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Planning a meeting or an incentive trip often involves taking chances. Just like a game of blackjack, the next card dealt could make you a winner or loser. But like any game of chance, you can improve your odds at winning by choosing the right place to play. Nevada is one of those places where planners don't have to gamble.

"Whether your visit takes you to our fabulous gaming capitals of Las Vegas, Reno, Lake Tahoe, or Laughlin, or to our quieter rural areas where you'll find action and excitement in a more relaxed setting, there's no place like Nevada," says governor Bob Miller. "Here, you'll enjoy an extraordinary mix of history and culture, wide open spaces, magnificent ski resorts, challenging golf courses, and our legendary brand of gaming and entertainment."

This extraordinary mix has kept meeting and incentive travel planners happy for decades, as Nevada has become one of the world's most popular places to meet (and play). From the glittering resort, gaming, and entertainment centers to the great outdoors, Nevada provides perfect venues for any group or individual. Add to this a wide array of state-of-the-art resorts, hotels, and meeting facilities and it's easy to see why Nevada has made a winner out of many meeting planners.

"Nevada has everything," says Thomas G. Tait, executive director for the Nevada Commission on Tourism. "Our action is 24 hours a day. We are the only state that can consistently offer round-the-clock entertainment, food, and activities to visitors."


If you haven't been to Las Vegas lately, you'll find a new age of resorts and amenities has evolved. "Las Vegas has emerged as one of the world's finest meeting and incentive destinations," says Manuel J. Cortez, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "The city continues to reinvent itself, adding five major new resorts, 20,000 rooms, and more than 2,000 million square feet of meeting space in the next five years."

The dawn of the new era emerged with the opening of theme megaresorts like Caesars Palace, Circus Circus, Excalibur, and The Mirage. When the Luxor, Treasure Island, MGM Grand, and Grand Slam Canyon opened at a cost of more than $2 billion in late-1993, the face and ambience of Las Vegas meeting and incentive travel changed forever.

Rave reviews of the Hard Rock Hotel (1995), Monte Carlo and The Orleans (both in 1996), and New York-New York and Sunset Station (both in 1997) have continued the success of the megaresort era. The Fremont Street Experience added more to the mix in 1995, turning five blocks of downtown's Glitter Gulch into a traffic-free dynamic pedestrian zone lined with world-famous casinos and wrapped in stereophonic sound and light shows.

More recently, The opening of the mile-long MGM Grand-Bally's Monorail is the start of what futurists hope will eventually link Las Vegas resorts, McCarran International Airport, and the Las Vegas Convention Center. Other unique attractions, like the 1,149-foot-high Stratosphere Tower (America's tallest free-standing observation tower and the tallest building west of the Mississippi) and Star Trek: The Experience, have continued the enhancement of the new era in Las Vegas.

On the eve of the new millennium, builders are creating new megaresorts and attractions to explore the worlds of space, magic, romance, and elegance. Las Vegas had more than 105,000 rooms in early-1998, but the number of rooms and attractions never seem to stop growing. Openings on the horizon include: Italian-themed Bellagio (1998, 3,000 rooms); French-themed Paris Casino Resort (1999, 2,900 rooms); expansion plans for the MGM Grand (more than 2,000 new rooms and many new amenities); the huge Mandalay Bay hotel-casino-entertainment complex (1999, 3,700 rooms); the Venetian Casino Resort (3,036 rooms in 1999 and 3,000 more rooms later); and the Aladdin Hotel Casino and Planet Hollywood Music Hotel (late-1999 or 2000, 3,600 rooms).

The Las Vegas McCarran International Airport has also played a major role in the success of southern Nevada meetings and incentive trips. With more than 800 flights a day and direct connections to 62 U.S. airports and nine international destinations, it's among the ten busiest airports in the world.

But all of this new era of possibilities wouldn't draw meeting and incentive business without great business-oriented facilities. As expected, Las Vegas has facilities on a grand scale.

The bustling Las Vegas Convention Center has a total of 1.6 million square feet, with 1.3 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space available in its 97 meeting rooms. An additional 100,000 square feet of space is available at the Cashman Field facility and the Sands Expo Center one million square feet that will eventually be connected to the Venetian Hotel in the first half of 1999.

A $44.6 million expansion of the convention center will be completed later this year, adding 279,000 square feet of exhibit space and 42,000 square feet of meeting space. A visitor center will be built, with a walkway connecting it to the main center.

