Although most casinos have reopened, for our entertainment programs, it is a more wait-and-see situation. For almost all properties, the entertainment component does not get introduced until Phase Four. That would be sometime later in July at the earliest.
In today’s world of fear, unease and social distancing, it is hard to imagine sharing concert experiences like these ever again. I do not know when it will be safe to return to the kinds of entertainment we have grown used to. But I do know that we will do it again, because we must, it is part of our culture. Entertainment is the one distinguishing factor from casino to casino. It is an important part of your overall brand.
Keep your place in line
The discussion happening across the country is first of all, the rescheduling of shows that were already contracted and in place for 2020. You want to keep the energy flowing.
- All of the talent agencies are dealing with this issue, and what they are trying to do is put holds in for dates in 2021. The best plan for casinos is to get on top of 2021 and start putting your general calendar together now. You want to be able to pencil in dates as soon as they become available, so you do not lose your place in line, so to speak.
- You may be holding on to booked dates in the fourth quarter. First of all, make sure that you are checking with your buyer to determine if these are even a reality. Additionally, you should be making a backup plan for those dates to move into 2021.
- The question is if we are going to have any big shows in the last part of 2020, and if so, what artists are going to be wanting to play, and what does that look like for your casino?
Secondly, is how do we reintroduce our entertainment program, whether in our lounges or in our concert venues?
- How do we cut our capacities to adhere to social distancing mandates?
- What will our lounges look like? Will we be able to bring back weekend dance bands?
- Do we ask concert artists to come for multiple days, due to the smaller capacities?
Regional tours could limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 to areas with fewer cases and can cut down on costs for bands that do not have to travel far or at all to play one-off shows. Casinos can also work with locally based bands that normally tour nationally to do “underplay” shows at smaller venues for smaller capacities. Intimate shows from big groups could serve as a special thank you to your top tier players, and tickets could go for a higher premium due to the show’s exclusivity.
Confidence in live events
Building your guests’ confidence in returning to live shows is an additional hurdle for casinos to overcome. With so many questions still circulating about COVID-19 and a lack of consistent guidelines from the federal government, guests have indicated that many have a new reluctance to attend live events.
Everyone is discussing these issues and approaches. Lower cost shows are easier to plan around, since your overall risk is less. This could be a good place to start. Just like when you reopened, you had to abide by lower capacities, a smaller comedy show with two to four-seat tables for seating, spread properly around your room, could work well. Maybe this is a good time for that regional tribute group people enjoy, however social distancing will be more of an issue.
Don’t lose the energy and excitement
There is nothing like the energy and atmosphere of live music and comedy. It is the most life-affirming experience, to see your favorite performer onstage, live, rather than as a one-dimensional image glowing on your laptop or PC as you spiral down a midnight YouTube wormhole.
The energy and excitement generated by the announcement of a new show at your casino is intoxicating. This is a strong driver of current business and new business. People want tickets, they make plans, they are looking forward to the show. You want to bring that energy back. For now, we are having to rebuild trust and safety for our guests. Entertainment is a couple steps away, but we need to start planning an approach now. Small steps with less risk are the key.