When I finally decided to settle down and get a full-time job (I had been a musician for 10 years, living that crazy lifestyle), it seemed that a position in a casino was destined. I was, after all, living in Atlantic City, and the town had gone gaming crazy with the opening of the first casino in 1978. So I applied to become a dealer at Caesars Boardwalk Regency, and I was chosen to go to their dealers school at the Casino Career Institute of Atlantic Community College. I have never graduated college (even though I attended 10 of them), but this was a different experience.
Having never been in a casino before, I was really starting from scratch. The weekly poker game around the kitchen table didn’t really cut it. But I was a sponge. I soaked up the information I needed and finally started working as a blackjack dealer in September 1979.
But that was just the start of my learning curve. I later took a course to become a baccarat dealer, and picked up a roulette endorsement along the way. I went back to CCI to take a casino management course taught by Bill Downey Sr. and Jess Lenz, two of the good guys in the industry.
Later I went to work at the Golden Nugget, and while I didn’t add to my formal gaming education, my informal education—in the form of private chats with Steve Wynn at dead baccarat games—was priceless.
When I helped to found the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit in the early ’90s, we were advancing the educational quotient of the gaming industry. It continued when I joined G2E in 2001 as a conference consultant, and I’m proud of the content that we provided to the gaming industry over those years.
I believe that education is the key to success in gaming—any industry, really. If you understand the basic tenets behind any business, you’re more likely to adhere to the policies and procedures—while thinking outside the box and being innovative—that will make that business a success. I wasn’t very good at following procedures when I was a dealer. I really liked to put a flair into my style that entertained both the player and myself. But I learned that if every dealer behaved as I did, the guys in the surveillance room would go crazy, not to mention my supervisors who would scream at me from across the pit.
So having learned the hard way about the value of education, I was a convert.
And now we’re embarking on a new educational experience that I hope will enrich everyone who attends either in person or via a webcast. GGB has reached an agreement with the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to develop the UNLV Gaming & Hospitality Education Series. Each month, GGB and Applied Management Strategies will organize a half-day seminar focusing on a single topic crucial to operating a casino resort today. We all know UNLV is the “gold standard” for gaming education, and we’re planning to exceed the expectations of the attendees, either in person or via the online interactive webcast.
At the first session, to be held on March 22 at UNLV’s IGI, we’ll focus on casino games and how the next generation will (or will not) be converted into profitable players. A 90-minute panel discussion will include such heavyweights as former Seminole Gaming slot VP Charlie Lombardo, Caesars’ gaming chief Melissa Price, and two of the young guns currently running slots and games on the Las Vegas Strip. They will talk about the changing casino floor and how to adapt. After a networking break, an additional 90-minute session will contain an intense look into trends such as free play, bonusing and hold percentage philosophies presented by Gaming Hall of Fame member John Acres.
Every subsequent month through May and continuing in the fall, we’ll cover issues such as non-gaming amenities and ROI, data analytics, payment processing, player development and more.
These sessions won’t be just talking heads, however. Attendees will take part in interactive discussions, have the ability to ask questions, and drill down into topics that they encounter every day on the job. In fact, our goal is to provide attendees with the tools to return to their jobs and make a difference the next day.
So we hope you’ll sign up to attend at least one of the sessions at the UNLV Gaming & Hospitality Education Series, either in person at UNLV or via the webcast. We believe it’s going to set a higher bar for gaming education, and we want you to be a part of it.
For information and registration to the UNLV Gaming & Hospitality Education Series visit: unlvghes.com