Casino Makeovers: A Look Inside Renovations and New Builds in Gaming Destinations

A Star's Perspective
A few months before rocketing to fame on the 2007 season of America’s Got Talent, Terry Fator was playing a county fair when rain forced the show inside, to a theater designed for about 1,000 people. When he took the stage, there was only one person in the audience. A few months after the television win, Fator was appearing on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The Late Show with David Letterman. A year later, he was appearing five times a week in the 1,200-seat Terry Fator Theater at The Mirage, and his name was literally up in lights on the Las Vegas Strip. 

Fator, whose act is based on puppetry, banters with his characters and has them do spot-on impersonations of famous singers—he won the finale of America’s Got Talent with an amazing Roy Orbison performance of “Crying,” courtesy of Winston the Impersonating Turtle. It is a style that he has long thought would be a good fit for corporate customers.

“I absolutely love working with corporations, it’s a lot of fun,” Fator says. “It’s something I was struggling to get into, and then America’s Got Talent happened. Suddenly instead of me having to try to call them, they started calling me, and that was a wonderful change. I absolutely look forward to performing for corporations, and I will do everything I can to make myself available if someone calls and wants to get a special Terry Fator performance.”

To begin with, his crew will talk to the client about the company and its goals for the meeting and turn that over to his four-person writing staff, who will write a number of jokes for him to peruse—just like he does for the topical banter included in his regular show at The Mirage. “I’ll cull through them and decide which jokes I think are the funniest or will be the most appropriate for the organization,” he says. 

He particularly likes personal stories. “One time someone told me that a particular person in the organization had accidentally shredded a bunch of very, very important documents,” Fator recalls. “Everybody else knew this person and—say his name was Tim Johnson—I wrote a joke where my puppet and I were arguing, and he said, ‘You better stop arguing with me or I’m going to have them give your check to Tim Johnson.’ And the audience fell on the floor and laughed for like a minute and a half. These are things I like to do when I do corporate parties—some stories, something intimate, and put in a couple of little details like that to make it personal for the organization.”

Drag in the President
As nice as a shout-out or inside joke is, nothing warms an audience faster than watching the boss get ribbed on stage, and Fator knows it. 

“When it’s a corporate event we love to get the president of the company, or somebody who is very high up in the corporation, to come up on stage, and we have a lot of fun with them,” he says. Corporate audiences “just love when we do that, so we do it in every single show.” 

“I have an apparatus that allows me to ‘take control’ of someone’s ability to talk,” he says, describing a mask with a slotted jaw just like a ventriloquist’s dummy. “So I’m able to ask them questions about the company, about their relationship with their wife, things like that—to extremely funny results. We do that in every show, and it is typically a highlight of the evening, something that everybody will talk about.”

Another memorable bit he does, both in his act at The Mirage and in corporate gigs, is dressing up a male audience member as a celebrity. Originally creating Cher for a Sonny and Cher duet, he now dresses the participant up as Dolly Parton. 

“I have a dress that has an inflatable chest,” Fator says. We put the dress and the wig and everything on him, and have him sing a Dolly Parton song. We constantly update that. I think our next incarnation is going to be Lady Gaga. That’s part of every single show, and typically, if you ask people after the show what was their favorite part, that is the number one answer. Especially when we bring up the president or one of the leaders from the audience. 

When it comes to casino resorts in the United States, two companies dominate in both the number of properties and brand recognition: Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International. In the nation’s top two gaming markets, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, their extensive stables of properties, venues, and services—ranging from the value-minded to the upscale ends of the market—make them linchpins to those destinations’ leisure travel and corporate and association meetings business vitality. ]

But beyond those pairs of companies and markets, there is plenty of activity by the midsize and smaller gaming companies, which continue to make capital investments to their casino resort properties in areas such as Reno/Lake Tahoe and the U.S. Gulf Coast. This bodes well for not only the large convention segment of the meetings market but also for smaller regional users. 

As we near the tail end of the Great Recession, leisure and meetings business is returning to casino properties around the country, but especially in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. 

Michael Massari, senior vice president at Caesars Entertainment, is especially bullish about 2013 and beyond. “We came out of the recession in good shape, and we’re going to be off to the races in 2013,” he says, noting that Caesars has had six straight quarters of growth.

As revenues trend skyward, the two major operators Caesars and MGM Resorts are reinvesting in their assets and even expanding their portfolios on an international scale. Witnessing Atlantic City’s and Las Vegas’ evolution into multifaceted destinations offering myriad sources of entertainment besides gaming, the companies are also diversifying with non-gaming activities. “The idea is that we now have lots of product and what we need now are attractions” to be well-rounded places for guests to visit, says Massari. 

