Jason is senior VP of marketing and entertainment at Caesars Entertainment, where he is responsible for the programming strategy and operations of the company’s 40-plus venues nationwide.  

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Jason Gastwirth

What inspired you to get into this business or was it by accident?

I was a strategy consultant for a number of years but always had a passion for entertainment. I relocated to the Southwest as my wife was pursuing a cardiology fellowship and I had the opportunity of a lifetime being offered to be head of entertainment for a casino property. I entered the business 10 years ago and found my way.

What are some of the unique challenges of talent buying for the casino business?

Caesars Entertainment is a full-on commercial promoter where we expect to earn a profit based on the tickets we sell, which is different from some of our casino competitors. Our biggest challenge is avoiding the “casino premium” for talent that others in the industry are willing to pay.

What are you most proud of regarding the company, and what are you most proud of in your personal life?

Over the last five years, Caesars Entertainment has grown into being the No. 3 live entertainment promoter in North America with two of the top-three theatres in the country. I am very proud to be part of the team behind this growth and supported by the most successful resident headliners and an unparalleled set of industry relationships.

Even with all of that, I most value my family with a wonderful wife and three amazing daughters as well as an extraordinary set of friends.

What is one thing that the industry has improved upon immensely, and what is one thing it desperately needs to improve upon?

The industry has greatly improved in leveraging available data, such as ticket sales and customer trends to make smarter decisions for artists, promoters and venues. Notwithstanding, there is still some progress to be made in making the customer experience that much more seamless from purchasing, planning and going to the shows supported by technology and operational best practices.

Agents bring it up at our conference every year at our perennial casino panel: “Casino talent buyers tell us, ‘We can only pay you so much because we have a limited entertainment budget and we do just fine without entertainment, anyway.’ Well, then why have a budget at all?”

Entertainment is an important element of our business in creating a fun and memorable environment, and a reason for our guests to come visit. That being said, we have other vehicles to drive visitation to our properties including attractive amenities such as restaurants and nightlife, as well as the top loyalty program in the industry, Total Rewards, so our entertainment deals need to make financial sense.

That being said, many casinos have increasingly restricted budgets and can no longer pay for multiple hotel rooms and endless free food. There have been some winners like Aaron Lewis, who has a travelling audience.

What are some of the other slam dunks?

We pride ourselves in looking to tour our Las Vegas resident shows through our properties and have had great success with Donny & Marie and Penn & Teller performing at several of our properties beyond their successful runs at Flamingo Las Vegas and Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, respectively.

What is the biggest misperception of your job?

That it is primarily focused on going to concerts. Yes, there are plenty of opportunities to go to the shows which I have helped set up, but there is a large amount of work before and after in running every aspect of the business that ensures those shows are the best possible experience for our attendees and artists.

What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

That I’m an outdoorsy person who enjoys camping and hiking with my family – spending most of my professional life indoors, it’s always a relaxing experience to check out some of the most beautiful spots in our country.

What three concerts are the most memorable to you, good, bad or otherwise?

My first concert, Chicago when I was 10 years old; the premiere show of “Britney: Piece of Me” at Planet Hollywood, which was a historic moment as the first pop residency; and anytime I see a band break for the first time, either at a festival or small venue show.

Seeing the crowd reaction and then the artists taking it in is what makes this industry special.

What are you listening to and how are you listening to it?

I listen to mostly alternative rock and emerging artists generally via streaming and radio – I enjoy taking in all of the new music on Fridays, staying ahead of the trends for personal enjoyment and impacting my booking strategy.

How have you seen entertainment change in recent years, in Las Vegas and within the company?

Over the last decade, there has been an increasing demand for live music – including headlining residencies and live music venues, such as Drai’s and Brooklyn Bowl.

In 2000, Caesars Palace planned to renovate its anchor showroom, Circus Maximus, which housed performers such as Frank Sinatra and Diana Ross. However, the plan was altered when the hotel was approached with a unique and exciting business venture withCeline Dion and co-promoter AEG Live that would forever change the landscape of entertainment. Once this partnership was finalized, the Circus Maximus renovation was canceled to make way for an even grander and more spectacular venue that would be designed and built exclusively for Celine Dion and her production, A New Day, together working to revitalize and change the entertainment landscape by creating a paradigm shift in the market.

The result was The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, which sparked the groundbreaking for a term that is now commonplace in Las Vegas – residencies.

The residency model has stood the test of time as other trends within the city have come and gone. Ten years after Celine Dion made her debut on the Strip, Caesars Entertainment decided to redefine the residency and explore the model’s potential with a different audience. In 2013, Caesars once again ushered in a new era of entertainment in Las Vegas by changing the format of the typical residency and bringing a new kind of pop music headliner to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino: Britney Spears.

The AXIS at Planet Hollywood marked a new era of entertainment, bringing the first pop music residencies to the Las Vegas Strip with Spears and Jennifer Lopez. This notion of this residency model reimagined for a younger audience is indicative of Caesars’ prowess as an innovator of entertainment within the Las Vegas market.

Our guests are influenced by pop culture and what’s relevant to them culturally, and so you see this change in the variety of our entertainment offerings.

As the number of visitors to Las Vegas grows each year, so too does the demand to provide greater entertainment and nightlife experiences for our guests. Additionally, the LVCVA reported that 65 percent of visitors in 2014 attended shows during their current stay, with 17 percent of them seeing shows with a big-name headliner (up from the previous year).

How do the theaters cater to resident headliners?

The venues allow each of our headliners to bring her or his individual creative vision to the stage through customized set pieces, lighting, choreography and the latest technologies, which they don’t often get to do on tour.

While the guest experience at The Colosseum and The AXIS are consistently world-class, what the audience sees on stage is unique with each show.

The audience gets to see these artists in a way that is much more up close and personal.

For many guests, this is the highlight of their year being able to see some of the most iconic performers on the top of their game in an intimate environment where they can truly connect with the artist.

As guests enjoy the evening that lies ahead of them, the venues promise to embody the relationship between each audience member and the performer and performance stage. For example, guests in the VIP table seating at The AXIS often have the artist perform right in front them given the thrust that extends from the stage to that section.

What’s in the mix for 2017?

We have a few projects we have to keep under wraps, but one of the artists we are excited to add to our lineup is Backstreet Boys. We are proud to have the Backstreet Boys call Planet Hollywood and The AXIS home.