Innovation & Casino Entertainment

April 9, 2020

Home » Innovation & Casino Entertainment

Casino talent buyers and operators are seeing a diminishing ROI for live entertainment. This decrease leads to more 4 wall events, banquets and private events in shared spaces and casino ballrooms across Indian Country. 

If your tribal casino has been paying the “casino price” for the same types of talent, and your property’s venue is suffering significant loss each year, there are two options to help break the cycle:

Some tribes have decided to reduce the amount of entertainment or to close their concert venue, and to forgo doing concerts altogether. 

This option might just be the best choice if your entertainment program loses a lot of money every year. Many tribal casinos suffer tremendous financial loss from their concert venue but believe they are “making it up on the floor”. Justifying lost ticket revenue with the lift following the event sounds nice, but in the example below, you will see that this is generally not the case for tribal casinos.


How to cancel a concert in 2020


A tribal casino talent buyer books an evening with Smokey Robinson for $150,000 at Spirit Summit Casino (a 1000 seat venue) in Oregon. A week before the show the casino has sold about 326 seats and struggles to get RSVPs for their normal 200 COMPs. On the night of the show, the venue has sold a total of $48,900 in tickets and only about 115 casino VIPs actually show up. Of the 115 casino VIPs roughly 70% (80 people) decide to gamble or visit the gaming floor. 

For the sake of argument, we are going to assume that 40 of these players have a hearty ADT of an even $1,000 and that the other 40 have an equally impressive rating of $750.

Additionally, we’ll assume that the casino held 100% of the money played from each guest that night. 

After adding this hypothetical income and gross ticket sales we have accounted for roughly $100,000. If we want to attempt to break even, there is at least another $50,000 in lost revenue to consider and that’s before diving into production expenses or labor costs in a P &  L.


We assumed Smokey had an avg ticket price of $150 in a 1,000 seat venue. Please remember a casino will never hold 100% on twenty-one, craps, roulette or baccarat. Additionally, win per unit or WPU was not taken into consideration in the analogy. This is a hypothetical situation, do NOT hire Smokey based on these projections. Contact us for details when you decide to hire Smokey for your next casino event. 

Another Option

Other tribes have decided to work with their casino entertainment buyer to create more low cost and unique immersive events.

High quality casino entertainment should be profitable. With the right combination of events and ideas, your entertainment program can be a money making profit center. Each event should appear to be special and reflect what makes your region so unique. For the PNW region, theatre and Broadway spectacles sell extremely well. Hundreds of tribal casinos and casino buyers are hiring off Broadway shows to supplement their concert calendars.

For a casino talent buyer, curating the perfect blend of the right kind of entertainment isn’t always easy with so many personalities, egos and agendas at each step of the event planning process, but the final product is always worth the extra effort. SEG embraces the time and energy it takes to find, negotiate and execute the right deals, sponsorships and room rentals that cater to your core objectives.

Creative ideas to spice up your casino entertainment program:

  1. Find partners to offer your casino guests a mysterious dinner and show experience
  2. Collaborate with producers to offer guests an exciting night of Sumo, Sushi and Sake
  3. Negotiate split deals with talent agencies looking to book high quality tribute artists
  4. Work with niche booking agencies to create compelling themed holiday events
  5. Explore exciting new packages with multiple headliners for  acoustic performances

A single event or string of collaborative ventures with an established partner, can increase your property’s revenue by thousands of dollars. Additionally, the special types of engagements you offer will have a memorable impact.


How to cancel a concert in 2020


Let’s take a look at the profits generated from 1 engagement where the venue has agreed to do a 50/50 split with the producer of an MMA event.

In this example we are going to assume that the venue is waiving the room rental fee, the promoter is providing the ring, offering 100 $85 COMP seats and 50% of the door revenue minus hard costs.

The revenue for an average regional MMA event in a casino setting is roughly $20,000 to $30,000. These types of events typically have a cult following and attract around 400 to 800 attendees.

For this example, we will assume that 525 tickets were sold. Of those 525 sold, 300 were $30 GA tickets, 100 were $85 VIP passes and the remaining 125 were $150 ultra VIP seats with M+G totaling $36,250 in sales. 

After expenses, the event nets $26,250 and that is without considering any hypothetical income from the top 100 COMP VIPs or tribal tax retained.

As you can see with this example, the profits add up quickly and the best part is, the expenses are paid. The best part about partnering to build an event is the mitigated risk factor. 

In the end, breaking the cycle of diminishing ROI and creating profitable events comes down to passion, ideas, and execution. Working with SEG, you get all three, and then some.

Contact us today to start your entertainment program analysis, and allow us to help you determine what mix of creative ideas will make your venue more exciting than ever.

Concluding Thoughts

Many tribal casinos are paying upward of 50% or more for the same talent being booked down the street at your favorite theatre. This means you have no chance of scaling your tickets to recoup the artists’ guaranteed fee on a flat deal. If you did, you would end up with an average price of $150 for a single Smokey Robinson ticket in a venue with only a 1000 seats. 

Sadly, talent agencies aren’t the first people to think of tribal casinos as an ATM machine. There are stories published regularly about casino executives, CEOs and vendors committing theft at the casino they were hired. 

Below are some final thoughts to help your tribal casino become more profitable:

  1. Consider a different act if you and your casino talent buyer can’t scale tickets for a profit 
  2. Use unique events to create attraction and capture attention 
  3. Avoid entertainers that your venue has booked if their previous sales were not profitable
  4. Find 4 wall events that resonate with your core demographic 
  5. Connect with special industries and vendors who have diverse entertainment offerings 

In a tribal casino setting, SEG focuses on hard ticket sales, and your property’s bottom line because incremental gaming revenue is anything but a guarantee. One thing is for certain: if the Corona virus doesn’t significantly reduce your property’s entertainment budget, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more every year in your entertainment program will.

Find additional information regarding our process and how to create more sustainable entertainment programs by contacting us today. 

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