This years Global Gaming Expo (G2E), held last week in Las Vegas, drew record numbers of industry professionals (12,000).
There were numerous panels and programs, but one of the most lively, and jam packed, was "Casino Entertainment: Timing Is Everything,” moderated by Foxwoods Resort & Casino’s Vice President of Marketing, Tom Cantone. Cantone is widely credited with revolutionizing casino entertainment, by bringing in today’s hottest stars, and had some awe-inspiring figures to present to the packed conference room.
The panel included other industry leaders;
Douglas Brown, CEO of Talent Buyers Network
Marc Gentilella, Senior Vice President of CelebrityAccess.com
Steve Gietka, Vice President of Entertainment for Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort
Sam Madonia, Director of Entertainment for Turning Stone Casino.
The big story this year is the proliferation of Indian casinos, their meteoric rise, and more importantly, their domination of the casino industry.
Both Indian, and non-Indian casinos, along with their variety of facilities, and eclectic buying habits, have essentially rejuvenated the touring industry, along with artists careers, and many booking agencies. The definition of casino entertainment no longer means recycling the same traditional names. And "sold-out" does not necessarily mean a successful engagement. Today’s casino entertainment is not always confined to the showroom stage. Now it’s Tony Soprano meets Alicia Keys—a new wave of entertainment has arrived.
Doug Brown, pointed out that his company buys talent for more Indian Casino venues than any other company in the nation, and said "Casinos are no longer the generic one size fits all. Each one is unique which puts the burden on these new venues to educate agents, and managers, about what they have to offer their artists in terms of marketing, promotion, revenue, demographic of audiences, and hospitality."
Foxwoods for instance books everything from Pink, Jerry Seinfeld, Norah Jones, Erykah Badu, The Dixie Chicks, Musiq, Alicia Keys, The Goo Goo Dolls, India.Arie, Shaggy, and SHeDAISY. Doesn’t sound like your mom and dad's casino anymore, does it?
Cantone pointed out “that the buying power of today’s modern casinos bring in an estimated 22 million people that attend concerts, and shows, and that Foxwoods is the leader in this industry, booking 1,400 plus shows per year.” He also added, “the best that Hollywood can offer (the entire movie industry) grossed approximately 8 billion dollars last year, versus a whopping 362 billion dollars that casino entertainment properties grossed, so you wonder where the concertgoers are going today.”
Gone are the days that artists feel it is hip to snub the casino play. Today, it is just the opposite. Artists and their managers want in on the biggest entertainment explosion in a over a decade and, in turn, are changing the face of casino booking. Casino concert venues rival some of the best facilities in the world. The red plush lounge seats are history, and have been replaced by state of the art buildings, and amenities, rivaling any major city in the world. And they come in all sizes, from small clubs to large arenas, and amphitheaters.
Most artists will tell you that the casino’s treatment of them, and attention to detail, is better than most major promoters provide. And if you speak to any manager in the industry, they will tell you that the promotion of their artists never gets short-changed; even after a sell-out occurs, the casinos keep up the press.
Sam Madonia added "Even a smaller venue, like our 800 seat Showroom at Turning Stone Casino, attracts the big name entertainers because they love the treatment they receive," he continued with "Artists like Jewel, Huey Lewis, Chicago and Travis Tritt come here because we treat them like the stars they are."
The panel also explored creative ideas to market casino entertainment beyond the traditional boundaries, including creating both variety and balanced lineups, utilizing television, radio, websites, and record companies, and translating seats into casino revenue.