In an announcement that largely flew under the Atlantic City radar last week, the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., said it had reached an exclusive, long-term agreement with Live Nation to book shows and events into the gaming hall’s 3,000-capacity Event Center that’s scheduled to open next May.
ATLANTIC CITY — You know that 500-pound canary that’s been chirping on the other side of the Delaware River for almost five years? Its song just got a little bit louder.
In an announcement that largely flew under the Atlantic City radar last week, the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., said it had reached an exclusive, long-term agreement with Live Nation — one of the world’s biggest concert promoters — to book shows and events into the gaming hall’s 3,000-capacity Event Center that’s scheduled to open next May.
Live Nation, which books the majority of shows for the Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa here, will work in conjunction with the Vision Entertainment Group, which is partnering with the Sands on the project, to essentially bring the same caliber of acts to Bethlehem that it’s been importing to Atlantic City.
This is not the sort of news that Atlantic City, which is mired in a four-year gaming revenue slump, needed to hear. And if you think one entertainment venue located 120 miles from the Boardwalk isn’t such a big deal, think again.
Ever since Pennsylvania opened the first of its nine casinos in early 2006 — first with slot machines only, now with table games — the conventional wisdom was that the Keystone state gaming halls would be little more than “convenience” casinos marketing and catering mostly to local gamers who didn’t want to drive an hour or more just to play in Atlantic City.
That didn’t mean those casinos were to be ignored or taken lightly, but — lacking Atlantic City’s first-class, non-gaming amenities like gourmet dining rooms, pulsing nightclubs and fine retail shops — they couldn’t provide the same complete destination-resort experience visitors could find in Atlantic City.
If there was a silver lining to the nearby competition, it was that Pennsylvania’s tax rate on gaming revenues — 55 percent for slots, 16 percent for table games — was so high there was little margin for the visitor amenities that separated Atlantic City from Pennsylvania. Foremost among them was world-class entertainment.
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The Borgata’s two entertainment venues — the roughly 3,000-seat Event Center and 1,000-seat Music Box — were ranked among the top 100 of their respective size categories worldwide by Pollstar, the premier publication and news-source for the concert industry. The list is based on ticket sales reported to Pollstar between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of the past year. It was the fourth straight year both Borgata theaters made the list. “We could not be more pleased to have both of our entertainment venues on Pollstar’s lists,” says Borgata senior vice president Joe Lupo in a media release. “Over the last six years Borgata has been host to the biggest names in entertainment. We would not have been able to bring such high-caliber entertainment to Atlantic City without the help of our friends at [concert promoter] Live Nation, who have played an integral role in positioning Borgata as one of the country’s leading entertainment destinations.” In 2009, the Music Box hosted such sought-after headliners as David Cook, the Roots, Jewel, Roger Daltrey, Tracey Morgan, Chelsea Handler...
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