by Jonathan Vatner | June 01, 2004

Illustration of cardsWant to bring attendees the thrill of Las Vegas without the expense and hassle of getting them there? Try a casino theme party a special event with a distinctive theme and plenty of faux gambling. The presence of gaming, even without real money changing hands, will hook attendees for both corporate parties and charity events.
    “If the client is thinking, ‘This is a good way to do something interactive,’ then go for it,” says Jaclyn Bernstein, DMCP, president and partner of Empire Force Events in New York City. “Gaming will never go out of style.”
    Here’s a how-to on planning a high-impact casino bash for employee events or big-ticket fund-raisers.

Step one: Consider your audience
First, decide whether your group will enjoy a casino party. Pay attention to the following:
    These types of events work best for groups of at least 50 guests; any fewer and it won’t be as exciting. Also, they’re more appropriate for employee meetings than for external client affairs. “Unless you’re giving away a Mercedes, you’ll find clients are not interested in fake gambling,” says Phelps Hope, CMP, president, Aspen Productions Inc., based in Atlanta.
    Younger crowds are more likely to take to it than older, says Hope, as will salespeople, a naturally competitive bunch. These groups also will be more likely to dress up to match a theme, if they’re asked.

Step two: Choose an operator
Before renting the venue, it’s a good idea to pick a casino theme party operator, who will be a source of advice and equipment in the gaming world. The operator will bring in games, dealers and often decor.
    One reliable source for operators is the SeaTac, Wash.-based National Association of Casino & Theme Party Operators, whose website,, contains a directory by state of members, all of whom have pledged to follow a code of ethics. Another is the International Special Events Society, based in Chicago; offers a special listing of such businesses.
    When evaluating a party provider, ask to see the gaming tables. “There’s a lot of junk out there,” laments Jay Welch, owner of Monte Carlo Associates Inc., based near Houston. Tables should be true casino size: Though this varies, five by 12 feet is good for craps, four by eight is fine for roulette and three by five is the minimum for blackjack. The felt should be thicker and softer than a pool table’s, clean and without tears or holes. In all, the equipment must look substantial and authentic.
    Lastly, be sure the vendor you choose has liability insurance, notes Welch. As with any party, it is important that everyone involved is somehow covered.