Life lessons from a casino marketing executive
Tom Jenkin, president, global operations, Caesars Entertainment, sat for an interview
with his former colleague from Harrah’s, Dennis Conrad, president emeritus of Raving Consulting at the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference in late July.
It was a great conversation filled with personal and professional insights. Here’s a sampling:
- On starting as a fry cook and making it all the way to head of global operations: It would be easy for me to sit up here and say I was smarter and I worked harder than everyone else but both of those things would be untrue. I did have a good work ethic and I worked hard. I’m a reasonably quick study but the freeway of ability has lots of people on it. There’s a narrow intersection of opportunity and I was lucky enough to have a couple of great mentors and find my way down to the intersection where there was a path to opportunity. I had to take some chances. I spent my first 11 years in food-and-beverage, then someone came to me one day and said we want you to go to human resources and negotiate union contracts because you’re the only one who knows what the contract looks like. That was kind of out of my skill set, but the food-and-beverage route didn’t have any offerings so I decided to jump off. I did that for a couple of years and then I got into the gaming side. I had a lot of luck; I just think you’ve got to be prepared when the opportunity comes and take advantage of it.
- Phil Satre and Gary Loveman: Phil Satre was a wonderful guy; in my opinion, the best CEO I ever worked with, just in terms of his quality as a person. He was human, decent and a great motivator. He was the catalyst for regional gaming expansion in our company. He saw the value of that and pushed it forward. He still had a little bit of a conservative streak in him; he never would have bought Caesars. That only happened because Gary Loveman came in. Gary was very bullish on what could be. Phil was a great steward of taking care of what was and taking incremental steps forward. But biting off a $9 billion takeover of Caesars Entertainment would not have been in the cards.”
- Expectations regarding Caesars post-Eldorado acquisition: Harrah’s grew up through acquisition. We acquired Players, Showboat, two Horseshoe companies, Barberry Coast, Imperial Palace, The Rio, Harvey’s and then Caesars. So we’ve been the acquirer and this is the first time we’ve been the acquired. It’s a bit different. We’ll see. I have no doubt these guys are really smart at what they do and they’ve got a plan. They like money so I think it will be good for the company long term, and I’ll work hard to try and help them through the transition period with things they might not know.
- What he is most proud of: It isn’t just one thing: When you’re kind of near the end of your career it isn’t the big promotions or the successful results that you remember, it’s the people that you worked with, the careers that you helped develop, those you mentored. There isn’t a market in the country where I can’t meet someone I’ve worked with and hopefully had a positive impact on. I was never a great office sitter; I liked to be out and around the business.
- Advice on how to move forward in your career: If I were to give a younger person advice I would tell them the following: Whatever little corner you control, act like you own it, and act like you’re going to own it for a long time.
REMEMBERING LYLE BELL
There will never be too many Lyle Bell’s in this world. Bell, who passed away last month at the too-early age of 69, had a huge impact on our industry, with top-level jobs at Caesars, IGT and, perhaps most notably, Seminole Gaming. As vice president of IT at Seminole, Lyle led the successful effort to maximize the potential of Class II slots, thus creating leverage for the tribe in its compact negotiations with the state of Florida to offer Class III games, turning the Sunshine State into the third largest tribal gaming market in the country behind California and Oklahoma. Bell also served for six years as chairman of the board for the Gaming Standards Association, which had this to say: “Lyle embodied the term ‘visionary.’ As GSA’s chairman of the board for six years, his steady hand carefully guided GSA and the global gaming industry in new and better directions with landmark, collaborative standards that changed the gaming landscape forever.” From my humble perch, he was as nice a guy as he was brilliant; as accessible and open-hearted as anyone I’ve come across in this business. RIP, Lyle.