On the resort front, the space options are nothing short of phenomenal. The all-encompassing "Las Vegas Meeting & Convention Planning Guide" lists an incredible 62 properties with meeting and convention space, adding up to more than 1.8 million square feet of hotel possibilities.

"Las Vegas is always improving it's product," says John Yaskin, the southern Nevada chair of the governor's conference planning committee and vice-president of hotel sales at Caesars Palace. "The new era of resorts and entertainment options will continue into the millennium."

As can be expected, there's always something new coming in Las Vegas. The following summary will help, but helpful local Convention & Visitors Authority contacts can provide an update of the ever-changing and -improving menu.

The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip recently opened an elegant and well-appointed 380,000-square-foot conference center at a cost of $80 million. The target market is generally Fortune 500 companies. MGM Grand CFO Jim Murren says, "It is our most important competive weapon for 1999."

According to Martie Sparks, assistant vice president of convention services, the average conference attendee will earn more than $75,000 and will spend 40-50% more on gambling that typical leisure visitors. The center, which has 45 meeting rooms, includes wood trim, artwork, paintings, elegant hallways, and views of the Strip. It will eventually be linked to the 1,500-room Marriott Hotel, which will open in 2000 behind the existing MGM Grand.

The Riviera Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip plans to open an 85,000-square-foot convention and visitors center in late-1999. The new facility, located behind the famed Strip hotel, will accommodate up to 5,700 people with bleacher seating and sky boxes. The center is designed for conventions and entertainment events.

Of course, many of the new properties slated to be built and open in the next five years will include a wide range of modern meeting facilities. Like all of Las Vegas, you have to see all of the facilities and changes to believe them.

"Years ago, we didn't consider Las Vegas as a viable meeting site for us," says Kim Gutierrez, director of meetings and conventions for Abbey Carpet Co. Inc., a large franchisor of carpet stores based near Naples, Florida. "But they've enhanced and expanded their facilities and service so much that we went there and already have plans to go back. As an example, we were able to do everything right at Caesars Palace."

Along with great resorts and meeting spaces, the city's famed entertainment options draw many first-time and repeat visitors. Quite simply, Las Vegas marquees are the envy of the world and it's easy to see why the city is the "Entertainment Capital of the World."

Marquees blast in giant signage performances by Celine Dion, Natalie Cole, Bill Cosby, Liza Minelli, Julio Iglesias, Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield, Tom Jones, Barbara Mandrell, and virtually every other name on the nightclub and concert circuit. Long-running production shows booked at several resort hotels allow visitors a wide variety of choices, ranging from EFX, a special effects spectacular, to the lavish costumed Folies Bergere, which has been on the Las Vegas Strip since the 1960s.

Lounge entertainment and the wide range of resort shows, shopping, dining, museums, and more mean there's never a dull moment inside any Las Vegas resort or attraction. As can be expected, there are a wide range of convention services and operators to arrange unique events. There are more than 50 destination management companies located in the city, with names like Inventive Incentives and Convention Ease providing a hint of the help available.

The phenomenal range of unique facilities and entertainment options may keep many meeting attendees indoors day and night, but many active meeting and incentive planners have also discovered the great outdoors just outside greater Las Vegas. A wide range of day-trip outings include famed Red Rock Canyon, Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam, Mt. Charleston, golf, air tours, the Grand Canyon, and much more. Though many Las Vegas visitors find enough to do without ever leaving their resort, the entire area just keeps getting better inside and out.


Just 90 miles to the southeast of Las Vegas, Laughlin is a great meeting and incentive destination in its own right and is also an ideal multi-day excursion possibility. The year-round playground basks in near-perfect weather, while offering 11,000 resort hotel rooms, star entertainment, a multitude of world-class casinos, the natural wonders of the Mohave Desert, and a flood of water-related activities on the Colorado River.

Entrepreneur Don Laughlin envisioned a resort destination when he first flew over the area in 1966. He bought a boarded-up motel that evolved into the 28-story, 10,405-room Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino, the cornerstone of one of the fastest-growing communities and resort destinations in the state.

By 1972, there were three casinos and a permanent population of 100. But now, more than 14,000 Nevada and Arizona residents now work in the varied list of Laughlin resorts--the Riverside, Golden Nugget Laughlin, Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall, The Regency Casino, the Edgewater Hotel & Casino, Gold River Gambling Hall and Resort, The Colorado Belle Hotel/Casino, The Ramada Express, Harrah's Laughlin, Flamingo Hilton Laughlin, Bay Shore Inn, and Crystal Palace Motel.

