Free is a Welcomed Four-Letter Word By Christopher G. Axelrod June 4, 2014 at 7:56 pm Casino management and marketers know the value of offering free entertainment, either as an attraction or a perk. Free entertainment can be exterior – augmenting a venue’s theme for potential customers, or interior – sustaining customer interest and increasing onsite spending. One award-winning exterior attraction, providing a large number of sidewalk strollers, is the large lake in front of the Bellagio, with its more than one thousand water fountains. Similarly, the iconic volcano at the front of The Mirage has been erupting nightly for 25 years, combining fire with music and choreography. But it’s questionable that free epic exterior shows are as important now as in the past. Today, younger patrons, who also live in a digital world, want immediate access to casinos, ignoring the free exterior frills that enhance casino brands. Digitial photos, including “selfie” shots, taken for posting on numerous, free social media sites, or for e-mailing to peers, validate one’s actual presence in casinos. Today casinos need to provide (interior) photo opportunities, to make individuals happy and to generate free (potentially viral) web advertising for casinos and their prime venues. Consider some free interior entertainment options, carefully selected with performance schedules that provide value to guests: Upon entering the Bellagio lobby each evening you are serenaded by a pianist in black tie, playing the classics on a real piano, at the off-lobby Petrossian Caviar Bar, while you marvel at the colorful Chihuly glass floral ceiling. That bespeaks elegance. In sharp contrast, there are thrilling free circus performances every half hour above the Midway at Circus Circus, happening daily since that casino opened in 1968. Every casino recognizes the importance of offering appropriate free entertainment to enhance their interior venues. Nightly shows in lounges are well suited for after-hour conventioneers and guests. The variety has never been greater, partly because technology now enables performers to do more with less, remaining within house entertainment budgets. Duos and trios now sound like full bands. Karaoke and DJ’s reflect the thriving EDM club scene in a lounge setting. Dueling pianist shows can be found nightly at both The Paris and Harrah’s. Selecting the ideal entertainment for patrons can be a challenge, given the variance in demographics and moods of likely audiences. Popular comedian Louis Anderson, from The Plaza, has admitted that Wednesdays and Fridays can bring tougher, more scrutinizing crowds, while Saturdays often are far more relaxed and celebrative. Weekdays are still inherently programmed as workdays, while the weekend is escapism. Free entertainment flows accordingly. Consider: Dynamic rock entertainer Zowie Bowie just celebrated eight years as a popular free Friday night attraction at the off-Strip Red Rock Casino. His show delivers the hits with gusto and energy. The Aria’s Lift Bar occasionally features the highly acclaimed young vocalist Chadwick Johnson and his trio, delivering Rat Pack classics with finesse. Patrons are delighted to discover an impressive new talent in this 23-year-old soulful vocalist, who has not appeared on any network talent show, but has performed for U.S. President Clinton and many top celebrities. These entertainers demonstrate how to present the ideal entertainment in the right venue at the right time. Patrons do know the difference; the difference shows up in revenues and profits. A quick, easy, and low-cost solution for interior entertainment is to put an anonymous DJ in the lounge, to keep music playing and to take requests. But that usually lacks personal dynamics: Buttons are pushed from a laptop, just one step better than the classic jukebox. Audiences will always embrace an attractive personality and the ambiance of an entertainer working to please them. Live entertainment always offers more flexibility and spontaneity to meet the patron interests. The goal is to know your patrons and seek the ideal crowd-pleasing alignment, one consistent with the theme and reputation of your venue. Of course, it would not be Las Vegas without girls, girls, girls. There are elevated, portable and lighted dance floors, including pole-dancing platforms, placed at many high traffic areas. These free teases and distractions even happen amongst popular table gaming areas at the Cosmopolitan and Caesar’s (the Pussy Cat Dolls), to mention just two. The Rio dazzles with a combination of dancing girls and highly skilled juggling bartenders. In short, offering free entertainment adds life and zest to the gaming environment and defuses the potential for patrons to feel “fleeced” at every turn. Offering something free for everyone, of all ages, even something not difficult to source, helps ensure a memorable casino experience, one likely to be shared with friends and the greater public, virtually.