Public poker tournaments, especially regional and nationally televised events, are growing in popularity. But what about a private group tournament held at the casino in conjunction with your meeting? Feasible? Fun? The second one definitely applies, but there are some important things to keep in mind. The gaming world is highly regulated, with each state having its own commission and rules. Additionally, there are Indian Gaming Commissions (IGC) that have contracts with the state. If the intended destination is a tribal casino, contact the state IGC.
Find out if private tournaments are allowed in the state where your casino is located. An online search of the state’s gaming laws is a good place to start; however, it can be difficult to sift through the many pages. It’s better to call either the Gaming Commission’s office or the casino property. Be prepared that it may take time to get the answer.
Think about the group’s makeup and size. It’s probably best if you have attendees who have already played different casino games. If a group is allowed to host its own tournament, there is usually a minimum or maximum number of players. When playing any type of legal gambling in a casino, they get a cut. This will not differ if it’s a private tournament (although the percentage may change).
If the state and casino authorize a private tournament, times and hours will be set by the casino. Also, your event cannot conflict with the casino’s public tournaments. There may be only one game allowed - electronic slots - or several. Some casinos in the Midwest do not offer all games found in Las Vegas (Minnesota tribal casinos, for instance).
Lead-time can be up to 60-90 days. The State (or Tribal)
Gaming Commission requires advance information on the number of days, hours per day (start and end times), attendance and assurance that only those in your group are playing. Afterwards, you will need to submit the winners’ names and prizes (dollar amount) to the State and ensure they are posted at the casino (first initial, last name).
You need a leader. The leader might be a casino manager or coordinator working with the planner to run the tournament.
A Look at Three Midwest Casinos that Allow Private Tournaments
• Horseshoe Hammond Casino, Hammond, IN
While this casino is famous for hosting the Chicago Poker Classic, they also allow for private events. Maggie DiVincenzo, Sales Manager for Caesars Entertainment Corporation, stated The Venue (private event space inside the casino) could hold up to 500 people for poker. Horseshoe would assess feasibility on a case-by-case basis. In any tournament, players use real money, have a minimum buy-in and set days and hours are defined. She noted that charity tournaments are also part of the “game,” but need about six months lead time to obtain proper licensing and compliance. www.horseshoehammond.com
• Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf, Bettendorf, IA
The Isle in Bettendorf initiated the idea of private group tournaments to accompany group hotel and convention bookings as an enhancement to its offerings. Donyelle DeVore-Kemp, Senior Director of Marketing, shared there is a special area in the casino for slot tournaments. The Isle can accommodate several hundred people throughout the day or evening. DeVore-Kemp stated The Bettendorf Isle is considering blackjack as another tournament game, if the group is the right size and fit. Basic planner rules: submit the guestimate on number of players and times, allow 60-90 days lead time and report the days, hours, prizes and winners to Iowa’s Gaming Commission. bettendorf.isleofcapricasinos.com/ tournament game
• Turtle Creek Casino/Grand Traverse Resort & Hotel, MI
The casino and resort are both owned by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Thus, the group playing at Turtle Creek may be staying at Grand Traverse. J. Michael DeAgostino, Public Relations Manager, related that Turtle Creek Casino accommodates private group tournaments for up to 100 people as follows: Poker in multiples of 10, Blackjack… 6 and Slots… 12. The tournament takes place on the gaming floor, with the casino providing a coordinator to help the group set it up. turtlecreekcasino.com www.grandtraverseresort.com
- Determine how important a private tournament is to the meeting.
- Be persistent - it may take time to get answers.
- Suggest the concept if the casino has not put on one before.
- Allow enough time to plan.
- Ensure all proper reporting is completed before and after.
- Check on where food and beverage can be served and who pays.
- Inform players about all rules and buy-in amounts.
- Take lots of photos!
Sally Magallanes, CMP, has been a freelance writer and editor for over 15 years. She wrote extensively for MPI-Chicago Area Chapter’s former print piece, News & Views. Other specialties include proofreading, research pieces, biographical profiles, website content, marketing, e-newsletters and developing mission statements. She has been a full-time and freelance meeting professional for over 20 years, working with corporate, medical and non-profit groups. Ms. Magallanes has a BS in Hospitality Management, Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL.