The average salary for a gaming CEO was down from $750,000 in 2006 to $710,000 in 2007. The average CEO bonus dipped from $1.06M to $945,000. Where have all the rock stars gone?


What a difference a few quarterly reports can have on an industry. Just last fall, most gaming companies were riding 52 week highs. As we write this report, most of those same companies have seen their stock price drop 50 percent or more. Wynn Resorts has been one of the few bright spots with a drop of less than 15 percent from its 2007 highs.

Other changes in the industry also have affected the landscape of gaming. For example, the privatization of Harrah’s Entertainment and Station Casinos brought the private equity/hedge fund business front and center. Even single assets such as the Sahara and the Stratosphere got gobbled up by private equity firms.

Furthermore, the trend of global expansion continues to impress, as South America, Asia and Russia have all seen gaming as a way to attract world tourism. On the other hand, local markets such as Philadelphia, Kansas City and others struggle to cut through significant political and social red tape. And it finally looks like the list of new billion dollar casinos is over in Las Vegas as Echelon, Plaza, W Las Vegas and others have been put on the back burner.

Moreover, it looks as if gaming is not going to be the recession-proof industry it has traditionally been. How this affects investor sentiment and the performance of public gaming stocks will be very telling on CEO survival.

One thing is clear, “rock star” performance is over for awhile, and the CEOs who perform best will be focused on cost control and operational efficiency.

As in our past 14 studies of CEO performance, we analyzed the financial statements of public gaming companies to discover who gave shareholders the best performance relative to their pay. In reaching our conclusions, we looked at stock price, EBITDA and market capitalization over a three-year period and compared that to total compensation (salary + bonus + long-term incentives + all other compensation). The result is expressed as an HVS Value Index, with an index of 100 being average.

Top performers

The top 10 performers this year included a spectrum of the industry. Five were from casino operators, while the other five ran gaming technology companies. Both large cap and small companies were well represented. The top performer this year was Andre Hilliou of Full House Resorts with an HVS Index of 187.6. By our calculations, Hilliou was under paid by 87.6 percent or nearly $700,000. Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson and Lorne Weil have been consistent members of the top performers club, with Wynn winning the top spot twice. With Wynn Resorts’ stock price not getting battered in the first two quarters of 2008 like most others, he might just win again next year.

Compensation components

The average salary for a gaming CEO was down approximately 5 percent from $750,000 in 2006 to $710,000 in 2007. The average bonus for gaming CEOs also was down about 10 percent from $1,060,000 to $945,000. These averages were certainly affected by Harrahs and Stations going private and weak Q4 2007 results. The average long-term incentive (stock options, restricted stock grants etc.), was almost identical to last year at nearly $1.5 million. Likewise, total compensation was slightly down over the comparison timeframe.

The largest salary belonged to Wynn at $3.2 million, with six other CEOs making a million dollars or more. The largest short-term incentive of $7.5 million was garnered by Wynn as well, with Terry Lanni of MGM Mirage coming in at $6.4 million. Lanni has also been a consistent top performer and won the top spot in 1999. The largest stock award was given to Lorne Weil with a value of nearly $8 million, while the largest overall pay package was Lanni’s at $12.7 million.

Richest CEOs

Adelson (second fromleft)  
Adelson (second from left)

Based on the closing stock prices on Dec. 31, 2007, the richest CEO in gaming was Sheldon Adelson, with a fortune valued at almost $19B. He is also going to be the CEO who loses the most money in 2008 as Las Vegas Sands stock has dropped from $103 per share in December to $37 per share in September 2008. Many other gaming CEOs will suffer the same fate as Adelson as the entire industry has been out of favor with Wall Street. Other billionaires include Micky Arison of Carnival and Wynn of Wynn Resorts.
As we previously stated, gaming is having a rough 2008, and the true test for many gaming CEOs is still in front of them.

Recent events have taught investors that even venerable brands such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers can disappear. We predict that CEOs who adjust to the new economic environment and have a global presence will fare best in the coming years.


