The distance from Sweden to Las Vegas is immense, but for Niklas Rytterstrom, the closer he got the more he liked it. When he was a high school senior he became an exchange student, staying with a family in a small New Hampshire town. Their oldest son was working as a bellman at Treasure Island, so Rytterstrom decided to visit for a weekend.
“For lack of a better word, it was really love at first sight,” he says. “And I don’t know, maybe I was naive or just passionate about the industry, but I never looked back.”
Rytterstrom returned to Sweden to fulfill his military service obligation and enrolled in the School of Hospitality at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“While I was going to college, I was a front desk agent at the Golden Nugget. Then I did a short stint at a hotel in San Francisco and realized very quickly that the non-gaming sector was probably not for me—a little bit too quiet,” he laughs.
He returned to Vegas to open the Bellagio, where he spent several years before moving to the Mirage.
“I was called into the office of the president, Bill McBeath, one day, and he asked me what I knew about Mississippi. Of course, I didn’t know much about Biloxi at the time, so he said just take a flight, go check it out and see what you think. I found out that the Beau Ravage was just an incredible, spectacular facility, like a mini Bellagio.
“But I had probably been there for about 48 hours when they started to track a storm. I didn’t know much about hurricanes at the time, but here’s this named storm, Hurricane Katrina.”
Surprisingly, even a devastating storm like Katrina didn’t dissuade Rytterstrom from staying, and he spent four years in Biloxi.
“For me it was arguably the most rewarding years of my life,” he says.
Then he moved to Tunica, where he was the general manager of Gold Strike for four years.
“I was beginning to think the company had forgotten about me,” he says.
But he wasn’t forgotten. He was invited back to Las Vegas, where he spent the next five years as general manager of Luxor and later three years in the same position at the Mirage at the height of the pandemic. When MGM sold the Mirage to Hard Rock, it simultaneously purchased the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, where Rytterstrom has spent the last two years as general manager.
“It was quite a culture shock going from the Mirage, which sits on 70 acres, to the Cosmopolitan on 7 acres,” he says. “There were several operational challenges which we solved quickly.”
Come March, he’ll move to Atlantic City to take over the most successful casino in town, the Borgata. While he’s not very familiar with the property, he says he’s doing research and taking advice from people who have been there, including Travis Lunn, whom Rytterstrom will replace.
“Obviously you try to understand it from the data,” he says. “But frankly, I’m looking forward to coming into Borgata and to Atlantic City. I’m going to be doing a lot more listening than talking early on and really understanding that market. It’s a highly competitive and complex market, so I’m looking forward to dive into that.”
With the success of rivals Hard Rock and Ocean, Rytterstrom is realistic about his goals.
“Ultimately, if you do it right, the customer’s got a choice,” he explains. “They’ve got a lot of choices where they want to go. And certainly it’s an offer-driven market, but ultimately the customer will go where they feel at home. And hopefully that home will be the Borgata for them.”