The city's namesake developer eventually built a $3.5 million bridge to connect his city with Arizona and then proceeded to donate it to the two states. Downstream, another bridge connects Arizona to the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, the site of the Avi Hotel & Casino. Because of the popularity of Laughlin, officials are studying sites for a third bridge.

Laughlin's meeting facilities are excellent, with almost 50,000 square feet available at five resorts. The possibilities include 16,248 square feet at Gold River Resort & Casino, 12,200 at Riverside, and more than 5,000 square feet each at Ramada Express, the Flamingo Hilton, and Harrah's Laughlin.

Though there are no current plans for new resorts or facilities, the current line-up is ideal for small groups or planners looking for something unique in Nevada. Al Guzman, sales executive for the Laughlin Visitors Bureau, says, "Laughlin is the perfect place for a small meeting, with ideal weather, a totally safe environment, light traffic, and, most important, resorts and meeting staff that really want your business."

Outside the resorts, Laughlin offers lots. The 250,000-square-foot Horizon Outlet Center, located in the heart of the gaming district on Casino Drive, opened in 1996, providing great prices to visitors on a wide range of items. Of course, a wide range of outdoors-oriented outings are just outside town.


Options in the Reno-Sparks-Tahoe area just keep getting bigger and better. From the 370,000-square-foot Reno-Sparks Convention Center to a wide array of resorts, casinos, and entertainment options, the Reno-Tahoe area seemingly has it all. "Of course, convention facilities are just empty space without the service to back it up" says Reno-Sparks C&VA president and CEO J. Phillip Keene III. "Rest assured that Reno-Tahoe's highly experienced convention and visitors bureau staff is here to help you with every detail."

More than 25 years ago, the Peppermill Hotel Casino started as a coffee shop and lounge. Now it boasts 1,070 rooms and more than 30,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. The resort regularly hosts groups from 15 to 1,000, including popular poolside events, with a Sierra Nevada mountain that features a computer-driven wildlife show next to a waterfall cascading into the pool.

Boomtown Hotel Casino, just west of Reno, is living up to its name, with new construction and future expansion plans that will wow meeting planners prospecting for a good time. Work is underway on a seven-story, 200-room addition, as well as an additional 9,000 square feet of meeting space. An 8,000-foot buffet opened last year. In 2000, there is a groundbreaking for a 2,100-room tower that also included 100,000 square feet of additional gaming space, six new restaurants, shopping, an outdoor amusement area, an 18-hole golf course, and much more. Completion of the project in 2004 will make Boomtown northern Nevada's largest resort/gaming entertainment complex.

Those who haven't seen famed Circus Circus Hotel Casino in awhile show look at it anew. Following a $50 million renovation, all 1,572 guest rooms, 84 mini-suites, and 24 suites were redecorated to reflect the elegant European circus period of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Five conference rooms provide lots of flexibility and a new six-story parking garage makes meetings convenient.

Big changes are in the cards for tropically-themed Atlantis Casino Resort. Conveniently located across the street from the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, the 600-room resort will be adding 900 rooms, three additional restaurants, more casino space, and a 40,000s-square-foot convention and special events plaza.

After meetings at the Reno Hilton, guests can enjoy the new show, Aireus, which takes place on the largest proscenium stage in the world. The Reno Hilton is currently the largest hotel/casino in northern Nevada, with 2,001 rooms, 140,000 square feet of meeting space, a shopping mall, two movie theaters, and a state-of-the-art electronic amusement center.

Meeting attendees will be amazed by Silver Legacy's new 120-foot-high automated mining machine that simulates the silver mining process. Northern Nevada's premier themed resort, which opened in 1996, keeps making exciting changes. The new 7,500-square-foot ballroom augments 30,000 square feet of existing convention center space. Other new amenities include a laser show, a high-limit slot pavilion, and Sunday brunch.

The Ramada Plaza Hotel near downtown Reno recently reopened under new management and following a $5 million renovation and the opening of an on-site casino. The facilities include a 5,600-square-foot conference center, with plans to expand to 10,000 square feet already in the works.

John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks leaves nothing to chance when it comes to pleasing meeting planners. The hotel recently added 30,000 square feet of meeting space, bringing the total to 110,000. A new 802-room tower brings the total number of rooms to 1,600 and, this summer, the eighth eatery is opening at the resort.

Along with the Convention Center and hotel meeting space, other options include the Reno Livestock Events Center (35,000 square feet) and the National Bowling Center (80 lanes, 800-seat grandstand, 172-seat theater, and plans for a removable floor to add floor space).

