Game faces: (from left)
Mitchell Etess, Bob Boughner,
Bob DeSalvio, Brett Magnan
and Chuck Bowling
What does the future hold for meetings in gaming
destinations? That was the hot topic at the kickoff session for the
second annual Trend Summit for Meeting Professionals, co-sponsored
by M&C and T&E magazines, the Windsor,
Conn.-based Goodman Speakers Bureau and Mohegan Sun in Uncasville,
The two-day event, held June 20-21 at Mohegan Sun, drew about
70 meeting professionals.
Addressing current trends in the gaming industry were Bob
Boughner, director of Boyd Gaming Corp. and CEO of the Borgata
Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City; Chuck Bowling, executive
vice president of sales and marketing for MGM Mirage in Las Vegas;
Bob DeSalvio, executive vice president of Foxwoods Resort and
Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.; Mitchell Etess, president and CEO of
Mohegan Sun; and Brett Magnan, vice president of hotel operations
for the Green Valley Ranch and Resort, Las Vegas.
The discussion was moderated by Bernard W. Schraer, group
publisher of M&C and T&E. Among the
M&C: How important are meetings to
Boughner: Extremely. Convention visitation in Las
Vegas has grown at twice the rate of leisure. On average,
conventioneers spend 50 percent more on lodging and 20 percent more
on dining than leisure travelers.
M&C: Is a small group welcome in a
giant casino hotel?
Bowling: We’ve found that’s one of the biggest
things planners are concerned about. At the MGM Grand in Las Vegas,
80 percent of the meetings business is 150 rooms or less, and four
salespeople are dedicated to small meetings. But from what we hear,
that might not be the norm. I hate to say it, but a lot of our
small business is won by default: We called you back.
Magnan: Green Valley Ranch has just 201 guest
rooms, so we are particularly geared to that market. A group with
300 room nights basically takes over the hotel, and it becomes
their special place.
M&C: What particular challenges is
Las Vegas facing?
Magnan: The “street vendors of adult
entertainment.” I think that’s embarrassing. There’s a lot Las
Vegas has to offer that’s good, clean fun.
Boughner: The taxi line at the airport is
pathetic. There needs to be a mass-transit solution for getting
people in and out. Unless and until that monorail runs, and unless
and until busing becomes part of the equation, transportation is
going to be the choke-point problem for Las Vegas. There needs to
be a multijurisdictional solution one that involves city officials,
airport officials, transportation interests and the Las Vegas
Convention and Visitors Authority.
M&C: Is the rampant expansion at
casino properties really warranted?
DeSalvio: Yes, and we know this by the amount of
business we have to turn away. At Foxwoods, we’re tired of looking
at turndowns. We have a 50,000-square-foot ballroom and another
25,000 square feet of meeting rooms, and it isn’t nearly enough. We
have an expansion planned that will quadruple our meeting
M&C: What do you tell planners who
express concerns about the negative image of gaming?
Etess: You can’t hide the fact that there’s gaming
here at Mohegan Sun. But you can have a meeting, dining and
shopping experience without touching the gaming floor.
Bowling: When people ask me if Las Vegas is a
gaming destination, I say, “Absolutely not. Gaming is an amenity.
Las Vegas is a complete destination resort.”
M&C: Will dramatic change continue
to take place in Atlantic City?
Boughner: I believe that in the next few years, $5
billion worth of projects will be started in Atlantic City. Expect
big news from Trump, Harrah’s and MGM Mirage. This is just the
Bowling: I agree. At MGM Mirage, we’ve got a lot
of expansion to do. We’re just juggling our checkbook and trying to
figure out where the best opportunity is right now.
M&C: Will Hartford’s new
convention center create competition for Mohegan Sun and
DeSalvio: We hope that new center is packed every
week. As far as we’re concerned, get them in the region, and that
only increases the chances that they’re going to come to Foxwoods
or Mohegan Sun.