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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Nevadan At Work: Resort's TV Exposure Has Guests Asking Exec, 'Hey, Do I Know You?'

12 December 2005

The spotlight came up when Joe Hasson arrived at Green Valley Ranch Resort.

Hasson was met by several television cameras when he started his job as the hotel-casino's general manager. It so happened that the Discovery Channel had scheduled to start filming its reality show "American Casino" on Hasson's first day.

The hour-long "American Casino," in its third season and now airing on the Travel Channel, captures life inside the hotel-casino. The show, broadcast at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, has made household figures out of Hasson and casino's staff.

Everyone seems to recognize him. Hasson said a Metropolitan police officer who pulled him over for speeding recognized him from the show. Children trick-or-treating to Hasson's home recognized him, too. And, during a recent lunch in New York City, restaurant customers recognized Hasson before they recognized his dining partner, baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.

"(The show) is a lot of fun. It adds a whole new dimension to the job," Hasson said.

In the beginning, Hasson said the task was for the employees of Green Valley Ranch Resort to go about their daily duties without concern of the television cameras. For the most part, that has been accomplished.

Green Valley Ranch Resort, operated by Las Vegas-based Station Casinos, opened in 2001. The property has grown quickly into a boutique-style 498-room hotel and gambling hall with eight restaurants.

Hasson, a certified public accountant by trade, has been in gaming for more than two decades, managing casinos in several parts of the country. He said Green Valley Ranch Resort, which recently added the upscale Hank's steakhouse, tries to offer something for customers of all backgrounds.

Question: Is Green Valley Ranch Resort considered a little more lavish than other Station Casinos properties?

Answer: The most important thing about a Station Casinos is that we're a business focused on locals. Green Valley Ranch Resort fits into that model nicely and neatly. We're in the center of a neighborhood and we have to be a good neighbor to our community.

We have everything that the local customer would want, but the upside is we have a beautiful boutique hotel that is a tremendous lodging experience. By and large, however, we can never forget that we are chiefly a locals casino.

Question: Who is the typical Green Valley Ranch Resort customer?

Answer: I would describe him in a couple of different ways. Guests come to Green Valley Ranch Resort from far and wide looking for a terrific four-diamond accommodation that we offer. We're minutes from the Strip, but a world apart. If you want to compete with 100,000 other people for breakfast, then the Strip is for you. If you want to stay in a boutique-size resort that also caters to locals and understands what the most discerning guest wants, then stay with us. We'll treat you like a local, but we'll also wrap you in the luxury of a four-diamond hotel.

Question: Does the property have a wide range of customers?

Answer: We're really a mixed bag. During the summer months, we skew to a much younger crowd looking for a good-time-in-our-backyard experience. During the trade show seasons, our typical hotel guest is usually here for a small convention. During the holidays and many other times during the year, people who live in Green Valley put their family, friends and acquaintances here. That's a very important dimension for our business.

Question: How did your career prepare you for this job ?

Answer: I've had the good fortune of working in destination-resort markets, in locals markets, and in American Indian gaming markets. I'd describe the sum total of my experiences as the right preparation for the job I do today. It goes all the way back to working for a Big Eight public accounting firm to a number of general manager experiences. I even worked in the magnificent market of Laughlin, which is a throwback to 1960s and 1970s Las Vegas and it's a terrific place to hone the skills of the old-school style of experience.

Question: Will the opening of Coast Casino's $600 million South Coast give Green Valley Ranch Resort additional competition?

Answer: The Las Vegas market has demonstrated fabulous elasticity. When the market adds capacity, that capacity is absorbed. The emergence of any new casino gives (us, the staff of) Green Valley Ranch Resort another reason to ask ourselves what more we can do for our guests. No matter who enters the market, we have to stay on top of our game.

Every new place will have a trial period, that's the rule of physics, it never fails. We have to keep improving our business so the next arriving competitor has to jump a pretty high hurdle.

Question: Will your sister property, the $925 million Red Rock Resort in Summerlin, become competition for you when it opens in March?

Answer: Red Rock Resort is Green Valley Ranch taken to the next level. It's fabulous for Summerlin and it's a terrific opportunity for the company. It just means that Green Valley Ranch Resort needs to keep getting better.

Question: What has "American Casino" meant to Green Valley Ranch Casino?

Answer: We see people every day that tell us they are here because they saw the resort on television. They want to see if it's real. They want to know if there really is a casino called Green Valley Ranch Resort or is it just a Hollywood set.

Effectively, the show is a one-hour commercial for Green Valley Ranch Resort. We provide the film crews the access to our business so they can find an interesting story line on how Green Valley Ranch works.

Question: What has starring in "American Casino" meant for you?

Answer: For me, it's interesting getting recognized. I have a lot of fun with that. I've gotten recognized in places you wouldn't expect. It's kind of an unique dimension of the job.

Question: You and the staff get together to watch the show on Wednesday evenings, but who is the most unique person you've watched the show with?

Answer: President Clinton has stayed here many times and on one of his visits, our chef prepared an excellent spread for the president and we all ate dinner and watched "American Casino."