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New MGM President and COO feels right at home in Mississippi

18 April 2022

By Gary Trask
MGM Resorts President and COO Brandon Dardeau.

MGM Resorts President and COO Brandon Dardeau.

Twenty-two years, 13 job titles, one company.

In short, that’s been Brandon Dardeau’s career path ever since he made the bold move to pack up his stuff as a fresh-faced graduate of Northeast Louisiana University in 1999 and move to Las Vegas, searching for a gig in the casino/gaming industry.

Fast forward to a recent sunny spring day on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and Dardeau appears content, confident and comfortable as he greets a visitor to his executive office at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. At 45 years old, Dardeau was recently appointed President & Chief Operating Officer of Southeast Operations for MGM Resorts International, which includes overseeing both Beau Rivage and Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica. The title on his door is something he’s not only honored and proud to hold, but also one that required a fair share of blood, sweat and tears to attain, which makes it even more gratifying.

“This is a special place,” Dardeau said of Beau Rivage, the sensational casino resort in Biloxi that many agree is the crown jewel of the booming Coastal Mississippi gaming market. “I’m thankful to be sitting here in this chair. I’m a Southern boy from a little town of 700 people (Pine Prairie, Louisiana) so there really isn’t anywhere else I would want to be at this point of my career.”

Of course, this particular version of a “Local Boy Makes Good” story was not without speed bumps. The seed for a move to Las Vegas was planted during his senior year in college when his golf coach, who was only a couple years older than Dardeau, asked him if he wanted to make a trip to the desert.

“He had a friend out there that could set us up with a room and I had never been, so I jumped at the chance,” Dardeau remembers with a smile. “Vegas was really hopping at that time. When I got there, I stopped and looked around at the bright lights and said to myself, ‘This is where I want to be.’”

Once landing in Las Vegas with his marketing degree in hand, Dardeau spent over a month applying to casinos up and down the Strip before finally accepting an entry level position with MGM as Casino Marketing Coordinator, which was basically a seat in the company’s call center making $10 per hour. Along the way, he slept on friends’ couches, ate lots of fast food and maxed out a couple credit cards. Meanwhile, his parents were back home in Louisiana shaking their heads in disbelief about their son’s perilous career move to Sin City.

But Dardeau grinded it out and obviously impressed someone because before long he was promoted to Assistant Slot Machine Shift Manager, which eventually led to another promotion as Slot Manager. The rise in the ranks was a harbinger of things to come for Dardeau as he worked his way up the proverbial ladder at MGM, eventually managing the call center he used to sit in. He then worked in casino sales, the entertainment department and as a casino host.

“I got the opportunity to move on and work in a number of different departments, which was great for me because I got to learn so much about the industry,” Dardeau said. “Living in Las Vegas was fun, but eventually I got to the point where I wanted to move back home and settle down.

“My parents still live in the house I grew up in. This is where I belong. But at the same time, I loved what I was doing and working for MGM, so I definitely wanted to remain in the industry.”

He got his chance to come back home in 2001 when he was offered the position of Assistant Shift Manager for Slots Operations at the newly opened Beau. Soon, there were more promotions and new titles to add to his growing resume: Director of Slot Marketing and Regional Director of Casino Marketing, in which he played a key role in launching M life Rewards.

Finally, in 2010, Dardeau was offered his first executive title with MGM as he accepted the title of Vice President of Marketing. Dardeau bounced between Tunica and Biloxi, including becoming Vice President of Marketing at Beau Rivage in 2014, before taking on the role of President & COO of Gold Strike in 2020.

The Gold Strike thrived under Dardeau’s direction and in January 2022, he was awarded his 13th different title with MGM: President & Chief Operating Officer of Southeast Operations.

“It’s been a whirlwind, but obviously it’s been very helpful to me that I know the properties and the markets very well,” he said. “I had some ideas building up that I always wanted to implement, so there was definitely a specific strategy coming in right from the get-go. It’s been busy, but I think we’re off to a great start.”



