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Best of Benjamin Spillman
Benjamin Spillman

Nevadan at work: Orleans executive works to keep casino experience fresh for visitors

4 December 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Tony Taeubel spent 10 years working in casinos from Iowa to Mississippi.

He's looking forward to commemorating the 10th anniversary of his current casino in his home state of Nevada.

Taeubel, vice president of The Orleans, has a career in gambling that's spanned thousands of miles and jobs ranging from government regulator to sports book writing. The casino celebrates its 10th anniversary Dec. 18.

"I've been on the road in a different state for the last 10 years," said Taeubel, who's been on the job at The Orleans for just a month.

Despite his new status at The Orleans, Taeubel has been with parent company Boyd Gaming Corp. several years. His most recent stop was at the recently closed Stardust.

Before he worked for Boyd Taeubel worked for Ameristar casinos in Council Bluffs, Iowa and Philadelphia, Miss.

And before that he worked in Nevada as an agent for the Gaming Control Board.

"For three years I chased cheaters around Las Vegas and arrested those folks," he said. "It does give me a different perspective, a definite feel for making sure the rules are followed."

Taeubel even worked on the notorious American Coin case, named after the slot machine supplier that gained infamy in Las Vegas when it was found to be rigging machines to limit payouts.

An informant in the case was killed in 1990. Almost 10 years later a close friend of the owners of American Coin Co., plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the case.

"I ended up physically taking thousands of machines from bars across the valley," said Taeubel of his role.

He also did background investigations of key casino personnel for licensing reasons. That's when he decided there was an opportunity to make more money working for casinos as opposed to regulating them.

"I was investigating casino executives ... and I saw the potential out there," he said.

Gaming has changed dramatically since then. Most obvious is the role of computers in everything from operating slot machines to calculating comps for table players.

"Back when I was doing it, it was lead slugs in the machines," he said.

Off-Strip properties such as The Orleans have also evolved.

Locals casinos have gotten larger and offer many more amenities.

The Orleans, for example, has an arena that is home to concerts, a professional hockey team and host to two National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I basketball tournaments, a first for a casino venue.

Taeubel estimates about 50 percent of The Orleans' customers live locally.

"The locals player is a lot more demanding," he said. "They do expect a lot out of you."

Those expectations will rise even more with two new locals casinos, Red Rock Resort and South Point, now operating in the area.

That could result in more retail and more upscale restaurants at places like The Orleans.

"The biggest challenge we have is just trying to keep the product fresh," Taeubel said. "I think the competition will affect everybody in some way or another."

But he added that in keeping up casino operators shouldn't advance beyond the customers' taste. Taeubel said technology, for example, can alienate customers if it saps personality from the casino floor.

"People want to be social," he said.

Question: What's the most misunderstood aspect of the casino business and why?

Answer: Actual payback of slot machines. Many people feel that if they don't win a particular day, the slots are too tight.

Slot machine programs are random and only a study over a longer period of time (6 months) could determine with accuracy the actual payback of a particular machine (reels). With video poker, the more favorable pay tables along with the skills of a player can increase possible return.

Question: What's the greatest threat to the casino industry? Will Las Vegas casinos overcome it?

Answer: As long as the regulatory environment does not get too restrictive, then we will be fine.

With our industry spurring the regions growth and to the degree that the city and state prosper, we ensure that we are at the forefront of progress and involvement within our community.

Question: As Las Vegas continues to evolve from a gaming destination to an overall resort and leisure experience, what are the implications for gamblers? Will lower-cost gambling destinations in other jurisdictions make Las Vegas less appealing to bettors?

Answer: Amenities being offered to players continue to be refined with shopping, dining and spa options more enhanced and interactive.

This allows spouses or significant others whose partners gamble additional opportunities to fulfill their desires on these trips. Las Vegas will always fill the need for that "getaway" even though gamblers have casinos in their areas. With the billions of dollars invested in Las Vegas over the next five years, we will still be a "must see" location.

Question: What's your personal vision for the perfect casino.

Answer: The perfect casino would be one where guests could get a real value for their investment, guest service provided would be optimal and the overall experience is so positive that each guest cannot wait to return.