Pollstar Live! Casino Planning

The annual casino panel may not have had Larry King this time but it did have Bill Borenstein, who was ready to add the entertainment value.

The moderator did plenty of preparation on Powerpoint. And the panel was introduced by a tape of comedian Eddie Griffin  who happened to be playing at Borenstein’s property, the MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit, the week earlier.

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The introductions also included photos of the panelists and, in Ed Micone’s case, some very old photos (it was a running joke; we didn’t start it).

“Ed, tell us about booking talent before telephones,” Borenstein began. Micone, who had been managing talent since the ’70s and spent much of the ’90s at Radio City Music Hall, rolled with it by holding up his archaic Blackberry.

The theme was keeping the casino business alive, but the established environment appears to be entrenched: The casinos’ entertainment budgets remain tight, and casino patrons still stay at the tables. The trick is to wait for some acts to become “casino ready.”  The Doobie Brothers and Huey Lewis would do casinos on the weekdays; now it’s their mainstay. James Blunt isn’t ready to play casinos but one day he might, and Paradigm is waiting patiently, Micone noted. When Blunt does, it’s a guaranteed $75,000 payday.

And there will always be room for Chubby Checker, an artist Charlie Davis has been associated with for decades. 

But, as Borenstein said, showrooms are loss leaders and he is concerned new casinos will drop talent entirely.

Borenstien had “quick topic rounds.” He threw the first question to Peter Manning. “Booking challenges in multiple venues: how do you handle the challenges?” How does C3, for example, handle 30 bookings for The Black Crowes.

Manning said his properties have different needs and do not normally conflict, although it can become challenging at times to explain to property managers, even if they work for the same parent company, why an act will work better in one building than another.  C3 is also organizing its properties to make pitches for several dates at a time for, say, Gregg Allman, a CJ Strock client.

But as Davis noted, Checker and The Righteous Brothers are still perfect for “player nights.” Those are the acts that bring in the people who plunk down the money on the tables.

“That stuff is liked by your slot players and that’s the people who make your casinos very happy.”

And they don’t have to price the tickets; they’re set at an affordable rate and the players can bring their friends.