At 6-foot-5, Michael Massari, chief sales officer for Caesars Entertainment, is hard to miss. So are his accomplishments.

Since 1998, Massari has helped elevate Caesars Entertainment into a national leader for meetings and events. Now, behind a wave of brand-redefining investments in new venues, experiences and technology, he and the company are aiming even higher.

CAESARS FORUM alone makes an imperial statement about Caesars’ ambitions.

“With meetings and events at the heart of what we do, CAESARS FORUM was created to provide [customers] with access to the best meeting space in the world,” Massari said.

Slated for 2020, the $375 million project will create 550,000 square feet of conferencing and event space for 10,000 delegates, seamlessly connected to Caesars’ open-air LINQ Promenade.

Inspired by ancient Rome’s places of public assembly, the venue’s dazzling dimensions include the world’s largest two pillarless ballrooms, each 110,000 square feet, and adjacent 100,000-square-foot outdoor events plaza. Plus, it will feature direct access to 8,500-plus rooms at Harrah’s Las Vegas, the LINQ and Flamingo hotels, with proximity to Caesars’ 20,000 rooms overall. The project signifies Caesars’ entrepreneurial moxie.

“Las Vegas is a place of great independence and can-do spirit,” Massari said. “We hire smart, talented people and give them the latitude to think outside of the norm and try new ideas.”

The team is living up to the opportunity.

Opened in November 2018, the $20 million FLY LINQ zipline sends 10 seated or flying riders 12 stories above the length of the LINQ Promenade. Caesars is also partnering with Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell and a leading Hollywood visual effects team to create Kind Heaven, an immersive Southeast Asian-inspired augmented reality experience.

Since 2014, Caesars has renovated 67 percent of its roughly 23,150 Vegas rooms, including some 3,735 rooms last year. These include Flamingo Las Vegas. Turning 75 in 2021, the 3,500-plus-room heritage property unveiled a $90 million revamp of 1,270 rooms and suites last April 2018. December 2018 saw the debut of 14 unique bunk bed rooms and three upscale bunk bed suites, part of a second-phase, $156 million, 976-room revamp of the Flamingo.

Flamingo Las Vegas Bunk Bed Room (Rendering), Credit: Caesars Entertainment
Flamingo Las Vegas Bunk Bed Room (Rendering), Credit: Caesars Entertainment

Following January 2018’s smash debut of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, the British invasion of Caesars Palace continues with the anticipated early 2019 debut of the buyout-capable, 100-capacity Vanderpump Cocktail Garden from London-born restaurateur Lisa Vanderpump.

In November 2018, departing Caesars Entertainment CEO Mark Frissora announced a 10-year extension of Caesars’ partnership with Nobu in Las Vegas. Plans include refreshing Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace’s 182 guest rooms and “innovative technology enhancements.”

NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens joined Frissora for the November 2018 debut of The Book at The LINQ Hotel & Casino. This socially driven sports book features high-touch technology and mobile opportunities such as virtual reality, self-serve beer taps and robot servers.

The Book at The LINQ Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Credit: Caesars Entertainment
The Book at The LINQ Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Credit: Caesars Entertainment

Groups can rent the entire 220-seat, 11,000-square-foot space, which also features a dozen fully outfitted Fan Caves. These “rentable living rooms” are the testing ground for Caesars’ experimental “Casino of the Future.” Pilot programs include smartwatch applications that alert team members to loyalty guest arrivals and provide their profiles for personalized service.

It’s all part of Caesars’ intentional transformation into a “digital first” enterprise.

Reinventing a Las Vegas Hospitality Icon

Recently featured in CIO Magazine, the multimillion-dollar initiative seeks to “optimize market opportunities for new revenue” and position Caesars as a “digital leader in technology.”

The enterprise-wide, cloud-based effort includes a new lodging management system, new 360-degree customer view in Salesforce, and redesigned total rewards app.

Guests also rely on Ivy, Caesars’ artificial intelligence-powered virtual concierge.

This post-restructuring flourish was forged in the crucible of bankruptcy.

“We had to figure out how to win without a full set of resources, which limited our spectrum and effectiveness,” Massari said. “Going through the process helped to sharpen our strategic and operational focus. It’s a unique overlap that rarely happens, but we emerged with new tools to play with, and it’s back to the fun.”

The exuberance is grounded in reality.

“It takes fiscal discipline to create something that never existed before, like the world’s two largest ballrooms, or to renovate thousands of hotel rooms,” Massari said.

“People often differentiate between savings or growth modes,” he added. “I don’t find it that way—you are constantly in both. Save the dumb money so you can spend the smart money.”

Caesars is also serious about safety.

“There’s relative security and absolute security,” Massari explained. “Not every property has the people and resources for in-house emergency response teams, but in Las Vegas, at our properties and others, we have both internal EMT and SWAT teams at the ready.

“While we are not 100 percent safe—the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting taught us that—our approach to security and new ways of thinking make us the safest place to meet in Las Vegas.”

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