Casinos can learn from Branson

Jan 15, 2007 4:17 AM

Lisa: Mom, there’s no gambling in Branson. It was designed as a family destination.

Marge: Oh, no, there’s gambling. We just have to find it!

Bart: Branson is just "Las Vegas... if it were run by Ned Flanders".

The Cold War has been over for more than two decades, yet Yakov "In Russia”¦" Smirnoff still maintains packed houses two or three times a day, Shoji Tabuchi, an over-patriotic Asian fiddler with his albino wife Dorothy and perpetually virginal teen daughter Christina perform in his self-named theater which sports a million dollar bathroom (replete with pool table; www.shoji.com), and disgraced Pass the Loot (PTL) Network televangelist Jim "I was wrong" Bakker has his own television broadcast and motel complex. This is Branson, Missouri.

Lisa Simpson is correct that there is no gambling in Branson. Springfield, Missouri’s Robert Low, proprietor of Prime Trucking and also a key owner of the Palace Casino in Biloxi, tried to have the Missouri legislature allow for a riverboat in nearby Rockaway Beach, but despite a massive Low funded commercial campaign ($12,000,000), the boat did not float with the voters.

Bart’s quoting of Homer is also eerily observant. There is a queer, post-modern Pat Boone/Lisa "Born Again Blair Warner" Whelchel, Christian right bent to the whole Ozarks region. The profitability found in purity (e.g., it was a scandal when Andy Williams decided to offer a glass of wine at the refreshment stand of his Moon River theater) is the boon and the bane of Branson.

One would think that the primary audience for Branson, Brokaw’s Greatest Generation, would be averse to shelling out big bucks. After all, this is the same demographic that will eat at three in the afternoon to save $2 off a dinner special or contract (Medicaid covered) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from clipping coupons. Of course, this golden oldie group is also the choice patron assembly for casinos. Branson demonstrates that price premiums for entertainment do not turn away this silver gaggle.

Dick Clark’s museum celebrating 1955, the year he was still only a middle-aged teenager, costs $15 to enter for a stroll down memory lane. The Titanic Museum, Hollywood Wax Museum, and Predator World & Aquarium run about $20. That’s two bottles of 100 count Geritol.

Entertainment, the raison d’etre of the hillbilly strip (otherwise known as the "76 Country Music Highway") is no bargain either. Neil Goldberg’s "Cirque Branson Adventure" — picture a kosher version of a latex-overalled Enos Strateis dipping in and jumping out of a cement swimming whole, "Lost in the 50’s with the Platters" and "Champagne Super Club — Famous Las Vegas Show" on stage in the late morning (for geriatrics) at 9:30 a.m. for a breakfast show, 11:30 a.m. for lunch, and 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. for dinner. By the time somebody’s grandpa or grandma has enjoyed three shows and still be back at the motel in the time for Matlock, our elderly bon vivants can easily drop a C-note plus for some squeakily non-offensive, always patriotic good times. Old people like things they can remember (or at least think they remember.)

Branson is an easy place at which to poke fun, but there is no arguing the profitability of purity. In fact, Branson is a wholesome hoot, and I am major fan of all the place has to offer including six story wood go-cart tracks and all the catfish one can swallow buffets.

Central City and Cripple Creek were intended to be pretty wholesome tourism spots when originally being presented to the public for a vote to legalize gaming in Colorado. If one peruses the historic documents on the evolution from family tourist spot to gambling centers, the mountain towns were supposed to be genteel landscapes of candy shops with fresh taffy that might house a few low stakes slot machines.

Obviously, while there are a few antique stores and the like in Cripple Creek with a handful of slot machines, the owners of what became prime real estate quickly learned that there is more money in slots than in selling various guises of down-home Kountry Klutter.

Still, Branson can serve as a two-pointed paradigm for the Colorado casino towns. There is money to be made with non-discounted entertainment venues either directly or not directly associated with gaming and the older generation continues to want to be intellectually stimulated as witnessed by their willingness to pay relatively high prices to tour popular entertainment museums.

(Founded in 1996, Yarborough Planning, LLC partners with select clientele to better understand and address business process issues. Core competencies include training, providing reliable and valid research, strategic/analytic marketing, and accountable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) development and implementation. David Paster may be reached at (702) 813-5062 or [email protected])