What makes a great slot manager? Beyond all the hard work and dedication, there is a special magic that comes with the love of the job

It was April 22 a few years back when Rick Laman was still in charge of slots at the El Cortez. We were walking through the El Cortez on our way to the coffee shop to have a little birthday lunch together, as our birthdays fall just a week apart.

As was his usual, Rick couldn’t walk more than a few yards through the casino before a customer would come up to him to say hello, or he’d stop quickly to take care of a player who needed something. It took us 20 minutes to get across the casino. But that’s just the way it was with Rick. He didn’t just know everything about slots; he knew everything about his customers.

That’s what being a great slot manager is all about.

Whether your title is slot manager, slot director, slot vice president or chief slot machine officer, you are one of the most important people in the casino. No other person manages more of the revenue stream than you do.

Every day you have to make sure all the machines are working right, all the vendors are delivering when they say they will, the slot management system isn’t freaking out, the daily slot reports are accurate and on the bosses’ desk and marketing isn’t doing something crazy again. You have to make sure the jackpot that just got hit is authentic and gets paid, that the gaming control board doesn’t have any reason to call, all your employees are enthusiastic, and you get approval for all those new slot machines you want to buy. Most importantly, you have to make sure your customers are happy. And, in your spare time, you get to keep up on all your competitors as well as the latest slot trends and technology. Do you people ever relax?

It is high time somebody patted you on the back and gave you credit for all the long hours you put in and for all the endless weekends with your cell phones perpetually ringing.

Slot Manager and I are taking up the challenge for an upcoming column.

Some of you may remember a guy named Mike Stone. Mike was vice president of sales for IGT back in the day. He used to keep a mental list of the top 10 slot managers in his head. On more than one occasion, I would hear him ask casino executives in conversation, “Who do you think are the best slot managers in the business?” Back then, the same names kept coming up over and over again: Mando Rueda from Harrah’s; Jim Buchanan from Harvey’s; Cecil Freddie from the Las Vegas Hilton; Dick Burnside at The Frontier; Charlie Lombardo; Vern Holmes; George Thompson; John Pasqualoni; and Butch Witcher, just to name a few. I don’t think having an actual list really mattered to Mike. It was more about showing respect for the great work these people were doing. These guys were some of the pioneers in slots, the first slot superstars. So, that was then.

Who are today’s Top 10 Slot Managers?

We want to hear it from you. E-mail, write, fax or call me with your top picks. This doesn’t have to be complicated or take much of your time. Just send me the names of the slot managers that you think should be on the list, and, if you can, include some detail. A short biography and description of the person or persons and why you think he or she is one of the Top 10 would be even better. All submissions are confidential.

What makes a great slot manager? That’s kind of like asking what makes a great artist or musician. Beyond all the hard work and dedication, there is a special magic that comes with the love of the job, a passion for slots and a true interest in ensuring your customers enjoy themselves. It’s that special combination that sets the great ones apart.

There are no hard and fast rules or formulas to what makes a great slot manager. Anyone who is in charge of slot operations for any particular property or corporation will be considered. Your thoughts can be as simple as “He or she is the best slot manager I know,” to “He or she increased the revenue of the slot machines 300 percent over the last five years,” or “She is the most respected by the customers…the employees love her.”

What about “He gets more out of his slot floor than anyone else I know?”

So who are the slot managers you respect the most?