Points to ponder when holding confab at casino July 21, 2001 Share 1 -- oordinating a conference or convention at a gaming destination such as Las Vegas or Atlantic City, N.J., is a special challenge for meeting planners because of the need to do business despite the lure of the tables. The following are some things for planners to consider as they work to build a successful event while taking advantage of the options that gaming destinations have to offer:From the hotels' perspective, the gaming is more important than the meetings. They would like your business, but they also want to see the attendees on the casino floor.Hotel casinos do most of their business on weekends from leisure tourists; therefore, they prefer to host meetings during the week.In order to keep the attention of meeting-goers, make sure the itinerary is packed with strong speakers and great educational sessions. Also, structure agendas with sessions divided into two parts so that the attendees are pulled back into the room after a break.Find the right balance of work time and play time. Attendees generally will want to hit the casinos. Also, scheduling activities during leisure time at a gaming destination doesn't require much planning because there already is plenty to do.Another strategy to keep attendees from drifting off to the slot machines is to offer big and interesting giveaways that demand their presence or participation.Some attendees might not like to gamble for fear of blowing their savings, or perhaps they haven't learned how. Most major casinos offer instruction for the uninitiated. Some even offer cash-free blackjack tournaments where participants earn points for prizes.Where there is gambling there is smoke from cigarettes and cigars. Smoke-free card tables can be arranged, but it is best to work these things out with the property.Casino resorts and hotels are large operations with a multitude of staff. Meeting planners should acquaint themselves with department managers and other key personnel in the event that their main contact is unavailable. The staff is more likely to assist with an on-site problem if a relationship has been already established.Casino properties are designed so that all paths lead to the gambling area. Pay attention to the location of the meeting rooms. Chances are if attendees have to walk by casinos en route to the sessions, a few will be tempted by the lure of a deck of cards.Instead of arranging formal lunches for the meeting, it is much less costly to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffets that are staples among gaming properties. Buffet vouchers can be handed out, and planners can arrange to pay for only the vouchers that get used.Casinos provide entertainment that planners can schedule into their program. Again, it is generally cheaper for planners to book the in-house show as opposed to producing one themselves. The drawback is that the in-house show probably will not be specific to the meeting group, so it is best not to make it the main event.Some planners recommend providing at least one off-site function so attendees can get a break from the casino and have something else to look forward to.Ultimately, the attendees want to feel a sense of camaraderie at a meeting even with all the noise and excitement around them. Planners should be sensitive to their needs and ask about their experience in post-meeting surveys.