Playing Casinos


© 2015 Vinny Ribas

Casinos come in all shapes and sizes! Because of that, they use virtually every kind of musical entertainment there is. From singer/songwriters to musical reviews, and from pop, country or rock dance bands to strolling violin players. They have small stages for solos acts and duos. They have dance rooms or cabarets. Some have entertainment up over and behind the bar. Many use entertainment in restaurants. Many have theaters or showrooms for larger or name acts. Many have banquet halls for weddings, conventions etc. Thus, they get asked to find all kinds of entertainers.

 Many also have large special occasions when they need music unlike what they normally offer. For example, in Reno there is a week in August for ‘Hot August Nights’. Over 5,000 owners of cars from the 50’s-70s come to show off their vehicles, and over 100,000 visitors come to see them. That week, the only thing you will here all over town is ‘oldies but goodies’ music! Your job is to do your homework on each casino to insure that you are a proper fit.

Getting booked:

  • Many casinos go through booking agents exclusively. Call the casino and ask to speak directly to the Entertainment Director. He or she will let you know if an agent handles their booking. If not, you’ve reached the right person.
  • Sometimes, in smaller casinos, the entertainment director is also the marketing director.
  • Many casinos have themes. If you’re a country band, you might start with the casinos that have western themes. Larger casinos may have many themed restaurants or bars within them, such as an Irish pub, a Greek restaurant, a western saloon, a New Orleans style jazz lounge etc. So again, do your homework.
  • Casinos have popular banquest facilities, so be sure to present your act to the banquets sales department as well, if it is appropriate.
  • There are some large casino chains, such as Harrah’s, with locations all across the country. Once you’re in one, and do well, it’s easy to get booked at the rest.
  • You can find lists of casinos at or
  • Don’t neglect the local casinos. Many of them have several stages or music all day long.
  • If you’re not a proper fit for their regular entertainment, ask if they would be interested in keeping you promo package on file for special occasions.
  • Some casinos have been known to build events for their patrons around a specialty act. For example, you may have a popular Cajun band, which could inspire a casino to hire you for its own ‘Cajun Festival’. If you have a specialty act, ask about creating an event around your music.
  • If you’re interested in being in a review, check out
  • Have a great promo package or EPK. There is a lot of competition for these jobs, so you need to make a great first impression.
  • Casinos have last minute cancellations, especially since bands travel long distances to get there. Let the entertainment buyer know how much notice you would need to ‘fill in’. It may be worth the trip to play one night if it gets you in the door.
  • Many casinos have rules about where you can perform before and after your engagement with them. They like to present an image of exclusivity. So, for example, it might be in your contract that you can’t perform within 50 miles of the casino within the 30 days before and after your engagement with them.
  • Depending on the casino, you may be deemed too good. Some casinos don’t want an act who is going to draw people away from gambling for too long. When booking the gig, ask what the real purpose of your being there is. Your concern will go a long way in getting the gig.
  • Some casinos have house gigs, hiring one band for months and even years at a time. Let the entertainment buyer know if you would be interested in this kind of opportunity.
  • Casinos pay fairly well, and usually have a set wage for each stage and shift.  However, the same kind of gig may pay differently from on casono to another. Do your homework first so you know what to expect.


  • Keep in mind that many lounge acts have to perform for 5-6 hours/night in a casino!
  • You may be booked to work a day shift instead of a night shift. Or, you may have to rotate shifts.
  • Many casinos will book acts for 1-2 weeks at a time, 5 or 6 nights a week! That’s why they make a great circuit to be on!
  • You may be asked to play listening music one night and dance music another. You are often hired just to create a fun atmosphere.
  • Bring a watch. There are no clocks in casinos.
  • Take your breaks when you are supposed to. They want your ‘fans’ to go back to gambling.
  • Many casinos have a dress code. Others ask you to dress to fit their theme.
  • You must maintain your professionalism at all times. You never know who the high rolers are.
  • Some casinos do not allow facial hair.
  • Casinos are very noisy. You may be up against hundreds or thousands of slot machines going at once, people screaning at the crap table and roulette etc.
  • Be prepared to be ignored. This goes back to being hired just to set the atmosphere.
  • You may perform on a stage up above the bar.
  • Casinos like an attractive act. Some cainos insist that you have a girl in the act. I recall seeing a Beatles tribute band that had a female keyboard player with them on stage. The keyboards weren’t even plugged in.
  • Casinos are very sensitive to volume. Be aware of this and ask for feedback.
  • Many casinos will not let you gamble there, especially during your shift.
  • Some casinos may give you meal allowances.
  • Casinos serve free drinks; you often have to deal with inibriated guests.
  • Casinos don’t have any windows.
  • Most casinos will restrict you from playing certain songs like ‘Cocaine’ and ‘The Rodeo Song’.
  • Often there in no dance floor.

Note that you may be asked to perform for any number of reasons. I worked in Harrahs in Reno on the 10PM – 4AM shift with my duo. There was never anyone there after midnight. When I asked why they had us performing, I was told that our job was to keep the card dealers awake ‘in case a high roller came in!’ 

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.