The casino panel, a tradition that has been with Pollstar's conferences for decades, has a recurring theme: how do agents and casino buyers come to an agreement when agents think casinos have money and buyers think they do not? This panel, however, took a different tack: how are casinos to change their programming in the age of millennials?


Photo: Barry Brecheisen

Casino Panel

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Kids these days don't play slot machines, preferring blackjack and poker tables, and they equally require different live entertainment.

Poco and Firefall will always be there for the traditional gaming crowd but what else is there? This conversation took place while Emporium Presents' Dan Steinberg hosted his raucous panel next door, but Craig Newman from APA held his own as moderator amid the clamor.

Newman has been selling acts to casinos for decades but realized a few years ago that he was not utilizing all that APA had to offer. It is a full-service agency, meaning it represents movie and television stars as well as music acts so Newman has tried to get everyone involved in the casino world.

That could be as simple as having Al Pacino do a meet-and-greet (at about 45 seconds per for a half-hour) to introducing casinos to chef Robert Irvine. Irvine is actually a case study for future casino booking strategy. While people such as Andrew Blank, buyer for the casino properties booked by C3, occasionally balk at Newman's ideas, they are becoming more amenable to them – especially if the talent shares a piece of the meet-and-greet income.

In the case of Irvine, he does a live-event cooking show, bringing audience members onstage, plus the VIP meet-and-greet treatment. That's not all: Newman is sending out “shows” like Cake Wars and Cupcake Wars, along with American Pickers. Bob Rech, programmer for the 500-capacity room at the Potawatomi Casino, recently did a Mardis Gras event.

Laura Ishum, who oversees programming for 15 properties for Pinnacle Entertainment, has seen success with pool parties with big-name DJs as entertainment.

“We've had real luck with '90s bands outside,” Ishum said, noting that, these days, '90s bands are practically classic rock. Meanwhile, the young acts are now willing to play casinos – if the room is treated like a rock club with all the neat lighting and a GA pit.

As for the future of casinos, the panelists believed they'll soon be heading toward the “Vegas model.”

That actually means retail versus gaming, where casinos will be the place for a good pre-show experience, such as a meal, plus other entertainment, and will provide event packages, plus be more adept at social media, just like Vegas.