by Troy Wyatt
By now it feels like we’ve seen just about everything the pandemic has to offer. Or have we? As we approach the two-year anniversary of COVID, only one thing seems to be consistent – change. Your casino entertainment program is no exception to the rule. Remember, the venue that thrives is not the biggest or the most well-known, but the most adaptable to change. These changes could include a shift in programming, a reduced number of shows, and of course, staffing level adjustments. The changes don’t stop there, however. Many tribal casinos are also altering their concert attendance requirements to be in alignment with local venues, industry juggernauts, and Broadway. There are some variations of these requirements too. For example, Broadway is requiring all staff and patrons to show proof of vaccination while other venues will allow either party to present negative COVID test results within 72 hours of the event.
Follow these six steps to help navigate the complexities of preparing to implement a proof of vaccination or negative test entry requirement at your casino concert venue:
1) Research your implementation options – digital and traditional.
2) Prepare a script for your guest services team.
3) Don’t overcomplicate or overspend.
4) Automate email reminders per event.
5) Add a COVID disclaimer to your events page.
6) Update your ticket purchase terms and conditions.
Sadly, we are still very far from having access to a universal validation standard for tribal casinos and non-casino venues. Currently there are no plans for a publically accessible federal vaccination database. Whether you are considering a “digital passport” controlled by an app or the physical approach of vaccine and test validation, some form of labor increase is imminent. Having staff check for proof of vaccination or negative test manually is more labor-intensive, but is the easiest to implement and could be the most cost-effective. Opting for a software service to automate this is more complex, costly, but could speed up event check-in, have a bigger impact on perception, and reduce labor burden. The tools you decide to use will vary widely in usefulness and cost, which is why doing your research is so important.
Preparing a script for your guest services team could be the most important step. These customer service specialists are your first line of information. A great guest service team will be resolution-driven, courteous, relatable, and informative. With the right tools, they are capable of resolving almost any issues on the spot. When it comes to concert or ticketing-related matters, though, there is no one size fits all solution. Especially with COVID looming. Consider the following script as a starting point when informing your patrons of the new attendance requirement:
“When purchasing tickets to this event, you are agreeing to follow all health and safety measures in effect at the date and time of the event, including, but not be limited to, providing proof of negative COVID-19 test, proof of vaccination status, and/or wearing masks. Venue protocols and entrance requirements are subject to change. Check our event venue website for current information.”
A great example of not overcomplicating or overspending is the Seattle football stadium. This venue requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry, but doesn’t manage the process electronically. Instead, they usher in tens of thousands of people by visually inspecting each patron’s test paperwork, pictures, and vaccine cards. Avoid free or “cheap” vaccine/test validation products. If you use an application or product and it’s free, you are the product.
Automated email reminders are crucial in all forms of marketing. When it comes to ticketing, there are many ways to use automation to your benefit. The right ticketing platform will allow the operator to communicate to all ticket buyers and market directly to those who have chosen to opt-in. Most venues deploy a “your upcoming event” reminder email three to five days out from each event as a courtesy. Use this timed format and email feature to help inform your patrons of the new attendance requirements. Remember, there is no limit to the number of pre-show email reminders you can send, just make sure the information you are sending is useful, relevant, and easy to retain.
Chances are, you have already added some version of a COVID disclaimer to your casino’s website. Take some time to also strategically place an informative disclaimer regarding your events. Consider the following as a starting point for your events disclaimer:
“Due to COVID restrictions, and in cooperation with local/state mandates, changes to event status are likely to occur. To help ensure your safety, check the venue’s website frequently for up-to-date information on event status and
“There is an inherent risk of COVID-19 exposure in all places where people assemble. COVID-19 is a contagious disease that can cause severe sickness and may be fatal. You are assuming all risks, dangers, and hazards that may arise from, or could relate in any way to the risk of contracting a transmissible illness or disease – including, and without limitation, any form of exposure to COVID-19 or all other bacteria, viruses or pathogen likely to cause a transmittable illness or disease, whether your exposure occurs during, after or before the event, and regardless of how contracted. By purchasing a ticket, you are hereby waiving any and all claims and all potential claims against (XYZ Casino).”
Will your venue be ready to deal with hundreds of refunds requests caused by misinformed patrons who were turned away at the gate on show day? Ultimately, casino entertainment is intended to bring people together. With the right operational strategy, you will be able to do just that. Additionally, you will operate within regulation, avoid negative press, profit from ticket sales, and avoid unnecessary liability.
Don’t forget to inform ticket holders who purchased tickets before you changed attendance requirements. Additionally, it may be wise to send an informative COVID-related update via e-blast to your entire ticketing and/or player database. Ticket holders will feel empowered if informed of any event changes ahead of time, and your customer service will go a long way. When you’ve covered all your bases, it will ensure the best possible outcome on show day. Turning paying customers away at the doors of your casino venue is preventable. All you have to do is leverage the right tools and follow a well thought out plan.
Troy Wyatt is Principal Owner of Seattle Entertainment Group, a Native owned and operated casino entertainment company. He can be reached by calling (425) 530-9913 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.