In 2013, I celebrate the 35th anniversary of my entry into the gaming business. For 35 years, I have worked either in a casino, or with a casino, to deliver a proper gaming experience to players from all over the world. I have worked in northern Nevada, where I cut my teeth as a break-in lumpy, to just about every other state in the union, from every province in Canada to both western and eastern Europe, and all the way out to Singapore and the Pacific Rim.
I have sweated in the trenches, mopped and polished hardwood floors, pan and swept carpets, cleaned up spilled drinks and vomit. I have pitched cards to vacationers from California, called dice for businessmen from Detroit, and written markers for big-shots from New York and San Francisco.
I have made schedules, hired dealers, fired deserving miscreants, and mentored stars where I could. I have often talked too much and listened too little. I have led, followed, and gotten out of the way (when it seemed to be the best thing to do). I have asked for permission and begged for forgiveness.
I have been licensed, badged, fingerprinted and catalogued. I have sweated bullets in front of an executive team, pitched ideas to a visionary, and listened at the feet of greatness (Phil Satre and John Romero to name a couple). I have stayed in palaces of silk, suites of gold, and rural hotels that barely had running water. I have dined with old school royalty (Jackie Gaughan) and partied with new age innovation (the guys and gals of Barona).
I have studied in the areas of sales and service, written books on my findings and research, penned countless articles in a quest to spread more and better knowledge about how to do it right. I have tried with Dennis to identify who is “one of us,” and how to promote them in our industry. I have played more bad golf than anyone would care to admit. I have tarried in private gaming salons, dallied in high-limit areas, shadowed hosts and VIPs alike in a quest to discover the secrets of selling to the whales of our time.
I have sat in focus groups talking to thousands of frontline employees, players of all levels, and managers and supervisors of every department, trying to get to the truth of our organizations and our business, whatever that truth may be. I have run, walked, biked, carpooled, flown, taken the train, bus, monorail, subway, the tube. I have rented cars and boarded limousines, ridden in town cars and carriages.
In short, it’s been a great ride, a thirty-five year ride of learning and listening, talking and teaching, doing and creating, explaining and yes, even apologizing. And through it all, I have collected a lifetime of memories that I will cherish forever.
But if there is one thing—after all I have done, been, seen, tried, accomplished, and failed at—if there is one thing I will carry with me always, one thing that I will continue to promote as the most important thing I have learned, found, taught, practiced, or cajoled out of others, if there is one thing I wish to hang my hat on ... it is this.
We sell an entertainment experience that enriches our players’ lives.
It is just that important. It is the only thing. It is everything. And it should be the focus of everything you do in this crazy business. And if it isn’t, then just why are you doing it? Please tell me that.
I will continue to bring that simple wisdom to everything I do, to every project I work on, to every product I create for every client I ever work for. Because a long time ago, an aged pit boss with more than 50 years in the business (and who has long since passed away) asked me if I received a paycheck from the casino (I was a craps dealer at the time). I answered yes, and he proceeded to remind me that every dollar in my paycheck had to be pulled out of a gambler’s pocket, placed on a table or in a machine, wagered—and lost—before it came to me. That every dollar in my paycheck came from a losing bet. That my paycheck was a loser. He then asked how that made me feel.
“Not very good,” I replied, knowing the pain of a losing bet, knowing that I was taking that dollar borne of the pain of losing and using it to feed my family.
“Don’t worry about the losing,” he replied. “Losing is part of life. We all have to learn to lose. We lose at gambling, at love, at business, hell ... we lose at Monopoly. The real question I have for you is this. Just what are you giving back in exchange for the losing bet? What are you giving to your player in return, so that when you take that bet home and use it to feed your family, you sleep well at night, knowing that the books are balanced, equal value has been given, and you don’t owe anyone anything?”
What are you giving back in exchange for the losing bet?
I have been trying to answer that question for thirty-five years. It’s a very good question, don’t you think? And I truly believe that I now know the answer.
I give back an experience that enriches my players’ lives. It’s that simple, that complicated, and that important. Everything I have, or have accumulated in the last thirty-five years, from the clothes on my back to my kids’ college tuitions, everything has come from the losing bets of gamblers from all over the world (everywhere I have worked and been paid). And I do owe them. I owe them everything. I owe them my very best.
And so, I guess I will end by simply saying this. To those of you in our industry who are “one of us,” who care about what you do, and how well you do it, who care more deeply about these crazy gamblers we serve than you do about your own paycheck, who believe with a deep and abiding passion that what we sell is the most important thing you could ever sell to someone, a feeling of belonging, of being important, of being a winner—to those of you for whom the foregoing has been meaningful and vital, and not just a bunch of sentimental claptrap from an old guy reminiscing about his career—well, I salute you.
And I thank you.
And I look forward to working with you in the future. Together we can change the landscape of our business. Together we can make the industry better. Together we can create more meaning and more value for our players, and yes, for our employees too.
Together we can change the world.