How TV game shows like ‘The Price is Right’ unite casino gamers and at-home viewers
A crowd of casino patrons cheered together, alternating from jumping up and down to dancing like no one was watching. This unwavering joy and excitement wasn’t happening on the casino floor as the result of a jackpot or royal flush, but instead inside a packed theater for a live game show that’s cultivated its fanbase on daytime television for decades.
Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula hosted “The Price is Right Live!” on Sunday, Nov. 19. It wasn’t the first time that Pechanga or other Southern California casinos had booked the traveling iteration of America’s longest-running game show on television, but it does mark a trend for casinos incorporating these types of events into their programming. Past shows have included “Wheel of Fortune,” and next year, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio and Pechanga will host live versions of the hit TV program “Dancing With The Stars.”
“The Price is Right Live!” gets the crowd going with trivia and historical clips shown on screens that include early moments with host Bob Barker mixed in with current host Drew Carey as they wait for the show to begin. The history portion invites the audience to watch reels of zany contestants and to clap-vote for their favorite one. Fans also get to play some iconic games in the long-running series, such as Punch-a-Bunch, Cliff Hangers, Clock Game, Plinko and Showcase Showdown.
“What started as four nights in a Reno casino has now grown into this incredible live presentation over two decades strong, sometimes playing for an audience of two or three thousand people,” said Todd Newton, host of “The Price is Right Live!” “Every night is a family reunion of sorts because you’re walking out on that stage with the benefit of all being there for the same reason. With ‘The Price is Right,’ the great games, prizes and legacy will always be there.”
Newton’s family sentiment also resonates with the fans who flocked in packs to the casino for a chance to win and to celebrate the nostalgic nature of a television series that’s become so much more than a pastime.
Bryan Hernandez and Jacqueline Amparano of Eastvale; Gabby and Augie Serrato of Oak Hills; Bobby Hernandez Eastvale; Veronica Orozco of San Jacinto; Hilda Hernandez of Chino Hills; and Angelica Serrato of Corona all grew up watching “The Price is Right” with their late mother and grandmother, who was a huge fan.
“At 10 o’clock in the morning, she would turn it on and go, ‘OK kids, I’m going to be watching Bob Barker,’ and she would cook breakfast for us, and we would just sit there and watch it,” said Gabby Serrato.
“(When I heard of the show) it made me think of my grandma and I thought, what better way to pay respect to her than ‘The Price is Right,’” said Bobby Hernandez.
Mother and daughter Bonnie and Natalie Spang also enjoyed the series as a family. Bonnie Spang, wearing the iconic “Big Wheel” as a costume, said she has been watching the show since she was 15. Her daughter’s partner, Erica Evans, stumbled on the show one day after she missed school.
“I remember watching it as a child when I was at home sick, and the tradition just grew from there,” Evans said.
Mikki Braunschweig of Anza and Yolanda Dennis of Orange have both attended the Los Angeles studio taping of the show, but never participated in any of the games and decided to try their luck at the live version.
“I met Bob Barker and asked a question from the audience when I had the privilege of being there, and I never got chosen, but it was fun,” Braunschweig said.
Jennifer and Keanna, Aquino of West Covina, visits Pechanga a couple of times a month, typically staying overnight at the casino’s hotel. While Jennifer enjoys slot machines, Keanna, a college student, mostly goes with the flow of what her family enjoys doing together. Events such as this live game show offer casinos an opportunity to cast a wide enough net for different generations walking through their doors.
“The nostalgia of this show is five decades deep, and I think casinos are wonderful because people visit them as a celebratory event, and it’s a big night out as it is,” Newton said. “Casinos are notorious for bringing in the best entertainment and making it accessible to people. We like knowing that this is a show you could bring your grandmother to, where nobody gets offended, and everyone is there to have a good time. Once they hear that music, they know something wonderful is about to happen. I hope people walk away with that same feeling when they watch the show at home.”