Rank CEO/ Company Salary($k) Short-Term Incentives($k) Other($k) Long-Term Incentives($k) Total ($k)(1) HVS Value Index (2)
1 Terrence J. Lanni/
MGM Mirage
$2,000 $6,358 $1,245 $3,138 $12,740 118.5
2 Stephen A. Wynn/
Wynn Resorts
$3,173 $7,500 $573 $0 $11,247 143.4
3 Lorne A. Weil/
Scientific Games
$1,550 $1,634 $70 $7,775 $11,029 119.9
4 Micky Arison/
$850 $2,925 $337 $5,569 $9,680 116.3
5 Kirk Sanford*/
Global Cash Access
$298 $365 $4,988 $3,280 $8,930 113.1
6 William S. Boyd/
Boyd Gaming
$1,500 $1,980 $72 $3,218 $6,769 114.0
7 Thomas J. Matthews/
$800 $1,602 $77 $4,151 $6,630 119.4
8 Robert L. Evans/
Churchill Downs
$450 $529 $115 $5,189 $6,282 118.4
9 Richard Haddrill/
Bally Technologies
$998 $0 $38 $4,672 $5,708 145.5
10 Brian Gamache/
WMS Industries
$804 $1,046 $277 $1,686 $3,813 132.2
11 Sheldon G. Adelson/
Las Vegas Sands
$1,000 $1,901 $242 $293 $3,436 129.1
12 John Boushy*/
Ameristar Casinos
$797 $416 $92 $1,558 $2,862 118.5
13 Daniel R. Lee/
Pinnacle Entertainment
$1,000 $768 $48 $995 $2,810 116.4
14 Charles Champion*/
$528 $139 $1,574 $0 $2,241 96.9
15 Mark Juliano/
Trump Entertainment Resorts
$800 $0 $31 $1,202 $2,034 n/a
16 Mark L. Yoseloff/
Shuffle Master
$400 $75 $33 $1,209 $1,717 84.2
17 Russel H. McMeekin/
Progressive Gaming
$494 $367 $66 $489 $1,417 53.8
18 John Farahi/
Monarch Casino & Resort
$415 $0 $0 $711 $1,126 115.1
19 Erwin Haitzmann/
Century Casinos
$456 $130 $70 $386 $1,042 137.5
20 Lyle Berman/
Lakes Entertainment
$500 $200 $131 $0 $831 67.6
21 Paul W. Lowden/
$550 $200 $43 $0 $793 186.4
22 Mark Newburg/
Elixir Gaming Technologies
$287 $150 $34 $283 $753 102.3
23 Andre M. Hilliou/
Full House Resorts
$232 $223 $5 $259 $719 187.6
24 Clifton E. Lind*/
Multimedia Games
$450 $0 $17 $80 $548 31.0
25 Denis McGlynn/
Dover Downs Entertainment
$250 $50 $88 $92 $481 89.6
26 Robert Sturges/
Nevada Gold & Casinos
$147 $0 $152 $112 $411 n/a
27 James B. Druck/
Southwest Casino
$243 $55 $49 $0 $347 0.9
28 Gerard P. Charlier/
Gaming Partners International
$288 $0 $57 $0 $345 1.7
29 Victor Salerno/
American Wagering
$240 $22 $19 $30 $311 45.6
30 Jay M. Meilstrup/
GameTech International
$285 $2 $12 $0 $299 181.0
31 Randall D. Sampson/
Canterbury Park
$203 $37 $0 $51 $291 13.3

(1) Minimum of $275,000 in total compensation to be included
(2) “HVS Value Index” is based on an average of 100.0, must be CEO for more than one year
*no longer CEO

Howard Krieger
is a veteran sales and business development professional having spent the majority of his career working in several aspects of financial services. Krieger is managing director at HVS Executive Search, and specializes in retained executive search, compensation consulting, and corporate governance counseling for the Lodging and Gaming industries. Previously Mr. Krieger held several positions with American Express primarily in sales and account management for the Establishment Services division. His experiences also include development of new sales channels for the Travelers Cheque/Pre-paid Services Division where he led the effort to expand the number and type of partners selling Amex’ Travelers and Gift Cheques. Most recently Mr. Krieger was working with a start-up company in the golf industry, which appealed to his passion for the game. Mr. Krieger holds a B.A. in Economics from Rutgers University.

and Keith Kefgen
is president of HVS Executive Search, a leading career placement and compensation consulting firm specializing in the lodging, gaming, retail and restaurant industries. He is a frequent lecturer on these and related issues and has written more than 90 articles on the topics of executive selection, pay-for-performance, corporate governance and executive leadership. He is the founder of the recruiting Web site and, an online assessment profiling service.