Voices From The Trenches: Tom Cantone

Cantone is senior corporate VP of sports & entertainment for

He is considered an essential figure in making Atlantic City a gaming Mecca. He brought Eddie Murphy to the Sands Casino; he was recruited by Donald Trump to run entertainment for all Trump Properties. He launched the

There’s plenty more and Cantone was happy to share.

You began 30 years ago with Hershey.  How did that happen?  Was this your original career path?

While at Penn State, I wrote for a weekly paper that took anyone’s work. I interviewed the GM at

I sent the story to him, (was not going to and did so at the last minute) as a thank you for his time. A few weeks later, I got a call to interview for a job, started my career there and ended up as Herco’s Director of Corporate Marketing. 

Thomas Cantone
– Thomas Cantone

Totally and completely unplanned, but in that split second decision, little did I know the door would open to a career path that would follow me the rest of my life. I always said I never had a job but rather a career.


What do you think is the most overlooked piece of advice in your book “Book’Em”?


Relationships.  And, how to build them into friendships for life. The key is access to the right people at the right time in your career, building trust along the way. If that key person takes and returns your call, the bridge to the future has been built. 

When you can connect on a personal level, great things can happen professionally.

You’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of artists. What are the things that make them want to come back?  What can a promoter do to screw that up? 

Treat them like Family when they are in the house, everyone from the artists, of course, to the agent to the manager to the tour manager, to the crew and all in between.

I always say “Welcome Home” because if they feel like they are home with family, you created a special place rather than another tired venue to play. Usually there is something waiting for them in their room with a handwritten note. I don’t do emails or anything impersonal; my social media is just plain old-fashioned face time, not Facebook.

You can screw that up by asking for favors – like endless requests for meet & greets, because that’s now a big business. If they offer, fine.

 As for that, how about agents: what is the one thing you wish they would do differently?

Well, most are my friends for life – so I love working with them, and always offer to help them if the artist has any issues.

They are sometimes just the messenger and I get that, but if they could speak more freely to whom they represent to make sure they think more long-term than just getting as much as they can in the short term. Longevity is the mark of success.

Just raising ticket prices to get more money, for example, is not always a good investment for either the artist or the venue.

After so many years working with Donald Trump, what are some of the takeaways?  Were you involved with him in any capacity recently?

Not recently at all. I ran the entertainment at all three

It was a great time back then. AC was booming. He taught me to always be ready to walk away from a deal. And I have; it works and it usually circles back to what you wanted the deal to be in the first place.

 You’ve received many honors.  Does any one in particular stand out?

 I think the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, only because I dedicated it to my grandfather.

He came to America legally, his first steps on U.S. soil was right there.  Had he not, I wouldn’t be doing this interview.

He was the symbol of the American Dream, learned a trade, got a job, made a living and took care of his family. Simple isn’t it? He didn’t impose his way, culture or values on anyone and had great gratitude for what this country gave him and so many other immigrants who made America their new home.

His name is enshrined on the wall at Ellis Island. Brought tears.

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What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field?

Put People First. From there, product and profit will always follow. And, let them know you’re there.

Whatever your role or assignment, be visible, be relevant and appreciative for any opportunities that come your way. Use every minute to create Happiness over those who just consume it. 

And be Nice. I’ve worked with many smart and talented people who had no people skills and failed.

Do you have any industry-related pet peeves?

In the beginning it was casinos having to pay more for the same act that plays everywhere. There still is a casino markup but not even close to what it was years ago and the refusal to even consider an offer is now history.

You have three shout-outs.

The first is to my wife Anissa – she is by far the definition of love, compassion and judgement. She’s the only one that can change my mind. . But don’t ever mess with her kindness.

The second is my three kids because when people ask what my title is, I say I’m a dad first, everything else is second and, because they are the future, they will be spending the rest of their lives there, so that job is forever.

