Roll the Dice: Host Your Event at These Midwest Casinos
For groups seeking a venue with a variety of on-site activities to entertain their guests, casinos can provide an appealing option.
By Nikki Kallio | Potawatomi Casino Hotel © Visit Milwaukee
For groups seeking a venue with a variety of on-site activities to entertain their guests — while also feeling confident they’ve booked a site that meets their technology needs — casino resort-conference centers can provide an appealing option.
“Obviously, having an event here at a casino/gaming property is unique because of the fun activities we have to offer after your meetings,” says Dave Abangan, group sales manager for Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells. Casino staff can work with meeting organizers and planners to execute the meeting setup, audiovisual technology, food service and other needs.
The round-the-clock entertainment value of casino gaming is, of course, a big draw, giving “the meeting planner peace of mind that there’s something to do right at the property around their meeting agenda,” says Timothy Adams, director of sales & catering at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich.
Casino staff also can incorporate specific gaming activities into a visiting group’s schedule. “For instance, we’ll have groups do slot or poker tournaments,” Adams says. “We’ll have times where the pit bosses can give them tutorials, so groups can go out there maybe during their cocktail hour or reception and learn how to bet on craps and how the game is played.”
But gaming is only the beginning of the entertainment options. “The other nice part of being in a casino is all the food and beverage options that we have right on-property,” Adams says. “A lot of groups want different things available for their attendees, and most casinos have a full array of different food styles and price-point restaurant options.”
Guests also can take advantage of on-site scheduled entertainment like musical groups. Four Winds has staff to help set up DJs, live bands, comedians, magicians and other entertainment for visiting groups, Adams says.
Hosting an event at a casino is basically “a blank canvas for anyone to meet with our staff to create whatever sort of environment they want to create here,” Abangan says.
The Ho-Chunk casino recently held special events in Wisconsin Dells, including pool tournaments, with 60 to 70 pool tables brought in and set up in the convention space, and cornhole tournaments. The casino also has exterior space available. “Our parking lot is a pretty huge area where people can create any sort of outdoor events,” Abangan says.
This past summer, the Ho-Chunk casino hosted a fundraising event with a car show featuring hundreds of vehicles as well as vendors and food trucks. It also hosted a show featuring three-wheeled motorcycles (known as “slingshots”).
Casinos also can help groups set up tee times at golf courses and work with tour operators to get guests to wineries and breweries, for example. “We can arrange those for groups and get a discount for them and those services come and pick them up right here,” Adams says. “So that’s a nice little plus.”
Additionally, the communities that host casinos are sometimes packed with even more attractions.
“The Dells itself has its own reputation as far as a destination for tourism and travel,” Abangan says. The southern Wisconsin community offers multiple amusement parks, museums, interactive venues like Robot World, wineries, microbreweries and river tours of the area’s unique sandstone formations. Nearby, Baraboo offers Circus World museum and Devil’s Lake State Park. “If that isn’t enough to entice somebody to have their meeting here, we’re also centrally located.” Situated equidistant from Minneapolis, Chicago and northern Wisconsin, the casino provides a convenient meeting point. Likewise, the Four Winds casino has an ideal location “out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of everywhere,” Adams says. With the Chicago area as one of Four Winds’ major markets, the casino is two states away but is just an hour’s drive or so. “With the change of time, I tell people, ‘It takes an hour to get there, but you’re back in no time.’”
This casino-convention center in south-central Wisconsin has more than 30,000 square feet of space to accommodate trade shows and other events, with upstairs and downstairs ballrooms that can comfortably accommodate between 300 and 1,000 people. The facility also has board rooms for small meetings. Ho-Chunk is in the process of upgrading all its audiovisual equipment, with completion planned for summer 2024. The Ho-Chunk Nation has five other gaming properties in Wisconsin, and visitors can use their player’s club rewards card at all locations. The Ho-Chunk Nation also has received state and federal approval to build a new casino-convention center in Beloit, Wis., on a 32-acre site along interstates 39/90, and the new facility may include an indoor waterpark. A completion date for the property hasn’t yet been finalized.
A 2012 expansion at Four Winds’ facility in New Buffalo, which is along Lake Michigan at the southwestern tip of Michigan, boosted hotel capacity from 165 rooms to 415 and added a Hard Rock Café that has now transitioned to casino ownership. It also opened the 18,000-square-foot Silver Creek Event Center, which is divided into six sections and offers meeting and banquet space to groups from 20 to 800 or more, as well as headliner entertainment that can seat 1,700 people. Four Winds’ South Bend facility, which opened in 2018, also has expanded with more table games, new restaurants, and a 23-story hotel tower that opened in March 2023. The second-floor level has 24,000 square feet of event space including an 8,800-square foot ballroom and 11 other conference rooms. Four Winds also recently opened a full resort-style spa with 10 treatment rooms at this location.
Potawatomi Casino Hotel in Milwaukee can accommodate conferences, trade shows, galas, events and meetings from intimate gatherings to 3,000 guests. Working with teams including a catering manager, the casino hotel can plan menus and events. In addition to 2,500- plus slots, bingo, live and electronic gaming tables, it also hosts several restaurants including Asian fare, a steakhouse, American food café and the Rock & Brews Restaurant launched by KISS band members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. There are also bars, a coffee shop and marketplace with upscale fast food offerings. The property just completed a $100 million renovation project that expanded its food, gaming and entertainment offerings.
With five resort locations in Iowa, southern Illinois and central Nebraska, Elite Casinos offers plenty of location and activity options for meeting and event planners. Riverside Casino & Golf Resort near Iowa City, for example, offers a world-class golf venue and Vegas-style casino. The Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort is situated just outside Sioux Falls, S.D., and features a spa and 12,000 square feet of meeting space with breakout rooms and smaller meeting spaces. The casino will bring certain casino games including punch boards and slot tourna- ments to your meeting.
This Potawatomi Nation resort in Mayetta, Kan., features 1,200 slot games, 25 table games, a Bingo Hall, a spa, and seven restaurant, coffee and bar venues. Its event spaces include the 12,000-square-foot, 1,100-seat Great Lakes Ballroom, which can be divided into smaller meeting spaces. The resort also features an RV park with shuttle service to the resort. Just a short walk across the street, visitors will find the Firekeeper Golf Course, named the best course in Kansas by Golfweek magazine.
River City in St. Louis features more than 10,000 square feet of flexible conference space, including an Event Center with a 23-foot LCD screen and stage. The venue features 200 four-star guestrooms, five restaurants and culinary experts that will design a menu for your event. The casino also offers staff planners to help you with your event, and when your attendees are done with meetings, they can enjoy 90,000-square-feet of gaming options, including slots and tables and a Baccarat room.
In addition to table games and more than 2,500 slots, MotorCity Casino in Detroit has over three dozen event spaces ranging from small board rooms for groups of 10 to a nearly 18,000-square-foot ballroom. The casino’s 13,000-square-foot D.Tour Urban Spa Experience features 10 treatment rooms as well as steam rooms, saunas, thermal whirlpools and rain showers. The casino resort also hosts a fitness center as well as shuttles to Tigers, Lions, Pistons and Red Wings games and concerts.
Nikki Kallio is a writer and editor who has worked as a journalist for daily newspapers and magazines in Wisconsin, Maine and California. She also is the author of an acclaimed short fiction collection, Finding the Bones, published this year by Cornerstone Press.
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