Frequent casino players are often privy to private concerts
Tom Cantone, senior vice president of sports & entertainment at Mohegan Sun, is one of the biggest Beatles freaks ever. So, when he drops a Fab Four allusion while talking about the private, big-name concerts the casino hosts for its Momentum Rewards members, saying, "These shows are our way of saying, 'P.S. I love you,'" it's a statement of highest appreciation.
Momentum Rewards is a free program wherein regular gamers at the casino accumulate credits based on the frequency of plays and activity.
"We want to just say thank you to our guests who have membership in the program," Cantone says. "The concerts are a very well received concept, and it's something we take pride in providing. The acts have to be well known — franchises from popular culture over the years — because we want these shows to be exciting and something our Rewards members can look forward to."
As many as 25 times a year, the Sun presents these events in the 10,000-seat Arena, and headliners have included Kasey Musgraves, Bobby Brown, Melissa Etheridge, Peter Frampton, Michael Bolton, Cheap Trick, and Paula Abdul, just to name a few of the stylistcally varied performers.
Membership in the Momentum Rewards program is pretty basic. With a valid ID, Mohegan Sun guests can sign up for free personalized acccounts on-site at any of a variety of Players Club booths spread across the property. Guests then start to accumulate Momentum Dollars based on the frequency and amounts of their gaming action — and accumulated Momentum Dollars earn a variety of rewards including hotel rooms, restaurant visits, various discounts and priority parking, VIP and club access to personal services, green fees and tickets to sporting events — and, yes, the private concerts.
"Our research shows that two of the biggest drivers for casino properties are food and shows," Cantone says. "And our Momentum players love being invited to shows. Our arena is a true competitive advantage; it's one of the top three venues in the world. So if we can give our gamers free shows with established headliners in a room like that, it's good for everyone."
Foxwoods Resort Casino also offers free concerts and benefits for patrons enrolled in their Rewards program, which is also free to join and is structured on a tiered basis wherein member earn rewards based on play; levels of accumulation ascend from silver to black to gold and platinum status.
Monique Sebastian, vice president of entertainment and entertainment, says, "We've always had some type of rewards program at Foxwoods, but ours has been recently redesigned for the convenience of the gamer in terms of how they use their points to access and enjoy the fun things we have to offer."
At present, Sebastian says Foxwoods presents four to six concerts a year for Rewards members; Richard Marx performed in March, and Lee Ann Womack is scheduled this month.
"The number of shows fluctuates according to demand," Sebastian says. "We do surveys and calculate things like how many times members visit, what their food and beverage preferences are and so on, and we pinpoint the Rewards activities based on that feedback. Players might enjoy a cruise or airline tickets or invitations to a blackjack tournament. But they always seem to like the free concerts."
One intriguing aspect to these shows is that they're booked individually after marketing teams at each casino decide on what type of artist they might want for a specific concert. Sebastian says, "The big question is, we want to know who comes to which shows. Is it country or R&B, Broadway or classic rock? What do our tiered players prefer?"
After determining a genre, she says, "We live in a world where there are a lot of artists who are either new stars or iconic, long-running artists. There's always someone we can find that will be a popular choice. We'll make a list of our top five, and 99 percent of the time, someone will be available."
As Cantone points out, the situation is different than simply plugging in an artist already on tour. First, the marketing team looks at the entertainment calendar to make sure a Momentum concert doesn't conflict with a major public concert.
"Normally, we have to go to the artist directly to see if they're available," Cantone says. "The shows are typically not part of an artist's tour. Maybe they're in the neighborhood, so to speak, or it's possible we can add a tour one-off. It takes a little work to create the date. There are about six major talent agencies that control 90 percent of the live entertainment. But we're pretty strong in the industry and are friendly with all of them. One advantage is that we can book these shows on a Thursday or Sunday and extend the weekend at the property."
In that sense, there's a casino-wide benefit to the players' shows scenario in that the members often make an "evening out" built around the concert. They've already received free tickets to high-dollar, big-demand acts, and, as Cantone says, "It becomes a fun opportunity to see the act and maybe eat and shop and play a bit."
If the acts performing these free shows are well-known and established, it's also true that perhaps their days filling the largest arenas have past; the players concerts put them back in a headlining venue.
"Obviously, we tell the agent there are no hard-ticket sales," Sebastian says. "We have a few hundred thousand in our data base, and the agent and the artist are very comfortable knowing there will always be plenty of happy people on hand." Sebastian says the players' concerts at Foxwoods are normally staged at their 4,000-seat Grand Theater, where "the acoustics and sightlines are spectacular. It's a pretty great place to spread the love."
"These bands are pretty happy to be playing in a packed arena again," Cantone says. "Make no mistake; they're still iconic artists, but maybe they're playing smaller halls than they were in their heyday. But we'll fill the arena for them and, I can tell you, the band and the audience are pretty happy about it."
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