. What's New for Gaming Resorts and Destinations | Northstar Meetings Group

What's New for Gaming Resorts and Destinations

New gaming for groups, from the many 2019 developments in Las Vegas to expanding offerings in California, Massachusetts and Reno/Lake Tahoe.

The reimagined Strat Hotel, Casino and SkyPod still towers over the Vegas Strip.

Gaming properties continue to open throughout the U.S., most recently marked by the June debut of Wynn's Encore Boston Harbor. The following presents a 2019 update from some top destinations for play -- and meetings. 

Las Vegas

Following months of rumors concerning the future of Caesars Entertainment, in late June, Eldorado Resorts announced it would purchase the casino and hospitality powerhouse for $17.3 billion, in the process creating the nation's largest gaming entity. The deal marks Eldorado's entry into the Vegas market along with a combined portfolio that will number about 60 casino properties in 16 states. Eldorado, which is based in Reno, Nev., will take the storied Caesars name as its own but retain Eldorado's corporate leadership and its head office in Reno. That said, Caesars, which runs 10 properties on the Las Vegas Strip, will continue to have a significant corporate presence in the gaming mecca.

Thus far, it seems to be business as usual for Caesars' Las Vegas projects. Construction proceeds on Caesars Forum, the 550,000-square-foot conference facility set to open in 2020 across from Caesars Palace and alongside the Linq Promenade, just off the Center Strip. The company celebrated a milestone about a week before the acquisition, as the final steel beam was placed atop the growing facility.

When complete, Caesars Forum will be directly connected to 5,000 hotel rooms owned by Caesars Entertainment and within walking distance of more than 20,000 of the company's guest rooms. The facility will have two 110,000-square-foot column-free ballrooms, as well as two additional 40,000-square-foot ballrooms, six boardrooms, 100 breakout rooms and a 100,000-square-foot outdoor space known as Forum Plaza. The conference center will be able to accommodate more than 10,000 attendees.

As for the company's entertainment venues, the Colosseum at Caesars Palace is celebrating its reopening late this summer following extensive renovations. Enhancements include a new giant LED video screen and a new seating design featuring an automated lifting system for modular setups. Full-venue buyouts are available.

Meanwhile, the massive Resorts World Las Vegas project is on track for a soft opening at the end of 2020. The megaresort, being built on a site once occupied by the Stardust and, later, by Boyd Gaming's failed Echelon project, promises 3,400 rooms split between two 59-story towers. The Asian-themed property, owned by Malaysia's Genting Group, plans to open a variety of restaurants as part of a first phase, including some regional Chinese cuisines, along with more than 100,000 square feet of interactive gaming space.

GAMING SM0819 Drew Las Vegas
Drew Las Vegas will open in 2022.

Work continues as well on Drew Las Vegas, a 67-story project on the site of the former Fontainebleau development on the Strip. Now slated to debut in 2022, Drew will offer 3,719 guest rooms divided among three brands: JW Marriott, Edition and the new Reserve by Drew. The property will try to draw groups with more than 550,000 square feet of meeting and event space outfitted with a modern, clean aesthetic and high-tech infrastructure. Among the venues will be a three-level theater, one of the city's largest column-free ballrooms and a hospitality garden.

Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, a transformation of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, is expected to complete its rebranding in late 2020. In the interim, the hotel will continue operations as the Hard Rock and extensively upgrade its guest rooms, restaurants and public spaces. The reimagined property will have 1,504 rooms, a 60,000-square-foot renovated casino, multiple pools over five acres, the brand's flagship Commons Club restaurant and lounge, and more than 110,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

Treasure Island recently remodeled and expanded its convention space by 12,500 square feet for a new total of more than 30,000 square feet. An ongoing renovation project touches on many of the property's guest rooms and suites. In addition, the resort this year completed a major overhaul to its TI tram, which provides convenient (and free) transportation to the Mirage and other points along the Strip.

Downtown Las Vegas should see its first new-build resort since 1980 open next year, providing a fresh lodging option in an area that's experiencing a resurgence in its restaurant and arts scene. The team behind the D Las Vegas, the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino and the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center is constructing the 777-room Circa Resort & Casino along the Fremont Street Experience. Circa will be the tallest tower north of the Strip, with amenities such as a spa, a two-level casino and a multitiered pool/amphitheater venue.

The iconic 2,427-room Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower has been rebranded and is now known as the Strat Hotel, Casino and SkyPod. Golden Entertainment purchased the hotel in late 2017 and since mid-2018 has been revitalizing the resort, remodeling 311 guest rooms, rolling out a new Baccarat gaming pit, renovating the rotating Top of the World restaurant and adding 108 Eats by James Tree, a new restaurant on the Observation Deck. The indoor and outdoor decks on the 108th and 109th floors have recently been remodeled, as well, and a new restaurant, lounge, and a race and sportsbook area have debuted on the northwest corner of the casino at street level.

