Live music driving Las Vegas visits Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports · October 9, 2018 at 7:15 pm Jennifer Lopez ended her run at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas at the end of September. Britney Spears completed her own four-year residency at Planet Hollywood last New Year’s Eve and is rumored to be lining up another two-year stint, this time at the new Park MGM. Celine Dion recently announced she’s ending her residency at Caesars Palace in June. For Jason Gastwirth, the president of entertainment for Caesars Entertainment, the strategy of hosting big-name performers at their venues has been a game changer in Las Vegas, giving properties greater exposure on social media and helping to bring in new visitors. “Five years ago, people thought that the Britney Spears residency was a big bet,” Gastwirth said. “Part of that was the acquisition of the theater at Planet Hollywood. It was a sizable investment for us, but it turned ultimately to grow our business and the city as a destination.” That’s evidenced in research from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which now shows live entertainment as the No. 1 reason people visit Las Vegas. That has changed over time as non-gaming amenities become more important, Gastwirth says, and the visitor profile has gotten younger as a result. Gastwirth spoke Tuesday at a Global Gaming Expo session on integrated resort management and the return on investment (ROI) of entertainment, retail and dining. Caesars now has 50 venues around the country, including nine hotels in Las Vegas with multiple performance venues at each. “(That’s) rare with hotels that offer so many different amenities,” Gastwirth said. “As much as we think of the gaming side, we just don’t see venues and celebrity chef restaurants and shopping (being) associated with hotels. (But) that is a big part of our business now.” Spears’ final show earned $1.14 million in gross revenue, the highest in the city’s history for any residency, according to Caesars Entertainment. Higher ticket sales lead to more gaming and restaurant visits by guests, and Spears’ residency generated more than 30 billion social media impressions. “We have seen that with a residency we are able to generate billions of media impressions, and that translates to elevating our brand, driving traffic to our website and making sure we are on top of mind of the artist’s reach,” Gastwirth said. “It’s an important part of our strategy.” Gastwirth said securing artists for its venues is much easier than it was five years ago than it was in luring Spears. “(Spears) was more difficult to put in place than the ones that happened later, Jennifer Lopez and the Backstreet Boys,” Gastwirth said. “Artists (began to see) this as a great opportunity. We’ve seen this business grow. People will come to this market to experience something they wouldn’t elsewhere. In some ways, seeing these artists (here) in a theater is a more approachable experience than going locally to an arena.” Nehme Abouzeid, founder and president of LaunchVegas, a marketing and business advisory service, said casinos can choose artists even if the artist doesn’t seem to fit the type of visitor the casino would normally attract. “A good example (of that) was when Wynn signed up Garth Brooks,” Abouzeid said. “He was a huge country act, but he wasn’t necessarily (representative of) the core demographic of the Wynn, per se.” Caesars has even gone beyond traditional live entertainment offerings with its High Roller observation tower. It’s opening a zip line over the LINQ Promenade later this year, and in March announced Kind Heaven, a $100 million Southeast Asian-themed attraction, also at the LINQ Promenade, that not only includes live music but restaurants and retail. Kind Heaven is slated to open sometime in 2019. “We think (both shows and ongoing programs) are key drivers for capturing our share of visitor traffic,” Gastwirth said.