“I think we’re now at the beginning of another great run for the meetings, incentives, and convention market,” says Richard Harper, outgoing executive vice president of sales and marketing with MGM Resorts. “We’ve always had a leadership role in the reinvestment of capital into [the cities we’re in]. Customers will continue to see tremendous reinvestment in our properties, in the training of our salespeople and convention services managers, and in creating faster and easier processes for planners.”

While there aren’t imminent investments on the gargantuan scale of CityCenter, MGM Resorts’ multibillion-dollar destination-within-a-destination that burst onto the Las Vegas Strip in late 2009, plenty of money is going into new attractions, renovations, restaurants, amenities, and entertainment at all gaming destinations.

LAS VEGAS
The two biggest gaming and hospitality operators are perpetually locked in a battle over city supremacy and relentlessly working to refresh and upgrade their meetings inventory and overall product. 

The biggest current development project is Caesars’ $550-million Linq outdoor pedestrian retail, dining, and entertainment area, slated to be completed in mid-2013. The Linq will have 80 restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and retail shops, but the centerpiece will be the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel. The ride will have 28 spherical cabins holding 40 people each, allowing it to cater to small groups with hosted in-cabin service. 

“It’s hard to overstate the Linq project,” Massari notes. “It will have the largest observation wheel in the world. We are building an attraction for the city.” Directly facing Caesars Palace in the middle of the Strip, the Linq will be in a strategic location. It will have a direct pedestrian connection to the Flamingo Las Vegas on the south and will rework the entry into Imperial Palace. 

“It will be in a location where you will see it when you’re in the plane landing or in a car driving in, and it will be within a 10-minute walk from every property on the Strip,” says Massari. Chris Meyer, vice president of sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, says, “Linq is going to change our skyline yet again; suppliers are reinvesting in the business segment of our industry.”

Even as the Linq goes into construction, both Caesars and MGM Resorts have stated that new large-scale development projects will be rare in the city’s future. “In the next five to 10 years, the chances of another megaproperty opening will be slim to none,” says Harper.

That said, Harper adds, “There is a tremendous amount of reinvestment going into existing properties. It is important to keep the product fresh by bringing in new restaurants, shows, nightclubs, etcetera, so that repeat customers get a different experience every time they come here.”

Evidence of that is the recent 1,900-room remodeling of Circus Circus’ Casino and Skyrise towers, the $70-million guest-room redesign at the Bellagio that covered all 2,568 rooms in the main tower, and the upcoming $160-million room renovation at the main tower of one of its landmark properties, the MGM Grand. 

Scheduled to be finished in September, the project will result in completely revamped suites and rooms with new color palettes. The new Grand rooms will feature floor-to-ceiling headboard walls with mirrors and a dresser/media hub concept similar to the one introduced in the Bellagio renovation. The hub in each room will have connectivity for electronic devices, wall-mounted 40-inch flat-screen televisions, and integrated minibars. Also, the new rooms will have eco-friendly LED lighting and upgraded bath faucets and showers.

Caesars hasn’t rested on its laurels when it comes to guest rooms, either. In January, it opened the 668-room Octavius Tower, its sixth, at franchise property Caesars Palace. The final piece of an $860-million, multiyear property overhaul that began in 2008, the Octavius Tower’s rooms have marble floors, dark wood furnishings, granite-topped desks, and brushed chrome fixtures. In-room media hubs—no longer a tech fad—lend guests much-desired connectivity for their electronics, while 42-inch flat-screen televisions and iPod docks entertain. Marble-tiled bathrooms feature oversized whirlpool tubs and glass shower rooms with multiple showerheads. 

Caesars has teamed up with Nobu Hospitality to create the Nobu Hotel and Nobu Restaurant at Caesars Palace, both due this fall. The hotel-within-a-hotel will feature 180 rooms—a boutique property by Las Vegas standards—while the 11,000-plus-square-foot restaurant, complete with a bar and lounge, will bring Nobu’s well-known high-end style of Japanese dining. Another big culinary name heading to Caesars is Gordon Ramsay, who will open his first restaurant in Las Vegas inside the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.

Meanwhile, Caesars is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar room upgrade program at the Flamingo, which involves modernizing accommodations with flat-screen televisions, contemporary furnishings, and a more elegant decor scheme with touches of flamingo pink. So far, 2,300 rooms out of the inventory of 3,500 have been reenergized; they are now dubbed FAB Rooms. 