International Market Centers, which owns the World Market Center, broke ground in late January on a new convention facility slated to open in summer 2020. The Expo at World Market Center will span 315,000 square feet with 194,785 square feet of exhibit space across two halls. The $90 million venue will be able to hold up to 1,000 booths.

GAMING SM0819 MGM Grand Conference Center Exterior
The expanded MGM Grand Conference Center offers 850,000 square feet of meeting space.

MGM Resorts International expanded its conference facilities by wrapping up the $130 million expansion of the MGM Grand Conference Center early this year. The project added about a quarter of a million square feet of meeting space for a new total of 850,000 square feet. Among the highlights are a 5,500-square-foot outdoor courtyard and 22,000 square feet of Stay Well Meetings space.

New Jersey

New York-based private-investment firm Luxor Capital Group purchased Atlantic City's Ocean Resort Casino just six months after it opened. The new owners are investing about $70 million on additional upgrades to the 1,399-room property, which already features a 40,000-square-foot Exhale spa, six swimming pools, approximately 160,000 square feet of flexible indoor meeting and convention space, and 90,000 square feet of outdoor event space.

Atlantic City's former Trump Taj Mahal has been transformed into a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

The 2,000-room Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City completed its transformation last year from the former Trump Taj Mahal. The rock-'n'-roll-themed gaming property features a revamped casino, 150,000 square feet of meeting and event space, and the Hard Rock Café, relocated from its former site on the Boardwalk. The on-site Mark G. Etess Arena has been expanded to seat 7,700 people.

Last year, the 942-room Resorts Casino Hotel completed the final phase of a $25 million guest-room renovation including a completely revamped Ocean Tower. The property has an 80,000 square-foot casino and 64,000 square feet of meeting space.

Caesars Entertainment recently finished a $56 million renovation of the Harbour Tower at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City Hotel & Casino, and renamed it the Coastal Tower. Upgrades to the tower's 507 rooms and suites include a refreshed design, more robust high-speed Internet access and new charging stations, as well as upgraded 55-inch LED TVs.

The Tropicana Atlantic City has reopened the Sea Spa, another step in incorporating the facilities that were added when the resort acquired the 330-room Chelsea Hotel across the street. The 10,000-square-foot spa has eight treatment rooms and a coed solarium. The room count at the property now stands at just under 2,400 with a new total of 120,000 square feet of meeting space.  

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa recently finished a $12 million project to expand its sportsbook and integrate it with the new Moneyline Bar & Book as well as the adjacent Level One Cocktail Bar & Lounge. A 40-foot-wide by 11.5-foot-tall LED video wall welcomes guests into the 8,000-square-foot Moneyline, which offers a VIP lounge with banquette seating and a complete food menu with 24 beers on tap. The 3,600-square-foot Level One Cocktail Bar & Lounge, connected to Moneyline via an escalated corridor, is available for private groups.

The Hard Rock, Ocean Resort Casino, Golden Nugget, Bally's Atlantic City, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City and Tropicana Atlantic City all now offer sports betting in A.C.

This spring, the Atlantic City Convention Center was awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification. Last year, the facility produced more than 2.9 million kWh of electricity (roughly 13 percent of the building's total energy) using solar panels. What's more, efforts undertaken in 2018 allowed more than 158.2 tons of recycled materials from the facility to be diverted from landfills, and 9,583 pounds of lamps, ballasts, batteries and electronics were recycled.

Detroit's Greektown Casino-Hotel is now managed by Penn National Gaming.


In Detroit, Greektown Casino-Hotel owner Jack Entertainment sold the property to Penn National Gaming and Vici Properties for $1 billion; Penn National acquired the operating assets while Vici took over the land and real estate. Jack Entertainment had invested heavily into redesigning and remodeling the venue after acquiring it nearly six years ago, readying Greektown for this next iteration. Penn hasn't planned any immediate significant changes to operations or staff as the gaming company gets up to speed on the Detroit market. Greektown's casino is accompanied by a 400-room hotel and about 14,000 square feet of event space.

In Battle Creek, the 243-room Firekeepers Casino Hotel is planning to add a second tower to meet demand. The current hotel, which already has exceeded expectations for group business, has more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space. The casino has a 111,700-square-foot gaming floor.


The $300 million expansion that the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula completed last year continues to pay dividends. The project, which nearly doubled the property's number of guest rooms to 1,090, has been credited as a major factor in spurring record local spending and an impressive tourism economic impact of $1.1 billion in 2018. What's more, Pechanga's meetings footprint grew substantially, with an additional 70,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, including a 40,000-square-foot event center. The resort now offers nearly 275,000 square feet of meeting space.

