In the 38 years since gambling became legal in Atlantic City, casino entertainment has evolved from a “if-book-them-they-will-come” process into a complex method of targeting certain audiences and specific demographics.

One of the lessons learned since the dice first legally began rolling in 1978 is that, when it comes to the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, casinos tend to proceed with caution.

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Come holiday time, there are so many things to do at the Jersey shore. From ballets and conc…

Atlantic City’s pleasure palaces have learned that of all the holidays and celebrations to which they can target their marketing and entertainment, one immutable truth has emerged: You can’t compete with Santa Claus.

Booking shows for a holiday — any holiday — is a delicate cross between marketing science, keeping tabs on pop culture and just plain luck. Picking the right headliner can make a difference in casino drop, especially during a time when people may be spending their gambling money on holiday presents.

For decades, Atlantic City was loaded with holiday shows featuring some of the biggest acts to play the casino circuit.

Kenny Rogers, currently winding down his career with a farewell tour, used to be a holiday regular at the now-closed Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. But it’s been years since Rogers’ holiday show was last on the Boardwalk.

Another seasonal regular was Tony Orlando. No entertainer has performed more New Year’s Eves in Atlantic City than Orlando — 26 out of 38 at last count. And on those off years when he didn’t headline on Dec. 31, he’d do a long weekend — or even a week to 10 days — in December with his festive holiday show.

But as more casinos opened in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, and competition for gaming revenue became heated, casinos began to be even more cautious about booking shows that might not produce a positive ROI — return on investment. Simply put, will gamblers lose enough money to justify the cost of a particular act?

Those lamenting that the casinos don’t do as much entertainment during the holiday season as they once did can take some comfort in knowing that show business isn’t exactly no business between now and Christmas.

Shows to put you in a holiday mood: Brenda Lee at Caesars Atlantic City:

3:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1

Lee was just 13 when she recorded what would become her holiday signature song “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” It flopped when it was released in 1958 and only sold 5,000 copies. It was released the following year and did slightly better. But in 1960, the tune sold 5 million copies and put Little Miss Dynamite on the musical map. Tickets are $39, available through Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-736-1420.

Michael Bolton: Greatest Hits Show with Holiday Favorites at Golden Nugget Atlantic City:

9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3

Blue-eyed soul meets the holidays when Bolton applies his big voice to some seasonal classics scattered around his dozen or so Top 20 hits from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Tickets are $49 and $79, available through Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-736-1420.

Holiday Jubilee at wTropicana Atlantic City:

Days and show times vary through Dec. 23

Give the Trop points for consistency. It’s the only Atlantic City casino that has regularly presented a family-friendly holiday production for a couple of decades. It’s the usual festive stuff: your favorite holiday songs, some pretty girls and guys dancing and a visit from the jolly old man in the red suit and white beard. Tickets are $10 for children 16 and under and $25 for adults, available through Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-736-1420.

Kenny G: The Miracles Holiday & Hits Tour at Golden Nugget Atlantic City:

9 p.m. Dec. 10

Is there any instrument more suited to holiday songs than the saxophone? If you’re not convinced, check out Kenny G’s show, which mixes some of his seasonal tunes with many of the smooth jazz hits that have become his signature. Tickets are $45 and $75, available through Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-736-1420.

Human Nature Jukebox Special Holiday Performance: Pop, Soul, Motown and More at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s Music Box:

9 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10

The Australian vocal group, who made their name in America with their spot-on mastery of many of Motown’s classics, returns to the Music Box with a program of holiday songs delivered in a variety of musical styles, including their signature Motown sound. Tickets are $35, available through TheBorgata.com or ComcastTIX by calling 877-544-8499.

Jose Feliciano at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s Music Box:

8 p.m. Dec. 17

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Jose Feliciano

This Puerto Rican singer and songwriter is another artist who can partially thank a holiday classic for making him a star. Feliciano can actually call two songs his signatures: his cover of The Doors’ “Light My Fire” and his oft-played holiday chestnut “Feliz Navidad.” Tickets are $35 and $39, available through TheBorgata.com or ComcastTIX by calling 877-544-8499.

Atlantic City Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” at Caesars Atlantic City:

7 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17

For the first time in its 33-year history, the Atlantic City Ballet has the stage space and height to perform an unabridged version of the holiday classic. Tickets are $40 and $45, available through Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-736-1420.

Twelve Twenty Four: A Trans-Siberian Evening at the Levoy Theatre in Millville:

8 p.m. Dec. 17

This tribute band to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra pulls out all the musical stops, as it recreates the sounds of TSO. Guests can enjoy some original material, as well. Tickets are $28.80, $32, $33.30, $37, $53.30 and $57, available through Levoy.net.

“One Christmas Carol” at the Cape May Stage:

7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 31

Cape May Stage Artistic Director Roy Steinberg directs this one-man show featuring actor Gary Marachek, who plays over 35 distinctly different characters. Tickets are $18 and $20, available through CapeMayStage.org or by calling 609-770-8311.