Last, my parents who taught us Core Values, did everything right raising four kids in an inner city, with little money, and still put us all through college to give us the gift of an education and the hope of a future.

How does one manage so many properties from here to South Korea? And does that involve as much travel as it sounds like?

I’m surrounded by a great team. We have built a solid entertainment program and management organization that knows how to drive volume and revenues.

Our system is in place to make sure each individual venue has what it needs to fit their own marketing plan. We use our buying power and relationships to make sure each property is programmed to be successful. 

Who would have thought we would be one of the top three arena venues in the world in Uncasville, Conn. and the number one casino venue in the world when you consider there’s more than 3,500 casinos on the planet? Pollstar has us listed among the Top 17 arenas in the U.S. for all-size venues this quarter. We’ve been named Arena of the Year multiple times.

In recognition of that, we created a Hall of Awards backstage for all the tours and artists to see they are playing a special place, not just another venue. 

Regis Philbin & Thomas Cantone
Courtesy Mohegan Sun
– Regis Philbin & Thomas Cantone
Thomas debuts his book, “Book Em”

I travel at my own pace and of course when needed.

Does any concert (s) particularly stand out to you for any reason?

A few for sure. Billy Joel’s record 10 consecutive sellouts in a row, J Lo, and Bruno Mars only concerts of the year at Mohegan Sun, and, of course Eddie Murphy’s groundbreaking casino  debut at the Sands that started the revolution.

It changed everything. Gone was the old Vegas image, in came today’s hip stars who followed creating a new wave of live entertainment. It was probably my most satisfying moment because I spent so much time with Eddie who, at the time, was the hottest box office attraction in the nation, to make his debut. He instantly put the casino venue on the map and the flood gates opened.

You were said to have “revolutionized casino entertainment” by the Las Vegas Sun, meaning that you brought youthful acts to an environment that traditionally drew those at the end of their careers. In a nutshell, what were some of the more difficult factors in accomplishing that?

Convincing agents and managers back then that today’s contemporary acts had an audience that was waiting for them. They were ignoring a lucrative concert market that could be tapped to generate more revenue streams than what they were getting playing the same old venues.

It took years and, at times, I was fighting a one man battle, but the revolution of booking fresh new faces began and never stopped.

When Las Vegas called us “the new entertainment capitol,” it was an acknowledgement of our efforts to change things. Now, many of today’s hottest artists start their tours here, not end their careers here.

The best part of our product is we don’t sell tickets, we sell memories for life.  In the end, I think we won that war. 

 What is your most memorable marketing campaign?

 Getting all the Sopranos together at the height of their popular HBO series. It was a first, and generated record casino numbers.

They were an iconic perfect fit for a casino marketing campaign and I was privileged to be part of it.

Sadly, we hosted their very last appearance together in a reunion event that was Jim Gandofini’s last. He passed weeks later.

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

That I’m keenly aware of the gift of Time. How we use it defines our existence, not so much for time passed but time we have left.

The saddest thing in life is wasted time and there are no time outs so the years keep adding up. I always say, “You’re Not Old Until Regrets Takes The Place of Dreams.” So I keep dreaming and I thank everyone who’s given me the opportunity to do so.

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What’s coming up in the next year that we should know about?

Anyone reading this should know that we now operate in five states and soon South Korea where we are building a $6 billion integrated resort with a 15,000-seat arena. So our distribution network to route talent in the Northeast, Deep South, West Coast and Asia is inherently imbedded into our entertainment programming.

Our company, Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, has literally become an international entertainment company overnight.

What has changed for the better, and for the worse, in the past five years?

No question it’s the power of social media to market our shows in the modern era.  

We now sellout in minutes, not months. The Mohegan Sun arena is now the No. 1 social media venue in the world. What we are booking is being talked about instantly everywhere.

Traditional advertising is over. 

The downside is our world of Political Correctness. Don Rickles, a dear friend for life, an American Original, taught us all we need to laugh more at ourselves.