kick off this summer with two additional casino resorts, giving Atlantic City a total of nine gaming properties. The two "new" properties are completely reimagined versions of two shuttered resorts: the former Trump Taj Mahal and the former Ten (which initially opened in 2014 as Revel).

The glitzy Taj is undergoing a $375 million transformation into the edgier Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, which is set to debut in May. Although full details have yet to be released, all 2,010 guest rooms and suites will undergo a complete revamp. New F&B outlets are in the works, and on the gaming front, the resort will offer 2,200 slots and 125 table games in the "rock-chic" interior.

All 150,000 square feet of meeting and event space is being upgraded, and the Hard Rock Cafe Atlantic City will relocate from its current Boardwalk location to a new 400-seat venue within the resort.

At the northern edge of the Boardwalk, the former Revel is slated to get a new lease on life as the Ocean Casino Resort, above, following its purchase in January by Colorado-based firm AC Ocean Walk. The 1,399-room oceanfront property has a checkered past: It debuted in 2012, went bankrupt and closed in 2014, and then was purchased for a fraction of its original value by developer Glenn Straub, who tried and failed to resuscitate the resort he had renamed Ten.

The new owners, who hope to open the property this summer, currently are  renovating all 138,000 square feet of gaming space. Also being revamped are 165,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, all guest rooms, the spa and the concert hall. Stay tuned for more details when they are available.

Atlantic City's legacy gaming properties also are expanding and sweetening their offerings. For example, Tropicana Atlantic City purchased the Chelsea Hotel last year, and renamed it The Chelsea Tower at Tropicana Atlantic City. The addition gives the resort, which capped off a $50 million refurbishment a year ago, a new total of  2,730 guest rooms. A skywalk linking the tower to the main resort building is scheduled to open this spring.

All 480 rooms in the Ocean Tower at the 942-room Resorts Casino Hotel have undergone a facelift that gives them a tropical feel. The rooms provide free WiFi, LCD televisions and a refrigerator, among other amenities.

The 18,000-square-foot Central Conference Center debuted last year at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, boosting the resort's total meeting space to 106,000 square feet. The two-story former nightclub space offers five meeting rooms, a boardroom and an office on the lower level, as well as a 6,500-square-foot ballroom on the upper floor. Another recent addition at the 2,000-room property is celebrity chef Michael Symon's Angeline restaurant.

Harrah's Resort Atlantic City has upgraded all 450 guest rooms in its Bayview Tower, near Harrah's Waterfront Conference Center. -- L.A.G.


 Detroit's Greektown Casino-Hotel is courting planners and guests with gigabit Internet connectivity. The gaming venue partnered with local provider Rocket Fiber to bring what it claims is the fastest, most reliable connection in town. The service was added to the 400-room hotel, with its 10,000 square feet of meeting space, this past December. Just last month, Greektown added the same network to its casino. In May, the property will be rebranded as the Jack Detroit Casino-Hotel.-- M.J.S.


The Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula wrapped up a two-year, $285 million expansion this past December. The gaming resort, now the largest on the West Coast, has 274,500 square feet of flexible meeting space, including the new 40,000-square-foot Pechanga Summit event center. A new 568-room hotel wing brings the total number of guest rooms at the resort to 1,090.

Also new are a 25,000-square-foot, two-story, stand-alone luxury spa with 17 treatment rooms, a  fitness center and a hydrotherapy-pool terrace; a 4.5-acre pool complex called The Cove (which will open in mid-March), with four pools and three whirlpool spas; and two new restaurants for a total of 20 F&B venues on-site. 

For gaming, the casino devotes approximately 200,000 square feet. The resort celebrates the expansion's grand opening this month with a concert by Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and his band Loving Mary. -- M.J.S.

Las Vegas

Vegas has meant serious business of late when it comes to increasing meeting space. The gaming capital has seen both expansion projects and ambitious new developments taking place.

On the Strip, MGM Resorts is upping its meetings ante: As of this December, the company's properties will offer more than 4 million square feet of meeting and convention space within a two-mile stretch. 

The latest MGM meetings offering to debut, just last month, is a 200,000-square-foot expansion to the convention center at the Aria Resort & Casino. That LEED Gold-certified facility now has 500,000 square feet of space, including a brand-new executive meeting lounge. The $170 million expansion also produced state-of-the-art indoor/open-air verandas with retractable windows and views of MGM's The Park and T-Mobile Arena.

Other features of the expansion include new ballrooms with built-in stages, as well as an exclusive loading dock with a "megavator," a jumbo-sized elevator for events that require jumbo-sized displays. The versatile meeting rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and sizable prefunction spaces. And the top floor of the new space is a vast ballroom, sporting two verandas and a reception capacity of 2,000 attendees. 

Aria's new Cypress Executive Lounge provides 3,000 square feet for executive meetings and includes a fully stocked pantry, three private suites for personal workspaces and one-on-one meetings, and a conference room with flexible furniture setups for up to 30 people. An elegant study can be used for receptions.

