One of my greatest pleasures as a casino marketer is to find value in concepts, applications and people where no one else sees that value.

It’s probably why I’ve enjoyed scouring the gaming landscape to find The Best (and Worst) Casino Promotions every year. It’s also why your casino (or your business) should do a bobblehead doll promotion.

Finding the underappreciated value in people is a little harder. Seeing some hidden potential in someone, based on watching them in action, is not that difficult, but predicting whether that potential will be fully (or even partially) realized, well, that’s a much dicier proposition and depends so much on what’s inside a person’s DNA, heart and soul.

I knew 25 years ago that my administrative assistant was extremely talented (and in great part responsible for keeping me propped up in my junior marketing manager role), but I had no way of knowing that today she would be a senior vice president of national marketing for a major casino company.

Yes, some stars will shine brightly and to their fullest; while others may merely glimmer, with an occasional burst of luminescence. But I believe that there is another group of people-stars if you will-that are already glowing, but we just don’t notice them yet. Perhaps they are shining in a distant firmament that we rarely look at (or we don’t have telescopes).

I believe that there are many, many unsung “stars” in our gaming galaxy today that we take for granted or don’t fully appreciate. And they exist at all levels of every organization: The manager that sparks and motivates every other manager or the frontline employee that routinely gives that often withheld discretionary effort, in order to delight guests.

But here I’d like to focus on a few folks in gaming that I believe have made a major impact in our industry, but are either unknown by most or vastly underappreciated by many. I think it’s time we recognized The Unsung Difference Makers in Gaming. And here are my first nominees:

• Anthony Curtis, publisher, Huntington Press-Dismissed by some in gaming as a sharpie who hurts a casino’s bottom line, Curtis has been sharing honest information and educating gaming consumers for decades with his Las Vegas Advisor newsletter and published books on gaming. He is a true advocate of giving customers value.

• Bill Eadington, professor of economics, University of Nevada, Reno-The smartest guy in gaming, Dr. Bill has been doing honest, academic studies of gaming for 40 years. Not as “unsung” as some, I’ll take him off this list the day the AGA gives him the long-deserved honor of being in the Gaming Hall of Fame.

• Carol O’Hare, executive director, Nevada Council on Problem Gambling-Routinely taking the slings and arrows from both pro and anti-gaming groups, no one has done more for their state or for our industry, to increase awareness and create resources on behalf of problem gamblers.

• Megan Taylor, seminar director, National Indian Gaming Association - Given the task of creating quality learning opportunities for NIGA’s member tribes and gaming employees, Megan has labored mostly in the shadows, leveraging relationships, listening to her customers, and crafting honest conference sessions to help educate a whole generation of tribal executives.

• Eric Hansel, founder, EGM Green - Originally a lone voice and first treated by the industry as somewhat of a nuisance, Eric continues to push for “green” initiatives in the casino, including slots that use less electricity and recycled gaming tables and furniture.

• Don Speer, chairman of the board, VCAT- As well as pioneering gaming technology that routinely adds value for the customer (or why have it?), Don has developed and polished the one of a kind, laser focused casino operating formula that routinely thrills Barona Resort and Casino’s customers and employees, and serves as the single best example of continuous innovation in gaming.

• The Unsung (in memoriam) -Several unsung stars in gaming have lived and died underappreciated, including brilliant mathematician Peter Griffin, casino tournament maven Riqui Leon, national Indian leader Wendell Chino, gaming executive Tim Parrott and tribal chairwoman Margaret Dalton.

Unsung stars are all around us in the gaming industry. Take some time to sing their praises. Or better yet, become one yourself.