The Best Shows in Las Vegas, And Why Casino Companies Want Them

Entertainment has long been a specialty in Las Vegas, drawing tourists from around the world to experience unique shows and settings. Companies such as MGM Resorts International(NYSE: MGM ) , Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN ) , Las Vegas Sands  (NYSE: LVS ) , and Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ: CZR ) are making big bets on the entertainment industry in Las Vegas as gambling revenue becomes a lesser part of the overall tourism appeal of Sin City. Here are the best shows in Las Vegas, the resorts that house them, and why these companies want them.

The best shows in Vegas
Here are 10 shows that listed as “some [of] our favorite Vegas shows”:

  1. “O” by Cirque du Soleil (Bellagio)
  2. Celine Dion (Caesars Palace)
  3. Terry Fator (Mirage)
  4. Absinthe (Caesars Palace)
  5. Le Reve (Wynn Resorts)
  6. Jersey Boys (Paris Las Vegas)
  7. Penn and Teller (Rio)
  8. Boys II Men (Mirage)
  9. Human Nature (The Venetian)
  10. Blue Man Group (Monte Carlo)

Las Vegas has helped shape modern acrobatics and circus performing, and Cirque du Soleil started a major trend there by attracting audiences willing to pay Broadway-like prices for circus performances. Cirque now has six shows in Vegas. Acrobatic shows consistently rank on most lists of must-see Las Vegas shows, including Cirque’s O and its other offerings, Wynn’s La Reve (created by a former Cirque creative director who developed O), and more.

Adult shows are another genre, much like acrobatics, that have found a niche in Vegas as an upscale experience compared to the more seedy venues of days past. Absinthe is a “variety” show that features a bit of acrobatics and comedy, along with plenty of topless performers. Similarly, Thunder From Down Under and Chippendales have become famous for their adult appeal while maintaining a performance aspect that puts them in the same category as other professional stage performers. Even Cirque du Soleil has taken a stab at this market with Zumanity, an adult-oriented acrobatic show.

Of course, comedy acts like Terry Fator, singing idols Celine Dion and Boys II Men, and even genre-defying acts like Blue Man Group and Penn and Teller that incorporate humor, magic, and more all take advantage of a constantly renewed audience in Las Vegas to fill house seats. Many of these shows sell out even when the show is performed almost every day of the week.

Why entertainment matters for Las Vegas resort companies
Las Vegas’ reemergence has been a welcome light in an otherwise dark gaming industry over the last year. The new Las Vegas bet isn’t on gaming alone, but on total entertainment in which gambling is one aspect (a decreasing part, as gaming in 2014 made up just one-third of total tourist revenue in Las Vegas, its lowest amount ever).

The tourism industry in Las Vegas is growing thanks to a record number of visitors who are spending increasing amounts of money on live entertainment and other nongaming activities. In 2014, there were over 41 million visitors to the city. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority forecasts that number will reach 45 million annual visitors in the next couple years, spurred on by these growing number of venues and attractions.

Companies such as Cirque du Soleil, artists such as Celine Dion, and even sporting events including the national table tennis championship see Las Vegas as one of the best places to bring audiences and fans together. While that happens, the companies hosting these shows and events benefit not only from ticket sales, but from the overall tourism economy with hotel, food and beverage, and convention space revenue all increasing. One company has made the biggest bet on Las Vegas and is gaining the most from the growing economy there: MGM Resorts.

MGM for the win
MGM resorts host many of the top live shows in Vegas, including four of the 10 listed above. But MGM is not just betting on selling tickets to these shows — it also is gaining revenue with the most properties and hotel rooms of any company in Las Vegas, gaining on the overall tourist economy that is strengthened by its live entertainment offerings. MGM posted solid first-quarter numbers recently, with rising earnings year over year. This happened even as most of its competitors have been slammed by declining earnings due to their heavy bets in the troubled Asian gaming mecca of Macau.

Going forward, MGM looks to be the best on the future of Las Vegas, with 11 major properties and 27% of all hotel rooms in the city. It is even constructing what will be the city’s biggest arena, to be used for concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment.