How Las Vegas evolved from last hurrah for stars to today’s Entertainment Capital of the World

Editor’s Note: After a visit to Madrid, Spain, Robin Leach has safely arrived at his favorite Italian hideaway in Tuscany for his annual family vacation. In his absence, Las Vegas VIPs have agreed to fill in for him with guest columns.

Here today is Jason Gastwirth, Senior VP of Entertainment and Marketing for Caesars Entertainment, responsible for Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez , Lionel Richie and Pitbull at Axis at Planet Hollywood; Celine Dion, Sir Elton John, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey and Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace; and “America’s Got Talent” winners Mat Franco at the Linq Hotel and Paul Zerdin at Planet Hollywood Showroom.

This afternoon, Reba and Brooks & Dunn prepare to return to The Colosseum on Tuesday with an onstage Facebook live chat. Jason, who is now preparing two new shows for the former Jubilee theater at Bally’s, explains how Las Vegas has ramped up the entertainment action on the Strip for superstars now happily calling our desert paradise home.

— Robin Leach

Back in the day, entertainment wasn’t exactly Las Vegas’ strongest suit. Gambling was the primary reason visitors flocked to the desert oasis. The lure of slot machines, buckets full of coins and dreams of big payouts were all it took to capture someone’s attention.

The artists who performed residencies here in those days generally were at the end of their careers. The Las Vegas stage was their last hurrah before quietly slipping into retirement.

But this is not the Las Vegas we know and love today. The city is now the Entertainment Capital of the World as visitors from all over the globe travel to see their favorite artists perform. How did we get here?

The reason you see the best of the best with their name in lights, performing night after night to sold-out shows, is simple. Call it luck — or as we like to think, pure genius, but Caesars Entertainment’s impact on Las Vegas has changed the rows of marquees you see today.

Las Vegas is now known as a place for icons, rising stars and mid-career artists alike rather than a place to end one’s career. This shift in the city can be credited to Caesars Palace and Celine Dion with the introduction of The Colosseum.

In 2000, Caesars Palace planned to renovate its anchor showroom, Circus Maximus, which housed many iconic and legendary performers such as Frank Sinatra and Diana Ross. However, the plan was altered when the hotel was approached with a unique and exciting business venture with Dion and co-promoter AEG Live that would forever change the landscape of entertainment.

Once this partnership was finalized, the Circus Maximus renovation was canceled to make way for an even grander and more spectacular venue that would be designed and built exclusively for Dion and her production, A NEW DAY …, together working to revitalize and change the entertainment landscape by creating a paradigm shift in the market. The result was The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, which sparked the groundbreaking for a term that is now commonplace in Las Vegas: Residencies.

The residency model has stood the test of time as other trends in the city have come and gone. Ten years after Dion made her debut on the Strip, Caesars Entertainment decided to redefine the residency and explore the model’s potential with a different audience.

In 2013, the company ushered in a new era of entertainment by changing the format of the typical residency and brought a new kind of pop music headliner to Planet Hollywood: Britney Spears.

Britney took the Strip by storm. From the big reveal in the Mojave Desert to her residency extension last year, fans and visitors to Las Vegas can’t get enough of the legendary pop icon with record-setting numbers.

The notion of this residency model reimagined for a younger audience is indicative of Caesars Entertainment’s prowess as an innovator of entertainment in the Las Vegas market. Instead of touring around the world, Caesars Entertainment provides artists the opportunity to bring their individual creative vision to the stage through customized set pieces, lighting, choreography and latest technologies.

When it comes to Las Vegas, fans will travel to see their favorite artist perform. The luxury of allowing an artist to be housed in one intimate venue is our greatest asset, one that was attractive to the eyes of many other performers.

So we continued to push the boundaries. Not only does The Colosseum cater to powerhouse Dion, but it also showcases the legendary voices of Sir Elton John, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, Reba McEntire, Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn and Jerry Seinfeld. In the first four months of 2016, we premiered residencies at Axis at Planet Hollywood, along with our co-promoter partner Live Nation, with global superstar Jennifer Lopez, music icon Lionel Richie and sensational hitmaker Pitbull.

Caesars Entertainment has created one of the most powerful lineups of performers ever, not just in Las Vegas but also the world, solidifying Caesars as the leader in bringing world–class entertainment to the famed Las Vegas Strip.

And we didn’t stop there. Caesars Entertainment has capitalized on the ever-changing neon city. As the number of visitors to Las Vegas grows each year, the demand to provide greater entertainment and nightlife experiences for our guests grows, as well.

In conjunction with the opening of BRITNEY: PIECE OF ME at Axis, Caesars Entertainment also made a statement by introducing Axis. This modern marvel of a venue defined the VIP and nightclub experience and merged it with live entertainment.

Axis brings a contemporary feeling of intimacy and excitement as a true nexus of nightlife and entertainment. With state-of-the-art technology, including one of the largest proscenium theaters in the United States, and world-class VIP tables and bottle service operated by Drai’s, Axis is a one-of-a-kind theater.

Through its modern venues and bigger-than-life headliners, Caesars Entertainment built a destination for accomplished artists in their prime. The power has shifted now. The fans travel to see the artist, allowing them to experience a live concert in ways that couldn’t be done anywhere else.

Caesars Entertainment has consistently been at the forefront of entertainment and has set a high standard for Las Vegas, one that has forced others in the industry to follow.

Billboard Magazine, the leading global destination for charts, news, trends and innovations in music, recently named Caesars Entertainment as the third-largest live entertainment promoter in North America (No. 5 worldwide).

Additionally, The Colosseum was named the No. 1 Top Small Venue for the 11th time, and Axis was named the No. 3 Midsize Venue (No. 2 in the U.S.).

With a number of awards to its name, as well as the most successful headlining residencies in Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment is truly a pioneer in Las Vegas entertainment, which is now the primary driver of visitation to the city based on recent research conducted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and will continue to offer the best entertainment experiences.

As the market expands with a host of new venues across the city, we are proud to have laid and continue to strengthen the foundation for the city at-large to be a true world leader in this form of entertainment.

— Jason Gastwirth

With the grand opening Tuesday of BAZ: STAR CROSSED LOVE at Palazzo and Thursday’s superstar celebration of the 10th anniversary of THE BEATLES LOVE by Cirque du Soleil at The Mirage, we have a full week ahead with more guest columns and coverage of all the celebrity action.

— Robin Leach

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