You might recognize Joe Hasson on the street. After all, he is a TV star. Hasson was general manager of Green Valley Ranch in Las Vegas in 2004 when American Casino was filmed at the property as one of the first reality programs. GVR had only been open a few months, and Hasson was the focal point of the show. He says he still gets those stares and comments from people about appearing on television, even so long ago.
“They say ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’” he laughs. “And when I tell them, they immediately remember specific episodes.”
Unlike today, when reality shows are virtually scripted, Hasson says it wasn’t that way with American Casino.
“One episode, they wanted to see how I ended my day,” he explains. “So they came to my office and filmed me helping my daughter over the phone with her algebra homework. I got hundreds of emails about that show.”
Reality is running a new casino, and Hasson has been involved for the past year in getting the Graton Resort Casino ready to open for the managing partner, Station Casinos. Owned by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the casino is one of the first off-reservation casinos in California. Located in Sonoma County, it is the closest casino to the Bay Area, and when it opened in early November, thousands of visitors jammed area roadways for nearly a week.
But it’s not just the gaming that Hasson says will attract customers to the property.
“We have a fabulous array of restaurants with celebrity chefs like Martin Yan, and local restaurants like the Daily Grill and Tony’s of North Beach. We have a great selection of quick bites and our guests will enjoy familiar foods.
Hasson says the involvement of tribal leaders, particularly the chairman, Greg Sarris, has been inspirational.
“They’ve been at this a long time,” he says. “When I arrived about a year ago, we were able to help them get over the final hurdles, and the results have been nothing short of spectacular.”
While original plans for Graton were scaled back, Hasson says he hopes that Sarris and tribal leaders decide to expand the project.
“It would be my honor to help them bring a hotel to this project because that would complete the vision the tribe had when they began all those years ago,” says Hasson.
Hasson says the choice of Station Casinos to build and operate Graton wasn’t a mistake.
“The Las Vegas model of serving the locals market fits nicely in Indian Country as well,” he says. “It has happened at Thunder Valley, at Gun Lake and now at Graton. Station Casinos is nicely aligned, well positioned and fabulously experienced in taking great care of local guests, and marketing today to create the kind of loyalty that any business owner would envy.”