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Still in the Building

After 11 months, it looks as if the Elvis Presley controversy in Las Vegas wedding chapels has died down. Thank goodness.

Still in the Building

As you may recall, Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the company that bought the rights to the King’s image and brand from the Elvis Presley estate, sent cease-and-desist letters last May to Las Vegas chapels that have Elvis impersonators as the officiants, telling them to stop using the likeness of Elvis Presley without permission.

The letters sent a shock wave through the more than 50 Las Vegas chapels that offer Elvis weddings. One of the quintessential Vegas things is taking your vows before the King. Heck, for our 25th anniversary, my wife and I renewed our vows before a very convincing Elvis.

Well, after much consternation, negotiations with ABG resulted in the company making a statement that Elvis will not be leaving the chapel buildings after all.

“We are working with the chapels to ensure that the usage of Elvis’ name, image and likeness are in keeping with his legacy,” ABG told FOX5 News in Las Vegas last summer. “Elvis is embedded into the fabric of Las Vegas, and we embrace and celebrate Elvis fandom. From tribute artists and impersonators to chapels and fan clubs, each and every one of these groups helps to keep Elvis relevant for new generations of fans.”

Chapel owners breathed a sigh of relief, and after nearly a year, there have been no indications that the ceremonies are leading to any lawsuits, or even cease-and-desist orders.

That’s good news, because it would be tragic if Vegas lost one of the quirky activities that define the gaming capital. Our own renewal of the vows was at the Graceland Chapel in Downtown Las Vegas, which claims to be the original Elvis wedding chapel. According to its website, luminaries to tie the knot there include Jon Bon Jovi and the rock group KISS.

It doesn’t say how KISS got married by Elvis. Was it all four members of the band with their brides? Did they upstage Elvis by wearing their stupid clown makeup during the ceremony? Did they subsequently rock and roll all night and party every day? If so, how many days were involved? Enquiring minds want to know.

By the way, our Elvis ceremony was delightfully cheeseball. The officiant was somewhere between Aloha from Hawaii Elvis and puffy Elvis from his final days. As I recall, we bought the “Love Me Tender Package” for around $400. Three songs, and corny vows like “I promise to love you tender and to not be cruel.”

It was a blast. And no cease-and-desist orders.

As far as I know, there have been no controversies in California, either, after the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino late last year introduced its newest employee, “Elvis” the robot waiter.

Serving up orders at Chukchansi’s Deuces Diner, Elvis is a “Servi model assistant” from Bear Robotics, the same company that supplies non-Elvis robots to some Denny’s locations.

The Chukchansi’s Elvis isn’t going to draw any lawsuits, though. Other than the name and a picture of a sideburned kind-of-Elvis-looking guy on a portrait behind the serving tray, the gizmo simply transports orders from the kitchen to various tables, and does simple bussing and cleaning chores. I don’t know if it sings a single song to the customers.

It doesn’t even look like a robot. It looks more like a moving room-service tray. Heck, if you’re going to do an Elvis robot, at least have a head with sideburns and a sequined jumpsuit. Maybe some nuts and bolts on the side of the head, like the robot maid from The Jetsons.

That’s what I would have done, but then again, I’m pretty much defined by cartoons from the 1960s. And The Three Stooges.

Hey, I know—what about Stooge robot servers? They could slap and poke each other as they serve you your food faster than you can say “Ticonderoga.” If you can say “Ticonderoga.”

(Hey, I’m always thinking.)

But anyway, the Elvis robot communicates a larger reality for the casino industry: we love nostalgia acts. The most recent lineup for the Showplace Theatre at Oklahoma City’s Riverwind Casino offers a prime example. Headliners this year include Earth, Wind and Fire, Collective Soul, Counting Crows, REO Speedwagon, Chicago and Foreigner.

It proves that casinos are still where old acts go to die. In fact, casinos are where they go even after they die, from the Rat Pack to George Burns to that old standby, the King of Rock and Roll. All I can say is:

Thangya. Thangya very much.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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