Steve Browne became hooked on the gaming industry shortly after graduating college, while spending a winter “ski bumming” in the Lake Tahoe area of California.
To help defray the costs of his ski-based lifestyle, Browne took a job at a nearby casino.
“I worked the graveyard shift as a janitor, mopping floors and cleaning bathrooms,” said Browne. “I decided I liked Tahoe, liked the gambling business and I wanted to hang around it for a little while. I went to dealer school and broke in dealing craps at the Cal Neva Lodge & Casino in Reno in 1979. Gaming got into my blood and I have been in the gambling business ever since, almost 40 years. Honestly, I never imagined I would have spent my entire life in gaming.
But Browne did and to his credit, he has made a splash wherever he has landed—first as a dealer at casinos throughout northern Nevada, then as an ownership partner in Cactus Jack’s, a Carson City, Nev.-based locals casino that pioneered many of the customer-centric service practices commonplace in modern gaming facilities, and finally as president of Raving Service, which, along with Raving Consulting, created immersive customer service and player development programs that have influenced numerous casinos throughout the United States and around the world.
For these contributions, Browne, along with Raving Consultant President and Chief Strategist Dennis Conrad, are the co-recipients of this year’s Casino Marketing Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be given out at the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference, taking place July 14-16 at Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
A lot of Browne’s insight on how to build a successful casino growth strategy on customer service came from his time at Cactus Jack’s. “While there, I formulated a gaming philosophy that I have carried throughout my career,” Browne said. “It involves showing the patron that gambling is not a stupid way to lose your money. We sell an entertainment experience that, if sold right, enriches our players’ lives. It makes their life better. That experience matters, it is important, you should care about it, and every day you should try to get a little better at it. That is the message I have promoted day-in and day-out for the past 20 years. All my customer service work is based on this.”
Within seven years of purchasing the property, Browne and his fellow owners managed to double gaming revenues. This caught the eye of Dennis Conrad, then marketing director at Circus Circus Reno. When Browne sold his stake in Cactus Jack’s to his partners Conrad, who was in the process of establishing Raving Consulting, kept in touch, and started tapping Browne’s expertise in all things customer service.
Browne soon decided he liked consulting work, and helped Raving establish an employee customer service training class. This soon led him to what he considers to be the other major success story of his gaming career—the creation of player development program. Browne gathered and analyzed studies, research and executive experience both inside and outside of gaming to build a fully-formed, full-functioning, quantitative-driven model of selling for the gaming industry.
“Over the years, one casino at a time, we built a model that now has it all…from lead generation to negotiation to closing and sales fulfillment. From one end to the other, it is a complete sales model for the gaming business, and it is slowly but surely being adopted by every casino in the industry.”
Browne is proud this program has found a home in large casinos on The Strip and in Singapore and well as small tribal facilities in Oklahoma. He plans on devoting the next decade of his life to evolving the program and getting it into more and more gaming properties.
“I am still trying to fight,” Browne said. “I have no intention of slowing down at this point.”