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Monday, June 26, 2006

Betting on books

Jodi Hilton for The New York Times

The author Janet Evanovich at Foxwoods Resort
Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., before her book
reading in the theater on Tuesday.

Casinos to Book Lovers: Let Us Entertain You, Too

MASHANTUCKET, Conn., June 20 — To mark the release of the 13th novel in her best-selling Stephanie Plum mystery series, the author Janet Evanovich hired a Tom Jones impersonator, brought her future son-in-law on stage in drag to act as one of her characters, and gave away 500 balloons, fortune cookies and stickers.

It was not your standard book reading. But then again, the location — Foxwoods Resort Casino — was also far from standard. Just outside the theater where Ms. Evanovich addressed more than 1,200 ardent, hooting fans, were the vast halls filled with more than 7,000 slot machines, clanging and flashing 24 hours a day. The nearby Fuddruckers was advertising a "25 lb. party burger."

To the roster of musicians, comedians and magicians appearing at casinos these days, add your favorite author. Next month, Foxwoods, which began offering book signings last fall, will bring in Augusten Burroughs, author of "Running with Scissors" and "Possible Side Effects." A few miles away, Erica Jong and Robin Cook will be appearing this summer at the Mohegan Sun casino, where best-selling thriller writers including Nora Roberts and Sue Grafton have done readings over the past three years.

In Las Vegas, a bookstore in Mandalay Place, the mall connected to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, averages about four author signings a month, with writers including Mary Higgins Clark and the celebrity chefs and cookbook authors Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.

It is one thing to see Siegfried & Roy or even Cirque du Soleil between playing the slots, but an author? For casinos, which are trying to attract visitors interested not so much in gambling as in a broad range of entertainment, it can make sense.

"Casinos historically limit themselves to the types of activities that they think their customers will be interested in — boxing, rock concerts or sporting events," said Mitchell Etess, chief executive of Mohegan Sun, which has worked mostly with Penguin Group USA, the publisher, to bring in authors over the past three years. "But obviously, many people read books and everybody has got their favorite authors, and it just seemed like it would be a logical extension of our program offering."

posted by Steve @ 2:14:00 AM

2:14:00 AM

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