Gaming pros form firm to help casinos and manufacturers carry out projects in tough economic times

It’s no secret that the recession has caused casino companies to tighten their belts and trim employees from payrolls.

Nevertheless, projects must be carried out and upgrades must be made, despite the dwindling staff and dollars.

That left slot executives in a quandary. At least until they hear about Advanced Gaming Associates, LLC. a team of experienced slot veterans who are equipped to handle a broad scope of projects from putting in a new slot system to hanging interior signage to installing a turnkey casino.

Initially formed 2.5 years ago as a slot distributorship for Pennsylvania, Advanced Gaming Associates soon found a niche helping slot manufacturers and casinos get their businesses up and running. Now, since the economy went south, forcing casinos to lay off employees and cut costs, the company has found itself in even greater demand, said Tony Tomasello, a longtime Atlantic City slot veteran who started at the Golden Nugget as a slot tech when he was 18.

“Everybody needs help,” Tomasello said.

The firm steps in to handle issues such as system wiring for an installation of Bally Technologies system, or in the case of Foxwoods, the company was hired to install Bally Technologies’ iVIEW screens on 6,800 games.

“They thought it was a five-week job; we were done in 12 days,” Tomasello said.

These guys know their stuff, Tomasello said of the 36-member staff of veterans, from slot mechanics, IT professionals, slot operations professionals.

“We’re diversified enough that there’s nothing they can’t throw at us,” Tomasello said. “We’re filling a need of something that’s not available right now.”

“We do everything in the casino except build them and install the surveillance,” he said. That could include interior signage, slot base installation, slot machine installation, and validator and printer maintenance.

“Our guys can walk in and work with any system and any machines,” Tomasello said.

A week from the day of this interview, Tomasello said his team would be off to Bethlehem, Pa., to begin a project at the Sands Bethlehem, wiring non-Bally slot machines with the Bally system. At the same time, they’ll install Konami Gaming slot machines.

The firm has done a host of projects across the country, including projects in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Projects have included several “start-to-finish” slot floor installations, including the Gomes/Cordish Indiana Live project in Shelbyville, Ind. Among the other types of jobs the firm was involved include the installation of new bases, machines and signs for three casinos in Puerto Rico, and an 800-game expansion at the Silverton casino-hotel in Las Vegas.

The company also has people spread across the country, in Atlantic City, Reno, Las Vegas, Virginia and Oklahoma.

“And we’re looking for more. Right now, I have the biggest labor pool anywhere. I can pick the best of the best,” said Tomasello, who notes he looks for not only the best skill set but also the right attitude when it comes to loyalty and work ethic.

“We are very stringent about the people we hire. The people I bring into this company have to have the right attitude and right skill set,” Tomasello said. “In this particular business, I’m only as good as my last job.”

The company stands by its work, he said, noting if there’s an issue, it will make it right.

The company has about 40 clients, and most of them are repeat customers. It also sponsors a course at the Atlantic City Gaming Institute. Those who pass the course get an interview with the company, and an opportunity to intern there and possibly earn a spot on the staff.

His employees like the project- by-project nature of the work. “My average person wants to work three weeks straight 12 hours a day and take a week or two off.”

As gaming moves into the server-based realm, Tomasello said his firm will be ready. He’s hiring the right people to offer more expertise once downloadable and networked gaming gets going.

“I don’t think there’s any question that this is the way were going to go,” he said. “There’s an evolution going on,” with cashless gaming the first step and downloadable the second. “You’re getting to the point where you need network specialists instead of slot mechanics.”

He knows the company will have to be ready when the economy comes back, and companies decide they want to do the upgrades and installs that they may have put off.

 “After they’ve spun down to the point where they have the bare minimum, when things do come back we want to go in there and do the grunt work,” to help them get back up to speed.