A budget and market guide for casinos
In the close to two decades I’ve been writing for this magazine and even more years I’ve been in this business, there are some principles of entertainment that haven’t changed much. Pricing may change, faces and acts change, but the real challenge comes down to understanding where your property “fits” in the market. Time and time again, many smaller properties see a big property doing something and it proves costly.
In our business assisting casinos, we are constantly adjusting to each property’s needs and expectations. A critical part of our job is really understanding our client’s position in the market. Here’s an overview to help you determine where your casino may fall:
Three types of properties, three types of entertainment strategies:
- Typically located in a small secondary or tertiary market.
- Definition is a local 20-mile radius draw – locals.
- No hotel, but plans to add one. May or may not have upscale dining.
- There is usually a small lounge that brings in local and regional dance bands on weekends.
- This kind of property may have a small multipurpose event center and can occasionally do small concerts or special events quarterly.
- Some of these properties may consider doing a couple outside concerts in the summertime, but they are very inexperienced about those costs.
Entertainment examples and costs:
- Regional bands will range from as low as $500/night to $2,000/night.
- They will typically play from 9 PM – 1 AM and do 3-4 sets, with 15-20 minute breaks.
- They will ask for buffet comps.
- They may need to bring their own sound and lights, since not all small properties have production in-house.
- They will provide their own backline.
- They will typically commute from home to the casino each night for the job.
- They will need to be given a basic casino addendum, telling them about the property and what they can or cannot do.
- Any outside venture is very intimidating, because of the costs, risks and inexperience.
- You have to create an entire infrastructure outside and staging, production, etc., gets very costly.
- Generally speaking, the outside shows can be a lot of fun, but with weather factors and costs these can end up not being profitable.
- Typically located in a larger secondary market.
- Small hotel on-property. Usually has a nicer upscale restaurant.
- Definition is a strong regional draw – typically a 50-mile radius.
- There will be a lounge that will not only offer weekend dance bands, but may also expand to a comedy night once a month, or other different kinds of entertainment.
- There is a multipurpose room, where they can hold close to 1,000 people for concerts, 500 people for seated dinners and special events, as well as the ability to break the room down for smaller community events.
- This size property will tend to do 10-14 concerts in a year. They may look outside for a show or two, depending on how their parking lot is configured.
- This size property wants to be branded as the destination for special occasions, concerts, a weekend getaway, etc. They will probably have access to a local golf course and may even have a small spa and swimming pool on-site.
Entertainment examples and costs:
- This size property will spend more on their lounge entertainment, $1,000+/night.
- Casinos of this size will have a lounge with sound and lights in-house, and oftentimes will have a person dedicated to managing the entertainment.
- Some of these properties may run 5-7 nights of lounge venue entertainment, depending on the market and brand demand. This can easily include a comedy night.
- Groups will ask for accommodations and will usually settle for double rooms.
- Groups will ask for buffet comps or meal vouchers.
- Groups will carry their own backline, unless you are bringing in a more major act, like a bigger Tribute Artist. In those cases, you will need to provide backline, sound and lights.
- For Concerts/National Artists, budgets will tend to range from $15,000-$50,000 – for the event center.
- All production needs to be brought in for each concert. In some cases, the event center will already have a stage built-in, which keeps your costs down.
- An outside ticket company would be necessary.
- Doing an outside concert or event will tend to come up, and some of these properties will give them a try. But the costs can easily outweigh the benefit. Typically, this will have to be staged in a parking lot. Weather can be prohibitive.
LARGE PROPERTIES/RESORT PROPERTIES
- Located in large secondary markets and some major markets, close to major freeways and larger cities.
- Hotel on-site will have 200+ rooms, several restaurant offerings, a highly rated steakhouse. Many times, there will be a connected high-end golf course, spa, outside pool.
- This property is a branded destination and resort getaway. They can tend to market all across the country, but mainly within a specific region, like the Northwest or the Southwest, for example.
- Properties of this size run multiple entertainment venues and programs.
- Many of these properties also have an amphitheater on-site, with capacities ranging from 2,500-5,000 capacity. Concerts you will see here are major touring shows and expensive Artists. These will typically be a May – September series of shows, due to weather.
- Inside venues at this size property will have 1,500+ capacities and run year-round.
- In addition, they may have a lounge with live music several days a week, and even smaller lounges with piano bars.
Entertainment examples and costs:
- This size property is very brand-focused. Every entertainment option needs to be exceptional and pretty high-end.
- The lounge entertainment needs to be dressed well and very professional in how they look and how they sound and behave on-property.
- Budgets will range for multiple nights, from $1,000-2,500/night.
- They will also require accommodations and meal vouchers or buffet comps, and in most cases are not locally-based.
- The lounge will have entertainment up to 7 days a week, and the casino will have a person with a small staff to oversee and manage the entertainers.
- The inside event center will look at midsize concerts – $30,000-$75,000 cost and will focus their program year-round, with a lighter schedule when their outside venue season is in play.
- The outside venue budget will range from $75,000-$500,000, depending on location, casino entertainment budget and brand.
- A major outside ticketing company is mandatory, and the benefits an outside company can provide are important.
As every guest is unique, so is every casino property. With that having been said, there are best practices that every casino can adapt to make their entertainment strategy fit their market.