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Best of Chris Sieroty
Chris Sieroty

New Palms president wants to keep casino's allure

18 October 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- When The Palms Casino Resort was in search of a new president to take over day-to-day operations of the Las Vegas celebrity hangout, it didn't take long for company executives to identify the man they wanted.

Joseph Magliarditi was hired in June, shortly after he resigned as chief executive officer of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

But for Magliarditi it wasn't about trading one financially troubled property for another. It was an opportunity to run a well-recognized hotel-casino that caters to both locals and tourists.

"George (Maloof) has done a ridiculously good job of building a brand with the Palms," he said.

Magliarditi took over for Paul Pusateri, who resigned as president less than two years into the job, and eight days after Maloof announced his family had restructured its ownership debt in the resort.

The family now owns 2 percent of the decade-old hotel-casino. Maloof turned majority ownership of the property over to the private investment firms TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners LP.

Magliarditi said that if any off-Strip property is in position to rebound quickly, it is the Palms. The property was even busy early Monday with locals and tourists playing slot machines or eating at the buffet.

"We want the mix to stay,' he said. "Both are very important to the casino."

But the trick for Magliarditi is to keep that profitable balance of appealing to both markets despite a locals market that become "hypercompetitive."

"Think about the locals business since the Palms opened (in 2001)," he said. "We can just sit here and name them -- Red Rock (Resort), Green Valley Ranch (Resort). The local business has been as competitive as it has ever been."

Magliarditi said the Palms constantly looks at its business to ensure customers are being satisfied, whether they are locals or tourists. He said it's also about finding a way "for it to be more profitable yet still taking care of the customer."

On Saturday, Ghostbar Day Club will debut. The decision to open the popular club during the day was easy for Magliarditi.

"It's a way to carry pool revenue over during the winter months," he said. "We expect good things from it."

He is also expecting the hotel to benefit financially from the remodel of the existing Palms tower. Magliarditi said plans were still being developed, but he hoped to start sometime in April.

"We will make changes to our food and beverage outlets and update the sports book by the end of 2012," he said.

Magliarditi, who was born in Lewiston, N.Y., about 30 miles north of Buffalo, started out in Las Vegas in 1994 working as a corporate analyst. He was given his first casino opportunity at the Rio.

"I was corporate analyst at the Rio, then was promoted to director of operations before I ended up as vice president of hotel operations and vice president of operations," he said.

He worked for the Marnell family there, in Laughlin and at the M Resort, where he served as executive vice president and chief operating officer before moving to the Hard Rock Hotel.

"Laughlin to me was the most valuable experience in the casino business, because, one, you have a distressed asset; two, a minimal amount of capital to spend to improve the asset; and three, operating in a severely declining market," he said. "So you get to figure out if you are any good or not."

He also saw the chance to run the Hard Rock Hotel as a good career opportunity.

However, he resigned as chief executive officer in March after the property defaulted on $1 billion in loans and operations were taken over by Warner Gaming LLC.

"The reality is its location is a challenge," he said. "The expansion made the property the way it is. Its design is very challenging. And there's a lot of history thinking the local customer wasn't very valuable."

Bunnies Hop to it in Gambling-Floor Party Pit

Playboy bunnies are now working the floor at the Palms. The women are stationed at the Playboy Party Pit, which has six blackjack tables.

Creating the new gaming area was a way for the Palms to expand the Playboy theme from the Playboy Club to the casino floor.

"The idea of the Party Pit was something we thought about during this management and when you look around Las Vegas, every party pit is the same with girls and poles," Palms President Joseph Magliarditi said. "We said, 'why not do something different?'"

Magliarditi described Playboy as a "very good partner" for the Palms.

"The Playboy Party Pit is just one of the many changes we have planned for redesigning our gaming floor," he said.

Magliarditi said the Playboy Pit has been very successful it opened on Sept. 29.

The area is near the Pearl Concert Theater and the Lounge. Women in bunny costumes are dealing from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday and Sunday and from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.