|General manager, Hollywood Casino|
Hometown: Trenton, New Jersey
You were working in Pennsylvania before coming to Baton Rouge. Have you ever spent much time in the Deep South before?
No, my only physical exposure to the South was driving through a few southern states on my way from New Jersey to Florida. Florida has long been a retirement destination for many individuals from the North. My grandparents retired to Florida in the 1960s. In the U.S. Air Force, I did have an opportunity to meet some outstanding individuals from Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. I found the people in the military from the South to be extremely friendly.
Anything you've particularly enjoyed since coming down here?
The Southern hospitality has been wonderful. I love people who are warm, caring, polite and friendly. I've enjoyed some fabulous Southern cooking. In February, even though it was delayed for four hours due to severe thunderstorms, I thoroughly enjoyed standing in the rain watching the Spanish Town parade. I, along with many others, had a fun time.
Anything in particular you're looking forward to?
I am looking forward to attending an LSU Tigers and a New Orleans Saints football game. I also want to go to next year's Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
How has the recession impacted the gaming business?
Like many service and hospitality businesses, the gaming industry relies on disposal income and discretionary spending. The last four years has been almost universally difficult for everyone. High unemployment, depressed real estate values, loss of home equity, limited credit availability, retirement portfolio losses, and high energy prices have resulted in lower consumer spending.
I pay close attention to the employment rate, gasoline prices, and the housing market. I don't believe things today are as grim as they have been over the last four years. Although the economy and gaming industry has not recovered completely, there are some encouraging signs that we may be starting to turn the corner. I am hopeful that better days will soon be here.
What kind of potential do you see in downtown Baton Rouge, and what role do you see Hollywood playing in that evolution?
On March 25 through March 27, I was fortunate to attend the 2012 Baton Rouge Area Canvas Workshop in Louisville, Kentucky. I joined Mayor Kip Holden, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, the Canvas Workshop committee, and approximately 100 participants from a myriad of backgrounds to travel to Louisville to seek out ideas and best practices that we can possibly incorporate in Baton Rouge to improve the quality of life for everyone living and visiting our community. I found the trip to be very inspiring and informative.
There are some wonderful things that have been done in Baton Rouge. However, we should be committed to ongoing improvement. The Mississippi River is a great asset for Baton Rouge and we need to leverage it.
In the late 1980's, Louisville's downtown waterfront on the Ohio River was filled with scrap yards, sand and gravel companies, warehouses, petroleum operations, and other heavy industries. Today, 85 acres of blighted landscape has been transformed into an award-winning urban waterfront park that attracts more than 1.5 million visitors per year.
We don't need to reinvent the wheel. We can study and learn from their success and do the same thing here in Baton Rouge. Because of Hollywood Casino's proximity to the river and the capitol, I see an exciting and bright future for Hollywood.
How is Hollywood preparing for the new competition that's coming to the market?
Everything is in a constant state of evolution. At Hollywood, we understand change is inevitable. We embrace change and try not to spend much time worrying about the things we can't control but rather focus on the things we can control. We listen to our customers and do our best to meet their expectations.
We are committed to on-going improvement. We continue to reinvest in our property and product to keep it fresh and exciting for our customers. Approximately five months ago, we introduced Boogie Nights to the marketplace. It has been well received. Boogie Nights is the ultimate 70's and 80's dance club!
I'm so proud of our employees and the relationships they have formed over the years with our customers. We have many "day one" employees with over 17 years of dedicated service. Our Hollywood name is indicative of our theme. We have wonderful employees, "cast members", who show up every day committed to providing our customers with a safe, clean, fun and memorable experience.
Are there any new initiatives that you are implementing or considering now that you're here as GM?
I want to continue to build on Hollywood's success. When I began in the business in Las Vegas back in the mid-1970s, there was limited technology. I've observed my daughters, Tricia, 33, and Lauren, 26, use Facebook to communicate with family and friends. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, etc., are very powerful social networks. We have approximately 310 million people in the United States. Facebook users alone number almost three times the total amount of the U.S. population.
One initiative I'd like to explore is communicating to our customers in a timelier manner. As an example, we have a fantastic buffet and steakhouse. If we have a slow day, I'd like to offer our friends on Facebook and the like a deal they can't refuse.
Why do you do what you do?
I've been in the gaming industry over 35 years. I have a love and passion for this exciting business. I enjoy people!
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Seeing the individuals I have mentored achieve career success. I also am extremely proud to have been part of the start-up team that opened the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 2003. Borgata has been the No. 1 revenue producer in A.C. since its inception.
What was your first job?
I had my own newspaper route when I was 11. My first job was delivering The Trenton Times in Trenton, New Jersey. As far as the gaming industry, after four years and an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, I was hired by Sam Boyd as a craps and blackjack dealer at the California Hotel & Casino.
Boyd, the founder/owner of Boyd Gaming, was sitting at a blackjack table wearing a Stetson hat when I approached him. He looked like a person in the know. Mr. Boyd had served in the U.S. Army. When I told him I just got out of the Air Force and was looking for a job, Mr. Boyd said, "You're hired." Mr. Boyd gave me my first big break in the casino business.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
My Dad had a lot of advice and great sayings. He was my best friend. I wish he was still alive today. Anyway, aside from Dad telling me to always do the right thing, the best advice he gave me was to take time for Jim. Dad expressed the importance of taking time to do what brings you enjoyment in life. Life can be hectic and stressful at times, and Dad advised it is important to take some time to relax and enjoy.
If you could have any job other than your own, what would it be?
I would like having Matt Lauer's job as co-anchor of NBC's Today. I would especially enjoy visiting the exotic and remote places Matt has been on his annual trip, "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?"
What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you've overcome?
The loss of a loved one is always difficult to deal with.
If you started over, what would you do differently?
I wouldn't change a thing. I've thoroughly enjoyed the journey. I am blessed. God has been very good to me.
What is your prescription for life?
Stay positive. Always maintain an enthusiastic and positive attitude. Life is too short, so don't sweat the small stuff.
What book are you currently reading?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
If you could have dinner with any three living people, who would they be?
Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez and Julia Roberts. If not the ladies, then the following men: Bill Clinton, Robin Williams and the Dalai Lama.
Who would play you in a movie?
What do you do to unwind?
Watch a movie, read, or just sit, relax and enjoy a cold beer.
What is the most expensive purchase you've made for yourself?
I bought a membership to a spa.
What is your favorite weekend activity?
Taking my dog for a walk. Seriously, taking my dog for a walk. I know; my dog and I need to get a life.
What's your favorite spot in Baton Rouge?
Hollywood Casino. I also enjoy the sushi and views at Tsunami on the top floor of the Shaw Center.
How do you take your coffee/tea?
Coffee with half & half, no sugar. Tea with honey and lemon.
What is your favorite movie?
Francis Coppola's The Godfather
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
What is your favorite gadget?
What is something that you can't live without?
Money, women, liquor and gambling, not necessarily in that order.
If you could change one thing about Baton Rouge, what would it be?
The weather, especially the months of July and August. On a more serious note, I'd like to see the waterfront developed. It is a wonderful asset that is presently underutilized.
What is your greatest hope for Baton Rouge?
My hope for Baton Rouge is it reaches its full potential. Baton Rouge has a lot of charm. There is no reason that Baton Rouge can't become the city of choice for people wanting to live in the South. We can certainly address our social issues, cultural attractions, civic amenities and quality of life.
What is your greatest fear for Baton Rouge?
I would hate to see our young talent, professionals, college graduates, etc., leave the Baton Rouge area because the area didn't meet their expectations, offer job opportunities, or didn't provide the arts and amenities to retain them.
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