One of Reno's finest theaters is also available for meetings. Reminiscent of San Francisco and New York theaters of the 1930s and 40s, the new 580-seat showroom inside the Eldorado Hotel/Casino showcases art deco-inspired decor. With the recent addition of 12,000 square feet of space, the Eldorado is a perfect meeting site. After meetings, groups can head to the theater for a special event or a performance of the smash-hit Broadway musical, "Smokey Joe's Cafe."

The downtown areas of Reno and Sparks are also going through dramatic changes, including a multi-million-dollar redevelopment project along the Truckee River in Reno and plans for renovation of the historic Riverside Hotel Casino. The city of Sparks, which is adjacent to Reno, is extending its downtown Victorian Square are to provide a movie theater, English Victorian gardens, shopping, dining, and entertainment.

The North Lake Tahoe area is just 38 miles to the southwest and offers a wide array of additional options on the Nevada (north) side. Along with great recreational opportunities on the famed lake from spring to fall, winter brings spectacular skiing and other snow sports options. Lake Tahoe has the highest concentration of ski resorts in the nation and boasts an average of 40 feet of snow annually.

Whether it's a high-level retreat or an incentive reward for top sales producers, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino has outstanding facilities in an awe-inspiring setting. The 458-room property has 23,000 square feet of meeting space and the brand new Lakeside Lodge, a $5 million beachfront meeting facility.

The Cal-Neva Resort on the north shore of Lake Tahoe has been beautifully remodeled to create an atmosphere of relaxation, mingled with a resort mountain flavor. The historic landmark features 15,000 square feet of convention space and the renowned Frank Sinatra Celebrity Showroom, which is a perfect venue for awards dinners and presentations.

A small number of executive retreats are also available on the Nevada side of the lake. Some top options include the All Seasons Resort, Aspen Grove, Club Tahoe Resort, Crystal Bay Club Casino, Diamond Peak Ski Resort, and Third Creek Townhomes and Conference Center. Other unique venues include The Chateau, Sierra Nevada College Residence Hall, and the Incline Village Recreation Center.

Of course, the southern side of Lake Tahoe is in California. Many meeting options also are available on this side of the lake, making this two-state lake a true meeting mecca.

This wide-ranging array of resorts and facilities, combined with the activities options year-round at Lake Tahoe, is what drew the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) to the area. "Our members are really fitness-oriented, so everyone loved the combination of Reno meeting facilities and entertainment with the physical activities available down at Lake Tahoe," says Anna Robinson, their director of conventions. Virginia-based AAHPERD brought 4,500 of its members to the area this past April.


The rest of the state offers a wide variety of outdoors-oriented possibilities. Between Las Vegas and the Reno-Tahoe area, the Pioneer Territory features the sleepy Amargosa Valley and scenes straight out of the Old West, including the Longhorn Cattle Co. in Caliente (great for group outings for a cattle drive, horseback riding, hiking, cookouts, hayrides, and overnight pack trips). To the northeast of Las Vegas, the bustling city of Mesquite offers two resorts with meeting space (13,800 square feet at Player's Island Resort Casino & Spa and 10,000 square feet at Si Redd's Oasis Hotel Casino).

Up in Pony Express Territory, "The Loneliest Road in America" (US Route 50) welcomes visitors to small towns like Fallon and Eureka. Finally, Cattle Country in the north features the new Legends Casino and Lounge in Winnemucca and many guest ranch possibilities that are ideal for unique group getaways.

Perhaps no other state in the nation offers so many unique meeting and incentive possibilities. From Glitter Gulch rising out of the desert in Las Vegas to the peaks around Lake Tahoe, Nevada is never a gamble to planners.

Sources for pictures from appropriate people, if not already C&IT:

--Governor Bob Miller and executive director of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, Thomas G. Tait-call Chris Crystal,      (800) 237-0774.

--Manuel J. Cortez, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority-call Mike Donahue, (702)          735-3611.

--John Yaskin, southern Nevada chair of the governor's conference planning committee and vice-president of hotel sales at    Caesars Palace, (702) 731-7082.

--Kim Gutierrez, director of meetings and conventions for Abbey Carpet Co. Inc., (941) 948-0900.

--Al Guzman, sales executive for the Laughlin Visitors Bureau, (702) 298-3022.

--J. Phillip Keene III, Reno-Sparks C&VA president and CEO--call Carol Tanis, (702) 827-7717.

--Anna Robinson, AAHPERD director of conventions, (703) 476-3475.