Economics and Tribal Entertainment Programs

Six tips for regional operators

Today’s world is so vastly different from the pre COVID world, that it bears an overview. Entertainment (concerts, lounges, special events, etc.) in your casino, have gotten very challenging to understand and budget. So much just doesn’t make sense.

COVID impacted our pricing and costs for casino entertainment – understanding the changes four years later

Briefly, pre COVID, we had well-established pricing and costs for our events and for the artists we were working with. COVID created a quantum shift in the overall world consciousness and threw everyone into a different mindset. The impact on entertainers/artists, was a revaluation of their careers, performance and touring plans and the actual costs for their business. Costs went through the roof. The labor these artists required to tour and perform got crazy expensive and many of those people just decided to stay home verses going on the road. Bus companies, trucking companies and drivers got more expensive, gas and per diems got more expensive. These additional costs got passed on to entertainment buyers, like casinos.

On the flip side, as you all know, your internal casino labor force diminished considerably. People just decided to stay home. Finding qualified candidates for your property got to be a real challenge and the people you found wanted a lot more money and benefits. Many of you have been forced to close down some of your internal business operations and re-evaluate what those are.

Moreover, in every region, people’s disposable income dried up. Your customer became and has become very picky about what they spend their money on. The big national promoters like Live Nation, AEG and others, started packaging numerous groups, which would previously have been available to casino properties, into festival type events with very wide and serious radius clauses. These big festivals like Bottle Rock, Stagecoach, Coachella, After Shock, Country Thunder, Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Austin City Limits … the list goes on and on, basically are changing the landscape we deal in.

Today: everything costs a lot more.

It’s become more and more challenging to get the right artist for a specific date. Agents all want mutually agreeable offers with no specific date. Then they gather all of these offers together and figure out the routing and very well may come back to you with a mid-week date, not your preferred date. Additionally trying to bargain on price is not even an option. The new model is to look for quality not quantity. And be ready to pay inflated prices, that quite often make no sense or justification based on ticket history.

This all sounds like a stressful process, but it is the world we are living in today. Entertainment programs are and will continue to be a very strong part of your brand. As a casino property, you have many amenities to offer an artist. That’s one of the reasons so many of the older, established “rock stars” are doing limited time residencies in Las Vegas. Their overhead is very low, the Vegas casinos offer beautiful state of the art venues, accommodations and much more. The idea behind this is instead of touring around the country, your fans come to you. I’m sure you can see the cost savings for the artist.

How do regional casinos compete and succeed in this challenging environment? Here are six pointers:

  1. Understand your regional competition. Whether its local festivals, fairs other properties etc. What are they doing?
  2. Get real about costs and budget. If you want success today, you are going to need to spend a little more money. Costs are up and bargaining about the price doesn’t work like it used to. Speak to the powers that be and educate them.
  3. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Make sure you have put together a tech/info pack for your casino venue. Create an addendum noting what you will do and what you cannot do. Be very transparent and up front.
  4. Understand that NO is your second best answer. Be prepared to move on when things are moving in the wrong direction. Always establish a bucket list of artists that you have preapproved and always have an expiration date on your offers.
  5. Be organized and honestly speaking, use a qualified talent buyer. These people have the relationships and can get you more options and realistic prices. Just make sure you prequalify these people. Check references and other properties they may work with.
  6. The objective is to create a team for your events. That team needs to include your outside or internal production team, your talent buyer and your internal day of show and entertainment manager.

It’s a very convoluted world we live in today, especially since we are in an election year. People want to get out and they want a fun experience. Offer them quality entertainment choices, whether in your lounge or in your event center. And above all, be consistent with your strategy and direction.

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