Ask people to think about Las Vegas during its first heyday in the 1950s and 1960s and I bet most envision Frank, Sammy, Dino and other members of the Rat Pack clowning around onstage instead of pouring quarters into mechanical reel slots or throwing dice at the craps table.

Indeed, it seems that casinos and live entertainment have forever been tied at the hip, whether it was Elvis singing before sellout crowds at the Las Vegas Hilton in the 1970s, Siegfried & Roy performing their magic show at Mirage Resort & Casino in the 1990s or the hundreds of other crowd-generating casino-based acts throughout the decades. A recent survey backed by MGM Resorts International sheds some light on why live entertainment has been an intrinsic part of the casino experience in the past, and why it remains important for the gaming enterprise today and in the future.

The survey, entitled “Truth About Entertainment,” was commissioned by MGM to better understand current entertainment consumption trends, and determine the impact digital-based and streaming entertainment options were having on live entertainment events, according to a press release.

“One of the things we discovered, which frankly surprised us, is that the growth of digital content is not replacing people’s desire for live entertainment, and is unexpectedly spurring more of a desire for a balanced diet of live and online entertainment experiences,” said Lilian Tomovich, chief experience and marketing officer for MGM Resorts International.

While entertainment is typically viewed as filling a “leisure-time” role in people’s lives, the study revealed that many consider it significantly more fundamental to their identities and welfare than is commonly believed, with more than 90 percent of respondents in the U.S. and China, and more than 80 percent in Japan, seeing entertainment as a fundamental contributor to their health and happiness.

Other finding from the “Truth About Entertainment” study:

  • Seventy-six percent say that entertainment has influenced the person they are today, while 62 percent say entertainment has influenced their choice of partner.
  • Two-thirds of American respondents (and a little more than half in both China and Japan) said they would be willing to get rid of all online entertainment—whether Netflix, Spotify, YouTube or others—to preserve the opportunity to experience live entertainment.
  • About 80 percent in China and 60 percent in the U.S. said the more time they spent with a screen, the more they craved live entertainment.

However, despite their interest in experiencing live entertainment and how essential such events were to them, people in all three countries reported they did not attend as much as they desired, for a variety of reasons. Half of U.S. respondents pointed to a lack of time and too many responsibilities, and the numbers were even higher in Asia (59 percent in Japan; 55 percent in China).

Therein lies the challenge for the modern gaming facility when it comes to live entertainment—history shows these events can boost attendance and provide a marketing edge, but going forward it will have to be, well, vital enough to force harried patrons to devote valuable time to see it.

That is a tall order, but one MGM is willing to undertake. “MGM Resorts has long been committed to creating moments guests can’t find elsewhere,” Tomovich said. “This research reinforces our belief that entertainment is critical to the human experience and provides the backbone of our new corporate marketing campaign.”

It will be interesting to see how many other gaming operators adopt this all-in approach.