Does Entertainment Drive Casino Traffic?

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Brian Christopher playing Family Feud Live on a Carnival Cruise Line ship

Casinos look at all sorts of ways to drive players in. With more than 1,000 places to play in the U.S. alone and growing, it stands to reason different casinos will handle things differently. Here’s an example:

Do you think live entertainment attracts people to a casino? I ask this as a casino about an hour from us has decided not to have live bands or karaoke since the pandemic, stating it takes money out of the casino. I say it’s a draw for people that can only afford to play a small amount, and if they have an enjoyable experience, they’ll return for the casino itself when they have more funds. What say you?

Sue M.

We’ve certainly seen casinos that leverage entertainment as a core offering – it’s not unusual for casinos to have theaters on property, live music venues within the casino itself, or some other way to manage these options.

But we’ve also seen casinos do some hard number crunching and make changes in recent years, with the pandemic shaking the tree and common assumptions that existed prior to everything closing down.

The most prominent example has been buffets. Certainly there was a question about so many people handling utensils and such, but many buffets never reopened because they were loss leaders – they yielded a cost to the casino – and many casinos decided they simply didn’t need to offer it when players came back despite them being closed. 

Casinos have been in many cases converting them to “food halls,” a fancy term for a food court. The economics are better as you have to pay per plate, and so even if there’s less business, the overhead of such an operation is a lot lower and they can price things at a level to ensure a profit.

My guess is at the casino you’re referencing, they did the math and decided the cost of having those performers or programming like karaoke wasn’t offset by enough revenue being brought in as a result of them to revive the concept as things rebounded.

Many casinos made budget trims in certain places to ensure things stayed on track when traffic was lower, and just liked the numbers too much to reverse course when things were largely back to normal.

We certainly have been drawn to the casino for entertainment options, but there’s definitely been times when the gambling has been de-prioritized on those visits because we can’t put the same amount of time in as we normally would. But it’s also sometimes driven trips that might not have happened without the entertainment. 

So we’re sure it varies by casino and by market, and each casino will make their own decision on it. But we certainly aren’t against good entertainment venues at casinos – many times they do an above average job at performer curation and venue management. If a casino is willing to put the proper time and care in, it’s a good option to offer, as with other casino-forward options like spas and high-end food options.

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