Indeed, things are popping at the Beau and it’s not just the fresh flowers that fill the grand entrance lobby each day. Two years after completing a $10 million suite renovation, MGM Resorts is in the process of pouring $89 million in capital projects and property enhancements into Beau Rivage, which fittingly means “beautiful shore” in French.

On the food and beverage side, the Terrace Cafe, located just inside the resort's main entrance, will reopen at the end of this month as Atrium Cafe. The expanded space will be completely remodeled with new patterned table tops, colorful bistro, carpet, faux paus flooring, floral and plant wall coverings. Along with a “broadened” menu, Atrium Cafe's decor and design will make guests feel like they are on a classic Southern patio or garden.

Meanwhile Jia, the resort’s Pan-Asian restaurant, has been re-imagined with new furniture, lighting, an 18-seat circular noodle bar and a 14-seat sushi bar. Adjacent to Jia on the casino floor there is also a new Asian-inspired Baccarat gaming section.

Speaking of the sprawling 85,000 square-foot casino floor, this month a dedicated Buffalo Zone will be unveiled, featuring the wildly popular Aristocrat slot machines Buffalo Chief, Buffalo Diamond, Buffalo Gold, Buffalo Legends and Buffalo Gold Revolution.

Beau Rivage is remodeling 1700 guest rooms through October.

Beau Rivage is remodeling 1700 guest rooms through October.

But, according to Dardeau, the most exciting development is the $55 million remodel of the more than 1,700 guest rooms at the Beau, which will be done in phases, so as to not disrupt current guests, and is expected to be finished by mid-October. Upon completion, guests will be sleeping on the same mattresses used at Bellagio, the iconic sister property that sits in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, and the rooms will be re-designed with a true Southern look and feel.

“We rely on our hotel rooms to provide guests with that upscale experience they have come to expect here,” Dardeau said. “The current rooms are in good shape, but we needed to update the design. We had plans to do this in 2020, right after the suite remodel, but COVID pushed everything back. Now, the timing is right to get it done.”

The enhancements don’t stop at the resort itself. Fallen Oak, which is perennially ranked the No. 2 casino golf course in the country behind MGM-owned Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, is in the midst of seeing more than $3 million spent on a number of enhancements on cart paths, clearing trees and general maintenance. The Tom Fazio masterpiece, which is located in Saucier, about 20 miles north of the resort, is exclusive to guests of Beau Rivage and recently hired Mark Powell, formerly of the highly acclaimed Dancing Rabbit Golf Club in northern Mississippi, as its new Director of Golf.

All of the new developments come within just a couple of years of the Beau adding other new amenities such as the classy Black Clover Lounge, a Topgolf Swing Suite and the lavish BetMGM Book Bar & Grill that allows bettors to take advantage of Mississippi’s regulated sports betting market in style.

“The lion’s share of our guests come from more than 300 miles away,” explained Dardeau, who was also instrumental in launching the resort's charter air program that brings in two flights a day of guests from up and down the East Coast and the Midwest and is responsible for 24% of the current air traffic flying in and out of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. “Don’t get me wrong. The main reason they are coming here is to gamble, but we wouldn’t get guests from all over the country if we didn’t have new restaurants, the pool deck, the spa, big name entertainment, or a world-class golf course like Fallen Oak.

“The average stay here is 2.7 days, but we have a lot of people that come for four or more nights, so you need to offer all of these amenities to enhance the experience and I feel like we do that as well as any casino in the country outside Las Vegas.”

As Dardeau directs all that is going on at both Beau Rivage and Gold Strike these days, he’s appreciative of each and every one of the 13 positions he has held over the last 22 years because they gave him the kind of education and insight about running a casino that he could not have been taught in any other way.

“I can’t put into words how much all of that past experience benefits me today,” he said. “When I go down on the casino floor, or when I have to call someone and ask questions, they know there’s a pretty good chance that at some point, I was in their shoes, doing a job that’s probably very similar to theirs. Heck, there’s still a lot of staff here today that I worked with before when I was slot manager. So they also know that when they come to be with something, I understand the problem and what they need from me.

“That’s an invaluable tool to have in your favor. And I know it’s going to benefit us all as we move forward.”

New MGM President and COO feels right at home in Mississippi is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
 

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Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT