It's a whole new world of entertainment the past few years in the Sooner State and nationwide. As the growth of casino gambling as kept gaming dollars here, instead of sending them to Vegas, we've also been able to enjoy a wider variety of national entertainment acts.
The latest stage of development is taking the casinos a step further towards creating a mini-Las Vegas type empire as each of the local establishments now has (or, in the case of Creek Nation Casino, is building) an arena or venue for larger events.
And what are they doing with those venues? There are some minor sporting events, such as boxing and cage fighting, but more than ever, the casinos are stepping into the entertainment field as concert venues. Looking back over the past year, Million Dollar Elm Casino has taken the lead in this field with its Osage Event Center with concerts ranging from classic artists like Creedence Clearwater Revisited and Al Green to early '90s R&B superstars Boyz II Men and and even a September stop by local heroes, Cross Canadian Ragweed.
So what's the real motivating factor for the casinos to enter the concert and event promotion arena? It's the same thing that makes the world go 'round: money. Even our local bands will tell you that it pulls a good paycheck. And while our local casinos have been providing a semi-captive audience and a good paycheck to a number of our local acts for an extended period of time, it's just been within the past few years that they have started booking national acts.
In many circles, the casinos are the new state fair circuit, only better, with newer facilities, nicer amenities and bigger paychecks. On occasion, such as last fall's Cross Canadian Ragweed show, playing casino show is a stepping stone for acts looking for a larger venue before making the jump to arenas. More often than not, however, it seems that we're seeing old favorites in the twilight of their career or reunited and veteran acts cashing in on their past or working to try and regain their former glory.
It's not like this is anything new: Las Vegas has done it for years. And while it's only been in the past few years that top shelf acts like Celine Dion, Elton John and Prince have once again been inclined to take up residency in Sin City, Vegas has long been a favored destination for boys like Tony Bennett and the Rat Pack to close their careers. On occasion, the exposure even puts them back in vogue, as when Bennett ended up on MTV.
It's not only good for the acts, however; it's also good business for the casinos. All of these artists arguably still have a solid fan base that wants to see and hear them perform. In most cases, it's an older crowd that has a measure of expendable income and is willing to spend it on entertainment.
Yes, there's good money to be made in concert ticket sales, but no one wants to lose money and concert promotion can be a tricky beast. The real benefit for the casinos isn't in tickets sales revenue, however, it's in capturing a new audience and demographic. Such is the case with approaching shows by Gin Blossoms and Little Texas at the Creek Nation Casino on April 25 and 26, respectively. Being presented as free concerts, the casino stands to benefit by bringing in faces that might not otherwise enter its doors. Last fall, Cherokee Casino planned a series of concert, including an appearance by Better than Ezra to coincide with and capitalize on the visiting crowds for the US Open.
Although investing in big shows can be a gamble, the casinos are holding a few face cards that minimize their potential losses. Not only do they draw revenue from ticket sales, most of them also have on-site restaurants, such as McGill's at Cherokee Casino or Full Moon Café at Creek Nation, so you can stop in for a nice dinner while keeping on schedule for the event.
And once the show is over, part of the audience may promptly return home, but the casinos are counting on you being wound up and ready to "play" a little before wrapping up the night. If that's the case, why not try your hand at the tables? Chances are, after a good show, you're feeling pretty good about yourself and are counting on a lucky streak.
The bottom line is, it's all about getting people in the doors and if bringing in someone who's career is showing new signs of life (as was the case with Billy Ray Cyrus at Thunderbird Casino in March) can potentially bring in new patrons, it's a worthwhile investment for the casinos. Once they've got you in the door, it's an introduction to the venue and a chance that you'll return at a later date.
Essentially, it's a win-win scenario for the casinos and the artists. If you're lucky, you might even see an old favorite that you had forgotten about or never expected to be able to see again come through town. Whether it's a classic pop or rock act, and '80s band, crooner, R&B diva or alt-rock band trying to regain its former glory, all chips are on the table. All you have to do is step up and take them.
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