Pechanga Resort's Psycho Deli Burger is 30 percent mushroom "meat."

Pechanga also is doing its part to increase awareness of food sustainability, not to mention wellness, with the recent introduction of chef José Mendoza's Psycho Deli Burger, available at the Lobby Bar & Grill or on group menus. The 30 percent mushroom-to-beef blend is considered a "gateway burger" for those toying with vegetarianism.

Also in Southern California, in the San Bernardino area about an hour from Los Angeles, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians are expanding the San Manuel Casino. The $550 million project will add the venue's first on-site luxury hotel, an event space, restaurants, retail shops and more. Plans call for the 3,000-seat event center to open in 2020 and the 450-room hotel to debut in the second quarter of 2021. A 2,200-stall parking garage currently is being built and should open later this year.


In late June, Boston's first gaming destination resort, Encore Boston Harbor, opened in suburban Everett, Mass. The $2.6 billion property, which sits along the Mystic River across from Bean Town, has 671 rooms, a 210,000-square-foot casino, luxury retail and a 6-acre Harborwalk with pedestrian and bike paths. The complex also offers F&B outlets, 21,000 square feet of seasonal outdoor event space and 50,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, including 10 breakout rooms and a 37,000-square-foot ballroom. The resort provides European-style water shuttles to transport guests to Boston.

MGM Springfield's terrace overlooks the historic Armory.

Last September, the state's first gaming resort debuted in the form of the $960 million MGM Springfield. Along with a 252-room hotel, a spa, a movie theater and shops, the property sports a 125,000-square-foot casino floor with 2,550 slot machines, 120 gaming tables, a poker room and a high-limit VIP gaming lounge. Among the many restaurant options are Cal Mare, Italian coastal cuisine by James Beard Award--winning chef Michael Mina and chef Adam Sobel; Chandler Steakhouse, with Hell's Kitchen winner Meghan Gill serving as executive chef; MGM's signature TAP Sports Bar; and South End Market, a lively modern food hall with half a dozen eateries. The property's 34,000 square feet of meeting space flows through various ballrooms, breakout rooms and boardrooms adjacent to a 6,200-square-foot outdoor terrace. For indoor/outdoor space with a unique historical angle, planners can host events in the resort's castle-like Armory, which was built in 1895 and restored to its original state by MGM Resorts' design team.


SMG, the massive entertainment- and convention-venue management firm, is now operating Reno/Tahoe's major meeting facilities. A four-year contract with the company, which is meant to take the group-customer experience to the next level, covers four prominent venues: the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, the Reno Events Center, the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center and the National Bowling Stadium. The deal could potentially facilitate a proposed convention-center expansion.

Reno partners with SMG on group venues.

Downtown Reno welcomed The Row last year, a creative rebranding of three adjacent properties by owner Eldorado Resorts and now part of the combined Caesars Entertainment (see the lead item in the Las Vegas section on page 23). The Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus Reno still retain their original names and unique styles, but they're now married as part of The Row megaresort, featuring a grand total of 4,100 hotel rooms, 25 restaurants, 22 bars, 11 nightclubs and four entertainment venues.

All three properties have been regularly unveiling upgrades. A resdesign at the 21,000-square-foot Spa at Silver Legacy now allows natural light to flow throughout the facility, which includes five facial-treatment rooms, three relaxation lounges, a salt-inhalation chamber, two private hospitality suites, seven hydrotherapy tubs, two steam rooms, two saunas and more.

The Nugget Event Center, a new entertainment amphitheater across from the Nugget Casino Resort, recently premiered on the site formerly occupied by the Bourbon Square Casino. The 8,958-seat venue hosted a grand opening bash in June. Meanwhile, across the street, the Nugget Casino Resort is in the midst of a $10 million renovation, transforming the look of guest rooms in the former East Tower, now known as the Casino Tower.

The Jesse Hotel & Bar, a six-suite boutique property, debuted last month in Reno's Brewery District. The intimate hotel is in a renovated historic building with exposed brick walls, original hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows in every room. In addition to a bar and patio lounge, Estella, a taco shop with a mezcal bar, will soon open across from the courtyard.

In South Tahoe, the 20-acre multiuse complex known as The Loop is in the process of opening and now features the Zeppelin restaurant with four spaces for private events. The Loop eventually will offer more dining and entertainment venues, as well as an indoor sports complex.

An Aloft hotel is expected to open in early 2020. The 164-room property, the first of the tech-forward boutique brand in the area, is being developed adjacent to Reno-Tahoe International Airport.