Although Oklahoma is not quite Las Vegas — or even Reno, Nev. — where performers enjoy lucrative careers with million-dollar contracts, plenty of state casinos help musicians carve out a living.
Black has donned the ’70s-era Elvis wardrobe for years, crooning for poker players as a side gig to his band, Mike Black and the Stingrays.
“It’s not just the old people, but also the younger people,” he said. “I’ve had teenagers come up and want to get their picture taken with Elvis and I’ve had people who are winning say, ‘Elvis, you’re bringing me luck! Keep singing.’” With Oklahoma’s thriving and competitive gaming industry, entertainment is one way for a casino to stand out in the pack. Brad Peltier, director of marketing and public relations for FireLake Grand Casino in Shawnee, has brought in performers like Black during special occasions, just to liven up the gaming tables and recreate Vegas’ glittery glamour.
Another casino veteran, magician and juggler Mike King, who has performed at Riverwind and FireLake, often can be found chatting up small groups while casually blowing minds with sleight-of-hand card tricks.
He said he takes his craft as seriously as any other career. “I’ve been performing for more than 20 years, and yet, I still consider myself to be a work in progress,” King said.“As one may anticipate, the market for the kinds of shows I perform is slightly lower in Oklahoma City than other, larger cities like Chicago, Los Angeles or Manhattan. Based on conversations with entertainers in other cities, Oklahoma City is closer to the price range of Dallas, St. Louis and other markets closer to Oklahoma City.”