Gaming Around the World

The World’s Largest Casinos
International gaming destinations can be ideal for meetings groups looking for something exciting and out-of-the-ordinary at any scale. But for those strictly of the bigger-is-better persuasion, here are the top 10 largest casinos in the world, according to online gaming directory Casino City. 

The Venetian Macau,
Macau, China
Square feet of casino floor: 546,000 
Restaurants and bars: 24 
Hotel rooms: 3,000
The more than 500,000-square-foot casino floor is impressive, but this property’s meetings offerings include the almost 250,000-square-foot CotaiExpo exhibition space, 21,325-square-foot ballroom, and plenty of smaller offerings as well.

City of Dreams,
Macau, China
Square feet of casino floor: 420,000 
Restaurants and bars: 14 
Hotel rooms: 1,400
This massive complex includes three hotels (Hard Rock Hotel, Crown Towers, and Grand Hyatt Macau), numerous luxury shops, and some of the best entertainment you can find in the city, including the elaborate “House of Dancing Water.”

3 Foxwoods Resort Casino, Ledyard, CT
Square feet of casino floor: 340,000 
Restaurants and bars: 29 
Hotel rooms: 824
The largest casino in the U.S. is not in Las Vegas. This property not only includes six casinos but dozens of restaurants, a top-notch spa, and expert-designed golf courses. Its meeting spaces range from the 50,000-square-foot Premier Ballroom to the 20-seat MGM Meeting Rooms.

4 Casino Ponte 16, 
Macau, China
Square feet of casino floor: 270,000 
Restaurants and bars: 3 
Hotel rooms: 423
An integrated casino-entertainment resort located in Macau’s inner harbor, this property includes a hotel, casino, and the MJ Gallery — a museum showcasing Michael Jackson memorabilia, including his fedora and famous sequined glove.

Tusk Rio Casino Resort Klerksdorp, 
South Africa
Square feet of casino floor: 266,330 
Restaurants and bars: 2 
Hotel rooms: 70
Tapping into the energy and style of Brazil’s Carnival celebration, this property can host events for groups of up to 1,000 guests. It includes spaces like the 250-seat Escapades Theater and 20-seat Samba Room, offering groups of any size colorful accommodations.

Sands Macau,
Macau, China
Square feet of casino floor: 229,000
Restaurants and bars: 7
Hotel rooms: 289
This luxury property on the Macau Peninsula offers customizable catering and exhibition services for its ballroom and flexible meeting space, Reflections. Though it has fewer hotel rooms than any other Macau property on this list, each is a spacious suite.

MGM Grand Macau,
Macau, China
Square feet of casino floor: 221,952 
Restaurants and bars: 12 
Hotel rooms: 593
This property’s 14,500 square feet of meeting space are spread over several distinctive venues, including the Grand Ballroom, three flexible salons, the tropical Vista overlooking an infinity pool, and the intimate Wine Cellar. 

MGM Grand Las Vegas, Las Vegas
Square feet of casino floor: 170,000
Restaurants and bars: 20
Hotel rooms: 5,044
With 602,000 square feet of meeting space, this property has events of all sizes covered. Offerings include the 380,000-square-foot Grand Conference Center, and MGM’s most recent addition: the 92,000-square-foot, pillar-less Marquee Ballroom. 

Casino Lisboa, 
Lisbon, Portugal
Square feet of casino floor: 165,000
Restaurants and bars: 7
Hotel rooms: 1,000
The largest casino in Europe, Casino Lisboa includes a public art gallery that showcases contemporary and avant-garde works, the 638-seat Oceans Auditorium, and chic Arena Lounge with live performances and a 650-square-foot screen.

Borgata Hotel 
Casino & Spa, Atlantic City
Square feet of casino floor: 161,000
Restaurants and bars: 17
Hotel rooms: 2,002
Besides its large casino, the Borgata offers a wealth of meeting spaces, including a 30,000-square-foot ballroom and 1,000-seat plush theater, acoustically engineered to ensure crisp sound whether the person on stage is speaking or singing. 

When many planners consider gaming destinations, their first thoughts often go straight to Las Vegas. This makes sense, since it’s the largest domestic gaming city and offers no shortage of activities and accommodations for group travel. But for groups that have already experienced Vegas or are looking for a gaming experience further off the beaten path, planners may want to consider some international options for their meetings. 

When Jim Angleton, president of financial advisory firm Aegis FinServ Corp, sought a venue for the company’s International Debit Card Conference, he sought something that offered a gaming destination’s sense of fun, but in a destination that offered a sense of the unexpected to better entice clients to join. The company opted for The Regency Casino Mont Parnes in Greece’s idyllic Attica basin. 

