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Naming Names

Talented people, people with a true love for the industry, are the people who will succeed.

Naming Names

One of the advantages of being in the gaming industry over the past 40 years has been watching talented people climb the ladder to become presidents, CEOs, chairmen—leaders of their companies and organizations.

Starting even before I covered gaming as a journalist, the people I connected with as a dealer and part-time supervisor at Caesars Atlantic City, the Golden Nugget and Showboat—many of the people who were my supervisors, pit bosses and executives—have taken that route. So I can say I knew them when. Even with very little experience in the industry at that time, I could recognize when someone was special in the way that they treated their employees and their bosses.

When I was working as a baccarat dealer at Caesars, our casino president was Terry Lanni. His availability to his line employees was extraordinary. We could come to him at any time with our concerns—and you’d best believe we had a lot of them in the early days of Atlantic City gaming—and he would calmly listen. If he could help, he did so. If not, he’d explain why. And of course everyone knows how high Terry rose in the industry, becoming one of the legendary leaders of MGM.

And when I was recruited to deal baccarat at the Golden Nugget a couple of years later by my now good friend Arte Nathan, I had the chance to meet the man who invented so much in the gaming business, Steve Wynn. When we dealers were sitting at a dead baccarat game—the “big” game, not the single-dealer table in today’s world—he’d sit down and just talk to us. I learned so much from him—it was like a master’s degree in gaming. And the people who worked for him had the same respect for all the employees. Yes, I know in hindsight this may sound silly, but times were different back then.

When I started covering gaming with Casino Journal, we took an employee-friendly approach. Our publication was distributed in the employee lounges of the Atlantic City casinos and our mission was to make their lives better. So we’d interview the leaders of the casinos to get their perspective of where the industry was going and how employees could participate. And I think we did our job. Even today in almost every gaming jurisdiction around the world, you’ll find folks who got their start in Atlantic City and now are the leaders in their particular regions.

At the Sands in Atlantic City, I met the “power trio” of Bill Weidner, Brad Stone and Rob Goldstein, who made that little casino a dynamo. They later joined Sheldon Adelson and propelled Las Vegas Sands into a worldwide gaming behemoth, turning sleepy Macau into the world’s most successful gaming destination. Goldstein still leads this important company. Most of the top executives in Atlantic City at that time went on to become leaders of their corporations.

When Casino Journal transformed into a true gaming trade publication, I got to meet the people who truly led the worldwide industry such as Adelson, Barron Hilton, Kirk Kerkorian, Arthur Goldberg and many others. That continued when I left Casino Journal to form Global Gaming Business.

And credit also goes to the manufacturing/vendor side of the industry. I had the honor of interviewing Si Redd, the inventor of video poker and founder of IGT; Chuck Mathewson, who took that company to dizzying heights; John Acres, who has more patents than any single gaming individual; Len Ainsworth, the man who went from making dental equipment to building slot machines for now-industry giant Aristocrat and later for a company that carries his name; James Maida, who went from a B-level regulator to found Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), which tests and authenticates all gaming technology; Gary Platt, who revolutionized casino seating; and many more.

And let’s not forget the people who actually built these casinos—the architects, designers and builders. Lots of them got their start by working with Steve Wynn, including Joel Bergman, Paul Steelman, Brad Friedmutter, Roger Thomas, DeRuyter Butler and more. Dick Rizzo with Perini Builders was the one to make it happen.

I didn’t mean for this column to be the name-dropping extravaganza it became—and apologize to anyone who I didn’t mention. My point was that every one of the names mentioned here started at the bottom of their companies or their craft, and the opportunities that they grasped on their way up the ladder are still there. Talented people, people with a true love for the industry, people who “get” it, are the people who will succeed and rise to a prominence equal to or greater than anyone mentioned in this piece.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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