Living up to the entertainment portion of its name, Caesars’ eponymous property is home to Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Rod Stewart’s Las Vegas residency. Stewart is playing at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, in Rod Stewart: The Hits. Caesars also has secured a pair of other headliners, first the Broadway smash-hit Jersey Boys, which debuted at Paris last month, and later this year with country music legend Shania Twain, who will begin a multiyear residency at Caesars Palace in December. 

A group-related coup for MGM Resorts is a new agreement with Blue Man Group to perform at the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino beginning this fall. It will feature new material for those who’ve seen the troupe before, along with signature set pieces, at the 1,200-seat Monte Carlo Theater. “We’ve been told that Blue Man Group is receptive to group buyouts at Monte Carlo, based on availability,” Harper says, adding “We couldn’t be happier with Blue Man at the Monte Carlo, which has a niche for value-priced small meetings.” 

MGM Resorts also has a new private event space in its arsenal, the 10,000-square-foot Hyde Bellagio. Created in tandem with SBE Entertainment, which shuttered the Sahara last year, Hyde faces the Bellagio fountains and boasts a Tuscan-style terrace, 40 VIP tables, and an occupant capacity of more than 700. Its access to Bellagio’s 1,500-bottle wine program and high-tech A/V suit meeting groups especially, with Harper declaring the nightclub as having the “most prime ‘waterfront’ space in Las Vegas.” He adds, “For the Bellagio to have that kind of real estate for the meetings customer, there’s nothing like it in town.”

Harper also notes that MGM Resorts is working on initiatives related to simplified billing, contracting, and procurement processes for meeting and convention groups. At Caesars, the Las Vegas Meetings by Caesars model for meetings sourcing proved so successful with groups that the company revamped its entire national meetings business operations into a similar structure of a single department and leadership team.  

Meyer at the LVCVA says such initiatives, which make it easier for planners to pull off both small and large meetings, as well as the continual infrastructure reinvestments in Las Vegas, have greatly helped the city in its post-recession comeback. According to LVCVA statistics, the city hosted 19,000 meetings and conventions in 2011, and visitation by business travelers was up 8.8 percent.

“We saw a big-time solidification in meetings business last year, and we’re having a strong year so far in our convention part of the market,” he says. “We’re seeing attendance increases of 25 percent in association events and trade shows year over year.”

ATLANTIC CITY
With MGM Resorts in the process of selling its 50 percent stake in the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, it has effectively pulled out of the Atlantic City market. Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns the other 50 percent stake in the resort property, has reportedly declined to acquire MGM Resorts’ share of the joint venture. 

“Atlantic City is not a focus for us today, but who knows what will happen down the road,” says MGM Resorts’ Harper. 

That leaves Caesars as the big player in the destination, with four properties: Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, Bally’s, and Showboat. The company is currently renovating 144 suites in the Ocean Tower at Caesars Palace, which follows a complete overhaul of the tower’s standard guest rooms last fall, which involved new fixtures, fresh furnishings, technology upgrades, and a more modern decor. 

Over the last five years, Bally’s has made key changes to its casino floor, restaurants, and the building itself, spending a total of $112 million on reinvestments. It renovated the Claridge Tower last year, transforming 289 guest rooms. Caesars has added F&B options to Bally’s sixth-floor dining area and The Dennis Courtyard, such as Nanking, The Reserve, 6ix Bistro, Arturo’s, as well as Harry’s Oyster Bar and Seafood. 

In 2008, Caesars spent $38.5 million to buy a two-story pavilion that housed food outlets and shops but blocked the view of The Dennis Courtyard from the Atlantic City boardwalk. It tore down the pavilion, allowing visitors to see the courtyard again, and the company spent an additional $4 million to restore it and repair the property’s original brick exterior. 
 
“Atlantic City has the opportunity to become a really significant meetings market,” says Massari. “Like Las Vegas, it has shopping, dining, and entertainment now, but it’s also so close to many Fortune 500 companies.”

There is no lack of major gaming meetings property developments in Atlantic City, despite the city’s predominantly non-gaming development trend over the last few years. The big project that has massive meetings-market implications—in what is the nation’s second-biggest gaming market despite increasing competition from regional gaming hubs in the Northeast—is the imminent $2.4-billion Revel. 