MGM also is on track to open a 250,000-square-foot expansion to the MGM Grand Conference Center in December. That $130 million project will bring the facility's total area to more than 850,000 square feet and add 22,000 square feet of Stay Well Meetings space, MGM's meetings wellness initiative. The new part of the facility will seamlessly connect to the existing conference center on all three levels. The expansion also will include a 5,500-square-foot outdoor courtyard, available for private events; two large ballrooms spanning 49,000 square feet and 32,000 square feet, respectively; three junior ballrooms, and 11 breakout rooms.

Meanwhile, as part of the Monte Carlo's transformation to Park MGM, the resort unveiled Phase I of its 77,000-square-foot conference space in early January. Park MGM will specialize in unconventional meeting spaces tailored to smaller groups, although it will be able to host up to 5,000 attendees in the adjoining Park Theater. Later this year, the property will debut the Executive Meeting Center and Idea Studio, two venues designed for highly interactive, small-group meetings. 

The 4,400-room Luxor, which adjoins Mandalay Bay, recently expanded and upgraded its own meeting space. The new 20,000-square-foot Galleria Square includes the 8,000-square-foot Lotus Ballroom, five meeting rooms ranging from 1,400 to 1,650 square feet each, and a 4,700-square-foot prefunction area. Luxor's meeting space now totals more than 40,000 square feet. 

Caesars Entertainment has ambitious plans of its own and intends to break ground in the second quarter on a $375 million, 550,000-square-foot conference center next to Harrah's, just east of the Center Strip. Slated to open in 2020, Caesars Forum will offer 300,000 square feet of meeting space, including two 108,000-square-foot, pillarless ballrooms. Two 40,000-square-foot ballrooms, high-tech boardrooms and a 100,000-square-foot outdoor plaza also are among the plans. 

Harrah's has just wrapped up a $140 million transformation to mark the 80th anniversary of the Harrah's brand. Included in the project was the renovation of 1,622 rooms and suites in the Valley Tower. The 2,500-room property now offers free, live entertainment seven nights a week, as well as a new lobby bar and a remodeled casino floor. Among the new room offerings are new executive and presidential suites, and a new penthouse.

Elsewhere on the Strip, the site of the abandoned Fontainebleau development will re-emerge as a brand-new resort. The Witkoff Group, which purchased the land last August, intends to open a 4,000-room casino resort called The Drew, which will host two Marriott International luxury hotels -- the Strip's first JW Marriott and the city's first Edition. The Drew, which is slated to open in 2020, also promises 500,000 square feet of convention and meeting space. -- M.J.S.


The Evergreen State welcomed a new casino last April in Ridgefield, about two and a half hours south of Seattle. Ilani, developed by the Cowlitz Tribe and Salishan-Mohegan (a partnership that includes gaming powerhouse Mohegan Sun), features 100,000 square feet of gaming space with 2,500 slots and 75 gaming tables.

The property has an impressive array of 11 restaurants and bars that count among them a Michael Jordan's Steak House; Butcher and Baker for sandwiches, salads and soups; and a Smashburger and Tom's Urban from restaurateur Tom Ryan. A 2,500-seat meeting and performance venue is expected to open this spring.

In the town of Tulalip, about 30 minutes north of Seattle, the 30,000 square feet of meeting space at the 370-room Tulalip Resort Casino closed in January for upgrades that should be completed this month. The property's event facilities include a 15,000-square-foot ballroom, a 4,800-square-foot junior ballroom and 6,000 square feet of pre- and post-function space. 

The meeting-space revamp is being designed to complement last year's guest-room renovation at the Native American-run property. That work added new furnishings and USB power outlets to the rooms, along with Bluetooth-enabled media hubs, 55-inch smart TVs and instant-access high-speed WiFi. For downtime, the casino resort offers an indoor pool, the T Spa with 16 treatment rooms, and eight restaurants. -- S.B.


The Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, which opened in 2012, gets a 310-room hotel this year. No opening date has been announced yet for the luxury, 17-story Live! Hotel, which will feature a 1,500-seat event center and banquet space for up to 800 people. 

Plans call for an eventual phase 2 construction, which will bump the seating at the event center up to 4,000 and double the banquet-seating capacity to 1,600 people.

Hotel amenities will include David's, a 24/7 restaurant with an open kitchen and community seating; Luckie's Gelato, specializing in espresso, pastries and a variety of Italian specialty gelato; and a lobby bar. The Live! Spa, a luxury day spa and salon, will provide access to the state-of-the-art fitness center.

The casino itself features an array of 4,000 slot machines, 182 live-action table games and 56 dealer-assisted electronic table games.

Nearby, guests can stay at the newly revamped Live! Lofts, a 250-room hotel of "eclectic elegance." Amenities include a lounge, the Loft Grill, a complimentary business center, a fitness center, the Pantry convenience market and complimentary shuttle transportation to the casino. The property offers its own 3,400 square feet of renovated meeting space. -- S.B.


Four Winds South Bend opened for business in January, the first casino in the state of Indiana that is operated by a Native American Tribe. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians opened the facility on 166 acres of tribal trust land. The 175,000-square-foot facility offers approximately 1,800 games, four restaurants, three bars and a retail outlet. It joins several Four Winds casinos already operating in Michigan, among them the 415-room Four Winds New Buffalo, about 40 miles away, which has 17,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 1,600-person event center. -- M.J.S.