Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Live Acts Key to Oklahoma Casino Growth

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Live Acts Key to Oklahoma Casino Growth

Article excerpt

Expect more visits to Oklahoma by big-name performers such as the Beach Boys, Billy Bob Thornton and Loretta Lynn, Oklahoma casino operators and analysts said.

Live acts are growing in importance for casino competition as the industry further embraces the image of full-entertainment venues, they said. But gambling will remain the big moneymaker.

"It's definitely a secondary marketing element," said Brad Peltier, spokesman for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's FireLake Grand Casino in Shawnee. "We're not in the concert business.

"But the entertainment aspect of a casino is very important and it does give you a competitive edge, because that could be the first time a customer enters your casino. It's your one chance to make a first impression - Because they might not even consider themselves somebody who likes to play the slot machines or blackjack," he said.

Peltier told The Journal Record that FireLake has scheduled performances by the Beach Boys in October, the Bellamy Brothers in November, and Tulsa native comedian Rodney Carrington in December.

At the Chickasaw tribe's Riverwind Casino in Goldsby near Norman, Marketing Manager Angel Hunt said her casino has secured country singers Loretta Lynn in October and George Jones in December. Randy Travis is performing this weekend.

Casino operators don't feel that they're in direct competition with other performance venues, Hunt said. A casino's theater feels different from a downtown convention center or zoo amphitheater, for example.

"Our facility is more intimate," she said, and the difference itself attracts customers. The Riverwind concert stage faces about 1,500 seats. "Some people go to see entertainers because they want to connect and have that feeling of connection. And when you're sitting in the nose-bleed section in the back of the Ford Center (downtown venue) or the back of the zoo, you don't feel that connection."

But competition among the casinos themselves is a different matter.

"We are aware of it and we watch it every day," Hunt said. "We see what they (other casinos) are booking and how we can counter. What they're doing and how we can do it differently. …

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