The mega casino-resort, by Revel Entertainment Group, now has a full-opening date of May 25, bringing 1,898 guest rooms, a 130,000-square-foot casino, a high-end retail arcade, and 10 restaurants, bars and lounges, and food-and-beverage outlets to Atlantic City. In addition, there will be two theater venues: the 5,000-seat Ovation Hall and The Social, a smaller, more intimate two-level space. Among the leisure amenities will be a 31,000-square-foot spa, a year-round heated outdoor swimming pool, and an on-property beach. 

Meetings and events at Revel will mostly take place in Ovation Hall, which will have a 70,000-square-foot “event center” and include a 50,000-square-foot ballroom. In addition, there will be 90,000 square feet of outdoor event space at groups’ disposal, including the SkyGarden, designed to be a tranquil oasis 114 feet above sea level. 

With the Revel, Gary Musich, vice president of sales for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, can say, literally, “there’s been billions of dollars in development here,” while adding, in the midst of all the progress in restaurant, retail, and entertainment development, “the gaming product is continuing to change dramatically.”

Boyd, meanwhile, has begun a $50-million room redesign effort at the Borgata. Scheduled to be completed in July, the project will completely refresh all 1,556 rooms and corridors. The rooms will get a new decor theme, 46-inch flat-screen televisions, Wi-Fi, and high-tech phones with built-in iPod docks, alarm radios, and USB charge ports. Luxury linens will be added, and bathrooms will have oversized, glass-enclosed showers. The company at the beginning of this year unveiled a $1-million revamp of its poker room, which is said to be the largest in Atlantic City and includes a brand-new high-limit lounge. 

These developments follow last year’s acquisition and ongoing overhaul and conversion of the Trump Marina Hotel and Casino into the 740-room Golden Nugget Atlantic City by Landry’s Inc., the restaurant and hospitality company, which has a growing gaming interest and is resurrecting a long-dormant brand in Atlantic City. 

Landry’s, the company behind both Morton’s Steakhouse and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., also owns the revitalized Golden Nuggets in Las Vegas and Laughlin, NV. It has spent $150 million on the waterfront Golden Nugget Atlantic City, bringing in its own dining brands like Chart House and Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse, while contemporizing the guest rooms and casino area and adding new bars, lounges, and entertainment venues. The Golden Nugget Atlantic City is expected to launch a luxury spa and salon soon, as well as a year-round pool and poolside lounge. 

Musich points out that Landry’s also fully refreshed the property’s meetings space, which includes a 17,000-square-foot ballroom and a 9,000-square-foot outdoor observation deck. He notes that the destination’s group business, including that at the convention center, has increased by 22 percent over the past three years. “I tell people there’s a reason why investment is coming back in Atlantic City and a reason why group business is up, and it’s because we’re a viable meetings destination,” says Musich. “We’re able to commit 8,000 rooms to groups on peak night, and we’re getting close to cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston in the amount of meetings business measured by group nights.”

GULF COAST AND MISSISSIPPI
There has been no shortage of recent and ongoing activity in the Gulf Coast, including M&A deals involving two of the region’s larger casino resort properties. Landry’s last month began the process of acquiring the Isle Casino Hotel in Biloxi, MS, and will rebadge it as the Golden Nugget Biloxi. Now with Golden Nugget properties in Nevada, Atlantic City, and Biloxi, Landry’s is expanding the once-dominant gaming brand and moving into the competitive southern gaming market. 

Once the acquisition is approved by regulators, which is expected by September, the company plans to upgrade elements of the 720-room property and take it upmarket, activating a transformation plan similar to the one used for the Atlantic City property. This means new dining, bar, and lounge concepts from its family of F&B brands, a new spa, a year-round pool and lounge, updated rooms, and new retail offerings. Landry’s intention is to give the property the same type of energy and notoriety as the Golden Nugget Las Vegas, whose changes, including its centerpiece shark aquarium, The Tank, has raised its profile in that city.  

Landry’s buy of the Isle Casino Hotel comes just a few months after Boyd acquired the 1,000-room IP Casino Resort and Spa in town. Like Landry’s with its acquisition, Boyd’s purchase of the IP, which has 73,000 square feet of meeting and convention space and a 1,400-seat theater, makes it a major player in Biloxi. Boyd is investing $44 million into back-of-house and infrastructural improvement work, but it does not have any plans to renovate or upgrade the IP, as it feels confident that the existing property will continue to be a leader in the Biloxi market. 

