It's not where you START. It's where you FINISH!
Updated: Apr 26, 2021
I drove to Las Vegas in the winter of 1980 with everything I owned in a broken down Chevette and a U-Haul after grad school. I used to joke that I ran out of gas on the way to Los Angeles. Truth is, I wanted to sing in a show.
I had majored in the performing arts. Weeks after arriving I found myself helping out a new off-strip hotel and falling in love with the hospitality and gaming industries. My first full-time job was as a hotel sales manager but it was a small, startup (Hotel Continental) and I covered most of the front end including sales, publicity, entertainment, bus program, banquets and with my office behind the front desk, I'd occasionally check in guests. I was exposed to many sides of the business and acted like I knew what I was doing.
When the Continental's restaurant opened, management asked me to count down the cash drawers, but I used to get a different total every time I counted the same drawer, so I was gently asked to maintain focus on the sales and marketing. In less than two years, I was on the "strip" as a sales manager for the Marina Hotel, now engulfed by MGM Grand. At the Marina, I was introduced to full scale multi-media advertising. I became enamored with the thought of creating a message that would be broadcast on TV, Radio, Billboards and Print. It was like theatre. I knew I wanted to play in that sandbox, and seven years later, I was appointed director of advertising and public relations for a new hotel called the Excalibur, the world's largest hotel at that time.
I prepared the first budget and it was in the millions! We were front-page news on over 300 newspapers worldwide. The moment of opening to the public was like a stampede of humanity as the crowd of thousands poured into the casino, nearly knocking down, Circus Circus Chairman, William Bennet on the way in. It was a thrilling moment in my career, National News, National PR Firm, the big time!
There were stops along the way from the Continental to Excalibur, one of which was a manager for Herb Pastor's downtown casinos. The smallest of these was called The Coin Castle. I led the marketing and helped out in the operation. There I learned about slots and slot machine promotions. I'd fill in for the floor manager carrying keys, paying jackpots and fixing coin jams. Sometimes I'd hang out on the casino floor on Saturdays and make noise barking into the sound system from atop a slot carousel on Fremont Street urging pedestrian tourists to try their luck. My goal was to create energy and excitement for the floor staff and guests.
We had a blast and the players loved it. In reflection, this is where I learned the fundamentals of persuasive speech.
Side-bar: The Coin Castle has Nevada's first gaming license. It's license #1.