by Andrea Doyle | August 02, 2016

Las Vegas, Reno, and Atlantic City may be the destinations most nearly synonymous with gambling, but today the list of alternate options is growing fast.

Several factors are leading to the increase in casino resorts, such as widespread interest in gaming, the money that casinos supply to their states, and changing rules about legal gaming. Together, these have helped to turn gaming into an industry with an economic impact estimated at $240 billion, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA). It supports 1.7 million jobs, $73.5 billion in wages, and $38 billion in tax revenue. And it offers advantages to meeting groups, as well.

"Gaming is an added bonus when choosing a destination for some of my groups," says Lynne McNamara, president of Meetings Plus Events of South Kingstown, RI. "It is a simple form of entertainment for many attendees without adding any cost to the bottom line."

Since casinos experience the highest demand on the weekend, attracting meeting groups during the week has become a natural goal for gaming venues, which has meant that top-notch meeting space is now a standard feature at even the most far-flung properties.

"Casino resorts must have a lot more amenities to be competitive," says Dr. David G. Schwartz, who directs the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "Slot machines alone are not enough of an attraction anymore."

Take the New York City area. Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens is planning a $400 million addition that will include a 400-room hotel, a 20,000-square-foot spa, and at least 140,000 square feet of convention and meeting space. If all goes according to plan, the addition will open in April of 2019.


On the western tip of Resorts World
Sentosa are its Beach Villas

"New York City isn't simply providing an opportunity for attendees to experience non-traditional gaming venues, it is making them into major event venues too," says Karen Shackman, president of Shackman Associates New York, a New York City-based destination management company. She cites Resorts World as an example.

Empire City Casino Yonkers Raceway is conveniently located just across the New York City border. Founded in 1899 as the Empire City Trotting Club, Empire City Casino has a rich history of being home to celebrated Thoroughbreds and today features a wide variety of meeting and event spaces for corporate and social events, including a 4,500-square-foot banquet space and a 5,600-square-foot area for receptions or trade shows, the Empire Terrace overlooking the famous racetrack, a lounge with two vintage bowling lanes, and a VIP room in a private lounge.

If Paul Fireman, the former chief executive of Reebok, has his way, a $4.6 billion resort, spa, and casino will be built in Jersey City near Liberty State Park. This November, New Jersey voters will decide whether to end Atlantic City's 40-year monopoly on casino gambling and allow it in the northern part of the state.

Last summer, Jeff Gural, chairman of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, the commercial real estate firm, announced an agreement with Hard Rock International to build a $1 billion casino as an extension of the Meadowlands Racetrack grandstand.

"If gaming passes, by law we would have to partner with one of the five existing casino companies in order to bid," says Gural, who owns the Meadowlands Racetrack as well as two racinos in upstate New York: NY Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs, which is in the process of being converted into a casino. "My plan right now is to focus on getting the referendum passed so we can find a partner and bid."

MGM National Harbor is set to open
at the end of the year

 Monuments and Memorials
There may not be any casinos in the nation's capital, but there will soon be a $1.3 billion Las Vegas-caliber resort minutes away. MGM National Harbor, a luxurious casino resort on 23 acres overlooking the Potomac River and Washington's many monuments, will have 3,300 slot machines, 140 gaming tables, a 308-room hotel, and a 3,000-seat theater that can be used for events as well as dinners and meetings. It will also boast some impressive culinary offerings: three high-end restaurants by culinary powerhouses José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson, and brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio when it opens at the end of the year. This will be the first casino in the capital area to have hotel rooms.

"Like Las Vegas, we have great restaurants, retail, theater, and will now have gambling to add to the list," says Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, the official convention and tourism corporation for Washington, D.C. "MGM National Harbor offers an option above and beyond what traditionally has been in the area."

Southern California's Take on Vegas
Pechanga Resort & Casino in Southern California, the largest resort/casino in the state, offers all that one would expect from a top Las Vegas property -- a hotel, spa, golf course, casino, A-list concerts, nightlife, 11 restaurants, and convention and meeting space. Soon it's going to offer even more.


Pechanga Resort & Casino is located
in the Temecula Valley's picturesque
wine country

Construction on Pechanga's $285 million resort expansion began in December 2015. It will more than double the size of the resort's amenities. Expected to be completed by the end of 2017, the project adds a hotel wing of 568 rooms and suites; a two-story spa, a fitness center, and hydrotherapy pool terrace; and an additional 67,000 square feet of meeting space. The event space will include breakout rooms and an expansive ballroom.

 When finished, Pechanga will have 1,090 hotel rooms and suites, 13 restaurants, 13 pools, a 200,000-square-foot casino, 100,000 square feet of indoor event space, and 174,500 square feet of outdoor event space.