by Terry Matthews-Lombardo, CMP
Families and casinos – two words you don’t very often hear being spoken in the same sentence. And yet let’s face it, plenty of families travel together through thick and thin. So that means if mom or dad have to attend a meeting that’s being held at a gambling facility, Junior might just be coming along as well!
Do make sure that the casino you’re staying at is family friendly before you start encouraging everyone to bring their clans. Many are, but just as many are strictly business, offering only a casino and no additional activities to keep the little ones happy and busy. Don’t assume anything until you’ve done a thorough check.
Once you’ve determined that the venue is inclusive for families, make sure you check out all areas that are targeted for the kids – pools, playgrounds, child care zones, baby-sitting services, food outlets, arcades and all things in between. Not that a casino has to offer all these things, but you need to be aware of what options are there, what the operating hours are as well as any age restrictions, and then make sure you market this to your attendees with as many details as possible. Getting Junior excited about the video arcade and then finding out he’s not old enough to play there is never a good thing.
When traveling with kids, call ahead to ask specific questions about issues that are deal breakers to you and your children. Options like in-room movie channels for kids, 24-hour room service (with those all-important chicken fingers and mac & cheese), hiring private baby-sitters, the availability of in-room cribs and lifeguards at the pool as well as overall security should never be implicit; and if these are critically important issues to your family friendly vacation, make it a priority to know ahead of time.
Know the casino rules and review them with your family members at arrival. In most casinos, children are not even allowed to walk through the gambling areas and when caught doing so will be immediately escorted out. This can be quite intimidating for a kid who is just trying to find their parent. Better that you discuss this up front, as well as the ground rules for exactly where to contact and/or meet up with mom and dad when the time comes.
Many casino resorts have full-scale activity programs for specific aged kids. Generally you will sign your child in/out at pre-arranged times and in return that child will be in a completely supervised environment for the pre-determined length of time. These are great options for families whose parents are attending meetings. Just make sure that the child also knows what activities are included and what might be optional as well as the estimated time you’ll be back to get them. Don’t forget to assure them that you’re not far away if needed.
For many planners, booking a business program into a family friendly gaming facility can be a big attendance booster. And with all the full-scale resort options now available in many gambling destinations it’s a popular option, even for groups who have never done this before. Just remember there will be a bit of a learning curve for you, as the planner booking and marketing the program, as well as the attendees and their families.