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Arnold M. Knightly

Gaming pioneer Jeanne Hood dies

4 August 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada –- When former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones began her run for the office in 1990, one of the first people she sought out was Jeanne Hood, then president of the Four Queens.

"She wrote me one of my first checks when I was running for mayor," said Jones, who is now a senior vice president at Harrah's Entertainment. "I will never forget it. She pulled her check book out of her desk, we were sitting in her office, and she wrote me a personal check."

Hood, a pioneering casino executive at the Four Queens in the 1970s, died Sunday.

Her age and cause of death were not available.

Hood took over as president and chief executive officer of the Four Queens upon the death of her husband, David Hood, in 1977. In 1985, she became president and chief executive officer at Elsinore, a publicly traded gaming subsidiary of the Hyatt hotel chain that owned the Four Queens.

She remained president of the Four Queens until 1993.

The unassuming Hood rarely gave interviews and tried to downplay her role as a woman in the casino industry.

Hood told the Review-Journal in 1985, when she and Claudine Williams were the only women running Las Vegas resorts, that she was not a "woman's libber" and steered away from questions that went that direction.

"I just feel that people have to be qualified," she told the newspaper. "I don't care whether they're a woman or a man, or what color or race they belong to. I think they need to know what they are doing in order to have the job. Because I'm qualified, I'm here."

While she didn't talk about her place in casino history often, her influence is undeniable.

"She is part of too small a group that proved a woman could do a job that is most associated with men," said Michael Green, a history professor at College of Southern Nevada.

Hood's death comes less than three months after the death of Williams. The first woman to run a Strip property at the Holiday Inn-Holiday Casino, Williams died May 13 at the age of 88.

"It is ironic Claudine Williams died not too long ago," Green said. "Here are really two women who set a standard in their industry."

While at the Four Queens and afterward, Hood was active in efforts to redevelop downtown Las Vegas with other big-name casino executives.

Jones said her mayor's office and Hood were part of "the real working group" that included Steve Wynn, former Boyd Gaming Corp. CEO Don Snyder, and Bill Boyd, founder of the Boyd Gaming, that was focused on downtown redevelopment.

Hood met her husband while at the University of Minnesota. She spent her summers as a waitress at the Old Faithful Inn, where David was an assistant manager, at Yellowstone National Park. Hood managed her first hotel in 1958 in California.

She arrived in Las Vegas in just before Christmas in 1973 when her husband was named president of the Four Queens.

After her career at the Four Queens, , in 1994 she became a director of American Vantage Cos., a Las Vegas-based management investment company, a position she held until her death.

She was a gaming consultant for the company from February 1994 until April 2000.

She also served as American Vantage's assistant corporate secretary, chairwoman of its audit committee and co-chair of its compensation committee.

Her career extended past casinos. She was director of Pioneer Citizen's Bank until it merged with Zions Bancorporation in 2000. She served on the board of Southwest USA Bank starting in January 2000.

Jones said the importance of Hood serving alongside other women in the history of casinos cannot be overstated.

"The very fact Jeanne Hood, Margaret Elardi (former owner of the Frontier and the Pioneer Club), Claudine Williams could have been contemporaries and colleagues of Steve Wynn, Bill Boyd and Kirk Kerkorian tells you it was more about entrepreneurial vision than gender," Jones said. "You don't find that in any other industry."

Hood was inducted into the Nevada Chapter of the International Women's Forum Hall of Fame in 2004.

She is survived by a sister, four daughters, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Services will be private.