“The view is stunning, meeting rooms are cozy, and they have excellent service,” says Angleton. “We will play host to 33 corporate clients that conduct business with Aegis.”

Over the conference’s five days, the company leadership will introduce these top clients to its latest ATM kiosk machines and discuss corporate global prepaid debit cards. The program will also include meetings in connection with Aegis’ Cyber Reconnaissance and Intrusion division, which protects clients from cyber attacks.

“It’s very exclusive, [offers] cable car access, is secure for our meetings, and has a lively atmosphere,” adds Angleton.

Planners can tap into these types of offerings and more by taking their gaming meeting abroad. Far-flung destinations such as Macau, St. Maarten, and Costa Rica provide not only top-notch casinos and gaming options, but rich cultural experiences and alluring scenery. Each international gaming destination offers meeting groups something exciting, and a bit unusual. 

St. Maarten
Though known for its island landscape and wealth of culture and history, St. Martin is also a world-class gaming destination. With 14 casinos throughout the eight-square-mile part of the island that is part of the Netherlands (the other half, St. Martin, is owned by the French), St. Maarten offers groups many gaming choices, with a lush Caribbean backdrop. Of course, beyond gambling, visitors can also take advantage of activities, such as ziplining, Harley-Davidson tours, and the 12 Meter Challenge — in which attendees can race on multimillion-dollar America’s Cup race boats. 

“Companies also benefit by hosting their meetings in St. Maarten because there are a variety of properties to choose from depending on the number of attendees and the amount of meeting space they need,” says Edward Dest, interim director of tourism for the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.

Among the meeting-ready properties is the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino, with more than 4,000 square feet of meeting space (with one room measuring 2,583 square feet), and banquet capacity at the resort that can accommodate 275 to 300 guests.

Also on St. Maarten is the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino, with 16,000 square feet of function space, ranging from small breakout rooms to expansive convention areas for a total of 16,000 square feet of meeting space. At the end of June, this property played host to the five-day Women with Purpose Global Summit, which brought together almost 300 women leaders from all variety of industries from across the globe.

The keynote at the event’s Power Luncheon was CNN news anchor Soledad O’Brien. After her speech, attendees joined informal roundtable discussions led by industry executives. In their downtime, attendees could enjoy such resorts activities as snorkeling excursions or visits to the Maho Serenity Spa or the 14,000-square-foot Casino Royale.

“Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino was the perfect choice to host the conference because of its ideal location and incredible meeting spaces,” says Lynn Norment, press coordinator for the Women with Purpose Global Summit. “The proximity to the local restaurants, shops, stores, and Casino Royale in Maho Village provided the attendees with plenty of fun activities during their free time.”

The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa also offers a strong option for larger meetings, with seven rooms encompassing 10,000 square feet of meeting space. The property recently hosted an insurance company’s annual meeting. The 150 attendees were welcomed with a branded check-in tent and opening poolside cocktail reception. 

The next two days included business meetings with evenings on their own. A gala dinner on the final night showcased the location with a Caribbean theme, complete with fishbowl centerpieces and a local DJ. 

Smaller groups might consider the Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, located eight miles from the island’s Princess Juliana International Airport. It can accommodate gatherings of up to 36 people. 

“St. Maarten has emerged as a popular destination for companies to gather for meetings and conventions because of a tax initiative that allows U.S. companies to receive the same tax benefits for meetings taking place on the island as if they were held in the U.S.” adds Dest.

Macau
When it comes to international gaming, few destinations can compete with Macau. Home to five of the 10 largest casinos in the world (see sidebar), this Chinese special administrative region, and former Portuguese colony, has seen explosive growth in the last few years with major new developments underway. 

Last April, Sands China Ltd. opened the first phase of Sands Cotai Central, which includes the largest Conrad, Sheraton, and Holiday Inn properties in the world. Comprising 1.2 million square feet, the complex includes top-notch restaurants, live entertainment, and a massive retail outlet, as well as almost 250,000 square feet of gaming space. Additionally, the Galaxy Macau recently announced it would be expanding, adding two new luxury hotels — the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott — that will almost double the size of the property.

“What makes Macau extremely unique is its fusion of East and West cultures — combining Chinese and Portuguese influences,” says Alyson Marks, media manager and spokesperson for the Macau Government Tourist Office. “The destination also offers great variety of intriguing historical sites built in the 16th to 18th centuries, several Michelin-rated restaurants and award-winning spas, the tallest bungee jump, as well as the longest-running Grand Prix in the world.”