MGM Resorts’ 1,740-room Beau Rivage, meanwhile, recently completed a yearlong renovation of its 50,000-plus-square-foot convention floor level. The property put in new furniture, airwalls, and wall furnishings as well as repainting all of its group spaces. It also upgraded the A/V equipment in facilities such as the 17,000-square-foot Magnolia Ballroom and the 7,200-square-foot Camellia and 4,400-square-foot Azalea junior ballrooms. “The Beau Rivage is about as close to the Bellagio as you can find anywhere outside Las Vegas,” says Harper. 

Westward along the Gulf Coast, MGM Resorts last October entered into a strategic agreement with Creative Casinos LLC to help develop and operate a 400-room luxury casino resort in Lake Charles, LA, in the southwestern corner of the state. The Mojito Pointe is slated to have 1,500 slot machines and 50 table games and two hotels. It’s anticipated to open in mid-2013. “It’s a great partnership and a market where we haven’t had a presence, and it’s an opportunity to introduce more clients to the MGM Resorts family,” says Harper. 

In New Orleans, Caesars recently debuted Manning’s Eat-Drink-Cheer at Harrah’s New Orleans. It is a football-centric dining and entertainment venue with 3,000 square feet of private meeting and banquet space. The venue is named after Archie Manning, father of NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli, and a legendary New Orleans Saint in his own right. 

In inland Mississippi, Caesars is modifying the soft goods in all 507 guest rooms of the Horseshoe Tunica. Guest accommodations will get new carpeting, bedding, and wall fixtures, while the property will also rejig its high-limit poker room offerings. The old high-limit room will become an Asian-themed high-limit room, while the former Magnolia Delta Grill will be turned into a new high-limit room. 

Also in Tunica, a completely refreshed Gold Strike Casino Resort has been in operation for a little more than a year, after a multiyear, multimillion-dollar overhaul that was the biggest in the history of the MGM Resorts property. It began four years ago with the installation of Wi-Fi, LCD televisions, custom walnut furniture, and marble bathrooms in the guest rooms, along with new furniture, carpeting, and wall coverings in the 30,000-square-foot convention facilities. The work was finished a year ago with the unveiling of an upgraded 50,000-square-foot casino and a refreshed Stage 2 Bar, the Gold Strike’s centerpiece. 

RENO AND LAKE TAHOE
In the northern Nevada/California gaming mecca, several operators—including one name not normally associated with gaming—are making enhancements to their properties. 

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts has been undertaking an $18-million room redo initiative at its 422-room Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa, and Casino, which is due to finish next month. The new rooms will have a contemporary grand-lodge-style look and be outfitted with new oak headboards, credenzas, and nightstands with steel accents and dark leather that complement the slate-gray and mocha carpeting. The rooms also will get connectivity/multimedia hubs and new bathrooms with backlit mirrors. The Hyatt resort had already freshened up its Spa Terrace Conference Center with the new slate-gray and mocha color palette, soft goods, furniture, and upgraded A/V capabilities, including a modern sound system and drop-down video screens.  

Last year, Meruelo Group, a California-based company with interests in construction and real estate, purchased the Grand Sierra Resort, keeping the brand name and initiating a $25-million property-wide modernization. Initial modifications have been unveiled, including a revamped hotel lobby/check-in area, the casual-dining Mexican eatery Cantina, and a new lounge and bar in the middle of the casino floor. Still to come is the remodeling of the 2,000 guest rooms, an upmarket remake of the property’s meetings facilities, and changes to the spa and health club. 

The 1,549-room Silver Legacy Resort Casino, meanwhile, completed the final phase of a multiyear property renovation just a little over a year ago. The project included a $15-million transformation of its entire guest room inventory. The rooms were redone in a classic contemporary style, with carpet and fabrics in bold silver, red, brown, and black. Other improvements include LCD televisions, higher-quality bedding and linens, ergonomic desks, and frameless mirrored closets. The property has 50,000 square feet of meeting space. 

And, according to MGM Resorts, the guest rooms at Circus Circus Reno were recently restyled, and additional breakout meeting space was put in. The property has also announced the introduction of the newly remodeled Steakhouse at Circus restaurant, which features a new menu, and the conversion of the former Smokin’ Gecko’s BBQ restaurant to a Mexican-style eatery, which is due for completion next month.  

ELSEWHERE AND INTERNATIONAL
In the now-mature Detroit gaming market, which includes the 400-room MGM Grand Detroit, the 400-room MotorCity Casino Hotel, and, on the Canadian side of the Detroit River, the 758-room Caesars Windsor, the owner of the 400-room Greektown Casino-Hotel last September introduced the first phase of a remodeling that completely renovated 10,000 square feet of central gaming space, revamped the ex-Apollo Bar into a VIP area called The Fringe, and brought about a brand-new bar/lounge and entertainment facility. 
The gaming properties have revamped the Detroit area’s meetings landscape, with the Caesars Windsor bringing over 100,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, the MotorCity 67,000 square feet, and the MGM Grand 30,000 square feet.

