Article by Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports


Brittney Spears’ final show on New Year’s Eve to wrap a four-year run in Las Vegas earned US$1.14 million in gross revenue, the highest in the city’s history for any residency, according to Caesars Entertainment.

During a UNLV-sponsored seminar last week on non-gaming amenities and how casinos must do more than gaming to grow revenues, Jason Gastwirth, the president of entertainment for Caesars, said the pop superstar’s run at Planet Hollywood earned more than 30 billion in media impressions.

Caesars will be hosting Gwen Stefani at Planet Hollywood in June and Jennifer Lopez will have the second phase of her residency at Planet Hollywood this summer and fall.

It’s no wonder a survey by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority shows that live entertainment is the No. 1 driver of visitation to the city and visitors have been getting younger. Lady Gaga will start a two-year residency at the 5,300-seat Park Theatre at Park MGM in December. Earlier this year, there were reports about Adele considering a residency at the Wynn Las Vegas.

With Strip properties earning more than 65 percent of their revenue from non-gaming, casinos are doubling down on that strategy for using live entertainment to draw in people who will spend money on restaurants, bars, and nightclubs – in addition to gaming.

For Caesars, Gastwirth told industry executives and others at the seminar, that it’s a nationwide approach. Caesars has nearly 50 entertainment venues across the country that range from capacity for 10,000 to Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace, which holds 170 people. The company offers a variety of entertainers that draw from all demographics.

Caesars has nearly 20,000 tickets on sale nightly in Las Vegas and more than 280,000 nightly across the U.S. Its headliners include Donny & Marie Osmond at the Flamingo Las Vegas, the Righteous Brothers at Harrah’s Las Vegas, and Wayne Newton at Bally’s Las Vegas. The Tahoe Outdoor Summer Series has a capacity of more than 9,000 with such acts as the Dave Matthews Band. Many acts travel within the Caesars network of properties.

Celine Dion will return to Caesars Palace in May after cancelling concerts in March and April due to surgery.

Customers that don’t traditionally visit casinos and aren’t interested in gambling come to shows and go to restaurants and other non-gaming amenities, Gastwirth said.

“A very different kind of customer is not only coming to Las Vegas but to our regional properties,” Gastwirth said. “They’re a little bit younger and focused on the non-gaming amenities and entertainment and for us that’s a key driver to get them into the property and get them into other things that we do and enjoy the other amenities that we offer. They’re going to want to eat, drink and shop. We have some that may only be interested in gaming. But offering compelling programs may help them stay longer and give them a great experience and feel good about visiting us again.”

Caesars has the No. 3 ranking in the world as a promoter of live entertainment, the No. 1 theatre worldwide in terms of gross revenue for seats less than 5,000 seats at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. The Zappos Theatre at Planet Hollywood is No. 2 in the world for gross revenue for seats of more than 5,000, Gastwirth said in citing 2017 stats from Billboard.

Ticket sales include VIP packages and artist meet and greets and are revenue generators. Lopez, Spears and Celine Dion were in the top seven of average ticket prices in North America.

When Gastwirth took on the role at Caesars in 2011, each of its properties had individual entertainment strategies. He “immediately saw we had a tremendous opportunity” with an emphasis on entertainment that has supported other business models.

“Entertainment is a key PR and social media driver, and we have seen tremendous number in the billions of announcing these artists,” Gastwirth said. “It’s a lot of attention in earned media for us and our properties.”

Gwen Stefani drew nearly 1.5 billion in media impressions when the residency of the rock and pop star was launched, Gastwirth said.

More than 40 percent of visitors to Las Vegas decide what they’re going to do more than one month out. That percentage is much higher than it used to be and aided by offering live entertainment, Gastwirth said. Knowing what they want to do in part drives their visit, he said.

“But it’s not only entertainment but other things like world-class restaurants and retail that have drawn people to Las Vegas,” Gastwirth said. “With entertainment, we think of ticket sales and merchandize and incremental game play. There may be incremental room booking if they have a late night, and there’s food and beverage sales inside and outside the venue.”

Caesars has even gone beyond the traditional live entertainment offerings with its High Roller observation wheel. The company is opening a zipline over the LINQ Promenade later this year and in March, announced Kind Heaven, a $100 million Southeast Asian-themed attraction at the LINQ that includes live music, restaurants and retail. The project will open in August 2019.

The company opened Caesars Entertainment Studios in June behind Bally’s. It’s billed as the largest soundstage in North America and an attempt to lure television and film productions to Las Vegas.

Caesars has even ventured beyond its own properties handling books as a promoter, Gastwirth said. It’s also been asked to support booking the venue outside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

On April 15, Caesars announced it entered into an agreement to manage two luxury hotels and a beach club at Meraas’ Dubai-based Bluewaters Island development. In late 2018, Bluewaters Island is expected to become home to Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai and Caesars Bluewaters Dubai – both of which will represent Caesars Entertainment’s first non-gaming resorts.

“Our leadership in entertainment and ability to manage top hotels and restaurants make us interesting to potential partners and even for us to be in a market where there may not be gaming, and in particular attractive markets like Dubai make a lot of sense for us and the partner,” Gastwirth said.

As for the future of more entertainment in Las Vegas, Gastwirth said the relocation of the Raiders from Oakland in 2020 only benefits the city and brings more visitors, Gastwirth said. The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights have proven to be popular in not only bringing in tourists but local residents to the Strip, he said.

“You see it when you go to our various shows and restaurants,” Gastwirth said. “We will see that from the Raiders as well. The more (we offer different attractions) is only going to add to visitation. We provide as much as we can for them to do when they’re not at the games. As we’re drawing more people to the city, they’re seeing more than one show. And I don’t mind being the second stop if they’re driven to come here by one show. If we get into a scenario where there are artists at the same time that are too alike, then no one is helped by that.”