It’s also getting easier than ever to access the city, with the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge scheduled for completion by 2016. It is expected to cut in half the 50-minute travel time between the Hong Kong International Airport and Macau. Marks adds that the IT sector has shown particular interest in the gaming destination.

To further entice meeting groups, hotels under the Cotai Strip Macau umbrella launched an offer in June in which groups booking 50 rooms or more for two consecutive nights gets special access to the complex’s more than 200,000 square feet of flexible event space. This includes free use of a plenary room for two full days, morning and afternoon coffee breaks, and a complimentary buffet lunch.

These kinds of efforts seem to be working. Corinne Jansen, director of sales for the Sheraton Macau Hotel, has seen growing interest from U.S. groups. 
“I have now been involved in selling Macau for over five years and in the early days most meeting planners in Europe and the US had very little knowledge of the destination and not a lot of desire to book it,” says Jansen. “Now I regularly get approached with comments like ‘Macau is on our radar’ and ‘we are looking at Macau for one of our future events.’ [It’s] Asia’s best-kept secret is no longer.”

Costa Rica
For a more tropical backdrop to a gaming meeting, Costa Rica fits the bill, with a wide range of attractions, such as walks through the national parks, visits to its volcanoes and reserves, expeditions down the rapids of a river, or absorbing the therapeutic effects of hot springs. The country includes dozens of properties with many more being built, such as the 447-room Dreams Las Mareas and 381-room Paradisus Papagayo Bay Resort.

Gaming properties include the new Wyndham San Jose Herradura Hotel & Convention Center, which in addition to its on-site Fiesta Casino, offers the 12,800-square-foot Salon La Paz Ballroom (as well as another 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space). The Barceló Playa Langosta Resort and Casino provides meeting accommodations for more exclusive events — with space for up to 60 attendees — as well as a high-end spa and swimming pool.

“This is combined with an excellent range of services and infrastructure — from five-star resorts to one-of-a-kind boutique hotels, creative incentive travel operators with extensive experience, the ultimate in luxury transportation, multilingual guides, venues for themed events and gourmet cuisine,” says Jose Cangiano, president of the Costa Rica Convention Bureau. “In Costa Rica, you can have creative teambuilding activities, one-of-a-kind theme parties, and the possibility of including social responsibility work as part of the programs.”

Cangiano adds that some of the industries drawn to Costa Rica include pharmaceutical, automotive, and insurance, as well as the food sector. Recently, farming product company Winfield Solutions, a division of Minneapolis-based Land O’Lakes, brought 500 attendees to the Costa Rica Marriott. 
Taking over 294 rooms for a six-day program, the group took advantage of the property’s almost 13,000 square feet of meeting space spread over 28 rooms. Off site, visitors focused on Costa Rica’s agricultural riches, with visits to organic pineapple farms, as well as farming locations for bananas and coffee.

“Tourists can enjoy the country all year-round, but most prefer the dry season from November to April,” adds Cangiano. “However, many travel during the rainy low season from May to October, when the greenery is lusher.”

Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is bursting with gaming options, with more than 20 casino hotels in the capital city of Santa Domingo alone. The destination, occupying two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, is easily accessible, with eight international airports in the country, and offers no shortage of meeting space and group activities. 

“Hosting an event in an international destination serves as an added incentive for meeting attendees; it boosts morale, increases attendance and raises excitement amongst group members,” says Sergio Taveras, meeting executive at Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort.

Located on the shores of the picturesque Punta Cana area of the Dominican Republic, the all-inclusive property offers customizable team-building activities, nine restaurants, and entertainment that suits the needs of each individual in the group, all located on the property. In addition to its casino, visitors can visit the property’s nightclub, spa, or 18-hole golf course.

“Meeting groups have many advantages including access to one of the world’s best beaches and tailored experiences that integrate local culture like rum and cigar tastings and merengue dance classes,” adds Taveras. 

It is also adjacent to one of the largest convention centers in the country — the 123,785-square-foot Barceló Bávaro Convention Center. It includes 24 meeting spaces, ranging in size from 100 square feet to more than 5,000 square feet.

A nearby gaming property offering meeting space is the Paradisus Punta Cana Resort, with 2,287 square feet of space across 12 meeting rooms. Also close by is the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, which has a total of 65,000 square feet of flexible meeting space as well as its own convention center that is attached to its main building. The Dominican Fiesta Hotel & Casino includes the largest convention center in Santo Domingo — with the capacity for 2,000 attendees, and can be divided up into six rooms.