With an increasing number of states seeking a new source of revenue and thus legalizing gaming and granting casino licenses, the major gaming operators are leveraging such opportunities to extend their reach in regional markets and destinations. 

MGM Resorts is among several gaming companies in a race for a western Massachusetts casino license being dangled by the state. While the bidding goes on, the company has teamed again with Gensler, the architectural firm that helped design CityCenter in Las Vegas, to open a 150-acre resort property in Brimfield, MA, about 65 miles west of Boston and just north of the Massachusetts Turnpike. The project, tentatively dubbed the Rolling Hills Resort, is being envisioned as a wooded, rural New England casino resort. 

In Pennsylvania—which legalized gaming in 2004—about an hour outside Philadelphia, Las Vegas Sands has been operating the 300-room Sands Hotel at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem for about a year. The hotel, which features about 8,000 square feet of group space, has bolstered the Lehigh Valley regional meetings market with not only the area’s largest meetings, but also full-service property. The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, situated on the historic Bethlehem Steel plant site, was Las Vegas Sands’ first U.S. property outside Las Vegas when it opened in 2009.

Caesars, meanwhile, is focusing on Ohio, with two new upcoming properties, Horseshoe Casino Cleveland and Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati. The Cleveland property will be located inside the Higbee building downtown, with a 96,000-square-foot gaming floor encompassing 2,100 slot machines and 65 table games. Scheduled to open in May, the $350-million development will also have a 400-seat buffet.  

That property initially won’t have meeting space, but should attract groups meeting at downtown Cleveland hotels. Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati will have about 33,000 square feet of group space when it opens in spring 2013. The $400-million project will feature 100,000 square feet of gaming area, 2,300 slot machines, and 73 table games, along with three restaurants, a buffet restaurant, and feature bar. Both Ohio properties are being developed under Rock Ohio Caesars LLC, a joint venture between Caesars and Rock Gaming LLC. 

“These are really two of the most exciting developments for us,” says Massari. “These are new facilities in the downtown areas of two important cities.” He envisions the prospect of the properties working in tandem with the company’s new centralized meetings sales, where a Caesars sales manager in Ohio places a group’s local meeting in Cleveland, regional meeting in Atlantic City, and national meeting in Las Vegas. 

Evidenced by the non-gaming CityCenter development, MGM Resorts has been diversifying beyond gaming and into a true hospitality and entertainment giant. Caesars also has been going that route. Both companies are now developing non-casino resorts in China. 

Caesars Global Life, a non-gaming division created to develop and manage luxury hotels and resorts, is in a joint venture with a Chinese company to create the 1,000-room Caesars Palace Longmu Bay in Hainan, China, with a spa, golf courses, and two entertainment venues, by 2014. MGM Resorts, similarly, under MGM Hospitality, is developing in Shanghai, under a Chinese joint venture, for the 200-room Suning Bellagio Shanghai Bund hotel, along with companion retail and entertainment facilities, by 2015. 

MGM Hospitality is also expanding the Bellagio and MGM Grand brands in India, signing development deals for respective non-gaming hotel properties in a 20-acre mixed-use development in Mumbai. In Vietnam, MGM Resorts is developing a gaming resort, called the MGM Grand Ho Tram, as part of a $4.2-billion resort area being modeled after the hubs in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Macau. In 2013, the first phase of MGM Grand Ho Tram, located about 80 miles southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, will have 541 guest rooms, retail and entertainment venues, meetings facilities, a luxury spa, and a gaming area with electronic and table games. A second phase will add an additional hotel tower with 549 more guest rooms.  

In the established gaming mecca of Macau, Las Vegas Sands has invested $8 billion to date on its properties on the Cotai Strip: the Sands Macao, the Venetian Macao, and the Four Seasons Hotel Macao. This month, the company is launching its latest asset, Sands Cotai Central, a major hotel, dining, retail, and entertainment complex. Sands Cotai Central features a 600-room Conrad hotel and a 1,200-room Holiday Inn. The second phase of development will add an event theater and a 4,000-room Sheraton hotel, forming a massive integrated resort that’s expected to be the world’s largest. 

And Malaysia’s Genting Group has invested nearly $500 million in a proposed casino project in Miami, details of which are to be determined.