By Debby Woodin
A Laughlin, Nev., casino resort will begin offering package deals periodically with round-trip flights from the Joplin Regional Airport.
Riverside Casino and Resort soon will start selling its first trip from Joplin. The trip will leave Joplin on Monday, Feb. 11, and return on Friday, Feb. 15. The cost for the airfare and four nights at the resort starts at $270.
Loyd Shires, marketing director for the resort, rotates the trips from airports in 64 cities in 29 Midwestern and Pacific Northwest states at various times during the year.
“This time in the winter, when people are more likely to come from the Midwest for the warm weather, we have 10 to 14 flights a week from different cities,” Shires said. He said the junkets typically are offered about every four to six weeks if enough travelers book them.
Joplin will take the place of a similar deal the resort had offered from the Springfield airport, he said. The company currently offers similar trips from the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and from Tulsa, Okla.
Shires said Joplin became a prospect for the charter trips because of its proximity to other states.
The flights are booked on a 737-series jet operated by Sun Country Airlines. Travelers are flown to Laughlin, on the Colorado River about 90 miles south of Las Vegas.
“We have just about everything Las Vegas has without the traffic and congestion,” Shires said of Riverside, which is owned by the person after whom the city is named, Don Laughlin. The resort has 1,404 rooms, a casino, a bowling center, movie theaters, nightly entertainment in its lounges, and occasional concerts with performers such as Vince Gill and Martina McBride, Shires said.
Nine casinos are located on a boardwalk at the river. “The river flows right past our casino, so just about every one of our rooms has a view of the river,” Shires said.
Told that there are a number of tribal-run casinos in the Joplin area, Shires said, “People look at tribal casinos as being competition, and it is, but I also look at it as they’re training gamblers for us.”
Sean Harrison, spokesman for Downstream Casino Resort west of Joplin, said: “These junkets are commonplace. We’ve done junkets. Lots of casinos have done junkets. Yes, it’s competition, but we feel like with Downstream, we’ve brought the Vegas experience here.”
People may want to try a trip like Riverside is offering, he said, “but I think they’ll find they have a Vegas style they can drive to for a lot less.”
RIVERSIDE CASINO AND RESORT, which opened in 1966, flew 70,000 visitors to its casino resort last year, a casino spokesman said.