General manager, vice president and director are just some of the fancy marketing titles circulating in casino management circles these days. 

But to be a truly excellent casino marketing manager, more is needed than an impressive-sounding title. Indeed, inspired casino leadership is both an art and a science; here is some advice that should help with both tasks:

Leave the desk behind. Get out on the floor, press the flesh and say “hello” to players. Meet some people, they don’t bite. Make sure to give guests your business card, the one with your fancy title on it. The VIPs always have my card and personal cell number. It would amaze you how many people will show your card to their peers—proof that they are so important a vice president, general manager or some other high-level casino executive has spent personal time with them. The personalized business card also resonates with many mid- and lower-level players as well; it makes them feel like they are “insiders.”

Find time to study.  Every morning, I get a printout on my desk of yesterday’s play—coin in, table drop and individual win/loss—for each player who came in. If you read the first 10-15 pages every day you get a recurring picture in your mind of who is playing and their usual level of play.

Make friends. I actively seek out top players and try to become friends with them. Ask them if they have eaten. Walk them to the restaurant. Sit with them while they are ordering. After all, the ability to like and get along with customers is essential to the makeup of a successful casino executive. You should not need a computer to identify top tier guests…you should already be friendly with them and know them at first sight.

Be there at the busiest times. People have the most money in their pockets and time to play during the swing shift (7:00 pm-3:00 am) on Fridays and Saturdays. If I’m the general manager or head of marketing at a gaming facility, I schedule myself to pull swing shift on every Friday and Saturday. I need to observe numerous things: Do I have enough staff on the floor to adequately service the floor? Am I overstaffed? Who is pulling their weight? What about EOs when business starts to slow down? Am I burning out my staff asking them to do too much?  Are they, (and I) happy, efficient and serving the guests properly?

Be visible: It’s very important to lead from the front. It will amaze you how much respect you will command from your staff when you are working with them on the floor at 2.00 am on a weekend night. If you are open on Christmas Day (and who isn’t), the boss better be there at least for a shift.

Throw out the watch. Casino marketing management is not a 40 hour a week job.

If there is a meaningful special event I am there for the duration. Any head of marketing looking for 9:00 am to 5:00 pm hours should try working at a bank instead of a casino. Showing up on the weekend and walking the floor once before leaving at 9:30 pm also doesn’t cut it. You should be out on the floor for 15-30 minute intervals at multiple times during both the day and night.

Listen…and listen some more. Most of the time 80 percent of a property’s revenue comes from 20 percent of its guests. If you want to be a genius at running a “locals” casino, try flapping your ears. Listen to your customers, they will tell you how to run your casino in a way that will bring them back with their friends.

 Most of these suggestions may seem old fashioned, but they are the lessons I learned the hard way at casino properties in London, Monte Carlo, Las Vegas and especially in Mississippi and similar markets where southern-type hospitality is the norm. I’m not sure they will be accepted by the entire fancy-title brigade, but that’s OK. I would prefer to have the respect of my guests and staff… it makes me feel better in my profession.