by Michael J. Shapiro | March 22, 2019

There was a time when people went to casinos expressly to gamble. But about 30 years ago, meetings and events at gaming destinations began to gain some serious traction. 


In 1989, The Mirage appeared on the Las Vegas Strip, ushering in the birth of the integrated resort, drawing crowds with attractions beyond the casino. The Mirage had a volcano, white tigers and an aquarium to sweeten the experience for all who entered. Today, gaming companies across the nation are building hotels with meeting space, top-notch restaurants, high-end shopping and expansive meeting space.

"It's easy to see why casinos have become a popular destination for meetings and conferences," notes Casey Clark, vice president of strategic communications for the American Gaming Association. "Over the past few decades, we've seen the casino industry transform into a full-fledged entertainment purveyor. The rapid spread of integrated resorts across the globe demonstrates this evolution of casinos into world-class entertainment destinations. These days, almost half of casino visitors make the trip for nongambling activities." 

And revenues from those nongaming activities account for an increasing percentage of the money earned by gaming companies. If that trajectory continues, how will it affect the casino resorts of the future - and what will it mean for the meetings industry? We asked gaming experts for their perspectives.

The Evolution of Gaming Resorts and Events

1. Increase in Nongaming Revenue

"I do expect the increase in nongaming revenues to continue, particularly in Las Vegas, as gaming options around the country - and the world - proliferate," says David Schwartz, associate vice provost for faculty affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Schwartz previously served as the director of the Center for Gaming Research within University Libraries at UNLV.  

"Particularly as digital and remote gambling becomes more widespread, many types of gambling will not be as common in casinos," Schwartz posits. "For this reason, investing in nongaming attractions is a good strategy for gaming companies. I think that group meetings - which inherently require travel - are a wise option. Planners can emphasize the overall impact their groups will have on visitation and F&B and entertainment spending, in addition to the direct fees involved with the meeting.

Read on about how sports business and the use of data are playing a growing role in gaming destinations at NorthstarMeetingsGroup.com.