The Casino Entertainment Buyer - Indian Gaming

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to pick from when buying a house, there are hundreds of agents out there ready .... Kell Houston is Vice President of Talent Buyers Network. He can be reached ...
ENTERTAINMENT

The Casino Entertainment Buyer by Kell Houston

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here are many people in the casino business buying entertainment for their property's various venues. Some of them have years of experience. However, many of them are trying to learn on the fly. It sounds like a fun job, but entertainment buying takes a tremendous amount of experience. Most entertainment buyers learn their business through years of trial and error and many buyers out there have been mentored by experienced buyers. What does it take to be an entertainment buyer? Well, that is a loaded question and requires an understanding of the role live entertainment actually plays in the gaming business. This is the gaming industry, not the concert industry. Entertainment is not the star, but rather part of the brand and the draw. When people buy tickets to see an entertainer in a downtown theater or at a special outdoor amphitheater, the draw is the entertainer. The promoter makes his money off your

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ticket. When people go see an entertainer in a casino, however, the casino wants them on the gaming floor. They hope to cover some costs of the show with ticket sales, but in most cases that is a moot point. Concert entertainment in a casino is meant to draw people to the casino so that they can dine in the restaurants, play at the table games, and try their luck on the slot machines. Making money on the show is not going to be tied directly to the amount of money from ticket sales at the door. It's about incremental revenue. Floor or lounge entertainment is meant to give people a refreshing experience either sitting in the lounge having a drink, dancing to a good band, or just watching strolling entertainment in various parts of the gaming floor. This entertainment is part of the “fun” factor. It keeps people in the casino. First, an entertainment buyer needs to determine the purpose of the entertainment. Whether it's a great dance band for the lounge or cabaret, a piano player in a quiet bar, a strolling impersonator, a floor show, or a full blown concert, they all serve one purpose: to give people a fun experience and keep them in the casino. There are many misconceptions about buying or booking entertainment. Just like there are hundreds of real-estate agents to pick from when buying a house, there are hundreds of agents out there ready to sell entertainment. Buyers first need to understand that agents represent entertainers and the more money they get for their client the more secure their job is. When it comes to big name entertainment, they want their dates routed in a region. It's more costly to them (and to the buyer) if they have to travel half way across the country to play a show at a single property. Similarly with lounge entertainment, a band wants to work their dates with logical routing. A good entertainment buyer understands all of this and knows when he has an advantage and when he doesn't. Pricing can vary 300%, so an entertainment buyer needs to know when to book an entertainer and when not to. A good buyer knows this. Just think how much the money adds up when an experienced buyer is regularly saving $5,000 to $10,000 per show. For some casinos this can mean a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Any CFO understands the bottom line. However, very few upper management people understand the ins and outs of an entertainer's costs. They just know a lot of money goes into that department and they want to see results. Many of the more successful casino entertainment programs outsource their entertainment buying. They do this for the same reason people use real-estate agents, general contractors to build casinos, outside marketing and advertising companies, electricians to wire buildings, and plumbers

to fix pipes. They all have years of experience. An outsourced entertainment buyer knows the business, has the relationships, and understands routing and pricing. The best ones have been in the business for years and are members of local and national gaming organizations like NIGA, OIGA, WIGA etc. You can meet with them at conventions and marketing seminars, and they are accountable. They also understand the real costs of the production riders as well as those crazy requests the national entertainers can come up with. In many cases, your casino is one property. Buying power is extremely important. The buyer with multiple dates for an entertainer is always going to get the first dates and the best prices before the single buyer even knows the entertainer was available. This makes a difference in those regions where multiple casinos are competing for the same customers. So, what does it take to be a great entertainment buyer? Not

only do you have to know the business inside and out, you have to have relationships with managers, agencies, promoters, fairs and festivals. You have to have a solid track record. You have to know who to call to get the right answers. You have to know the histories of entertainers, the number of tickets they sell, the kind of numbers they produce on the gaming floor, and how much other casinos paid. You have to understand the trends and be on the cutting edge of industry changes. You have to have new and creative ideas. You need to think outside the box. Lastly you need to understand an entertainer's real and perceived cost. Entertainment buying is more than picking up the phone. Where do you fit into this scenario? ¨ Kell Houston is Vice President of Talent Buyers Network. He can be reached by calling (702) 256-9811 or email [email protected]

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT California Nations Indian Gaming Association Seeks Executive Director The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) is a 501 ( c ) (6) association of sovereign Indian tribes dedicated to protecting, preserving and promoting tribal government sovereignty and the governmental gaming rights of Indian tribes in California. Executive Director's duties shall include the overall management and implementation of CNIGA departmental, project and programmatic goals and objectives. Executive Director serves as a spokesman for the Association with the media, other governments, and the public at large. Works directly with the Executive Committee and the CNIGA membership to advance CNIGA's stated purposes of promoting and protecting the governmental gaming rights of Indian tribes and protecting tribal sovereignty. Individual must have a thorough knowledge and ability to provide overall management of a non-profit, trade association composed of sovereign tribal governments. Must have a thorough understanding of tribal governments, tribal sovereignty and tribal government gaming issues. Must have a good knowledge of the federal and state political processes and procedures. Individual must be able to establish effective working relationships with elected officials of federal, state and local governments to carry out the job duties. Individual must have ability to effectively interact with press and media, public officials, tribal governments and tribal communities. Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Business or Political Science is required. Minimum of five (5) years work experience managing a non-profit, intertribal organization, or it's equivalent. Minimum of five (5) years work experience with federal and state legislative processes and procedures. Minimum of five (5) years working with tribal governments with an emphasis on tribal sovereignty and tribal government gaming. Ability to perform legislative and policy analysis is required. Knowledge of tribal governments required. The California Nations Indian Gaming Association extends a preference to qualified American Indians and Alaska Natives in selection of all positions, as required by regulations. This policy is established within PL 93-638 regulatory boundaries including but not limited to 25 U.S.C. Section 47. Phone: (916) 448-8706 • www.cniga.com

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