Dennis Conrad and I sat in a room together 12 years ago and created a conference called Casino Marketing.
At the time I was thrilled because, as partners go, I knew we couldn’t ask for a more qualified and committed one. Those of you who know Dennis are aware that he has two basic settings, all-in or not at all. And when he’s all-in, there’s nothing quite like it, is there?
I knew we were getting a wealth of hands-on knowledge and industry contacts in Dennis, plus we were getting access to his team, which included, among others, Steve Browne, who is the only guy I’ve ever seen play “Start Me Up” by the Stones at top volume at the beginning of a conference session and still make Mick Jagger and Keith Richard sound like background music as he introduces the topic. What I ultimately learned was we were getting them as people, too.
Now in its 12th year, Casino Marketing has become Casino Marketing & Technology, recognizing that marketing is both art and science. Dennis and Steve, who will be jointly recognized at the event this month with Lifetime Achievement Awards, have seen the world move steadily in their direction over the years as the casino industry grew more marketing-centric all the time. But that’s really a technical way of saying that the things they have preached will always be at the heart of our business; value, authentic feeling and a personal touch that comes from the heart.
We’ve had many memorable moments at the conference over the years, starting with our first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, which was given to John Romero. Dennis quickly pivoted and suggested we create an awards program for excellence in casino marketing called the Romero Awards, which John, a wonderful man who we lost this spring at the age of 85, thankfully agreed to. For a couple of years there, Dennis and I gave the awards together, which took the audience pleasantly by surprise the first time we tried it, but quickly veered off into too many bad jokes, mostly told by me. In my defense, it never ends well when you’re balding and standing in front of hundreds of people next to guy who has never lost a hair on his head and who is intent on exploring that difference as a conversation topic. This chapter ended when Dennis had another good idea, and gently told me my emcee services were no longer required.
Along the way, I also got to know Steve a little better, most notably when he shared the story of his daughter Katie May Browne, who was born with cerebral palsy and eventually graduated at the top of her class at the University of Nevada –Reno, College of Engineering, and went to work as a researcher at NASA. In one memorable hour, Steve took us through an unsparing and ultimately uplifting account of his own personal and transformative journey as Katie’s father. Unbeknownst to me, and just about everyone in the audience, the real Katie, whose images had appeared on screen throughout the speech, was waiting backstage and came bounding out into his arms. Standing ovation, accompanied by human water works all around. As moments go, I’m not sure I’ll ever see anything more beautiful and moving in my life.
This blending of the personal and the professional is something that defines Raving, and continues to touch many people in our industry. So as we recognize Dennis and Steve, I would also like to recognize the basic insight they gave to this industry via Raving Consulting, which is that life works best when there is no conflict between what we need to be happy as individuals and what we do in order to be successful at our jobs. The most meaningful and fulfilling success only comes when all the energy is pointed in the same direction.
In the business of casino gaming, there is no more basic and enduring message than what Raving preaches. Is there another industry where the product is designed to ultimately frustrate, or at least disappoint, its customers, and the best ones are fully aware of it? Feeling, excitement and acceptance is what your best players are after, and this can only be communicated through people. For a lifetime of teaching an industry all the ins-and-outs of how to get there, we are very proud to recognize Dennis and Steve.