Bill Harrah’s name is not so well known these days. Although he was once considered a trailblazer of the modern gambling industry, his influence is not what it once was. But this is all set to change, thanks to Wynn Resorts recently appointing Phil Satre as their chairman, the same man who 20 years ago brought Harrah’s methods of doing business nationwide.
Harrah didn’t manage the gambling venues he owned on a day-to-day basis, instead hiring good people and trusting them to do what they were supposed to do. His insistence on a few basic principles, however, was not negotiable. He placed premium importance on the comfort of his punters, and brought an inflexible standardisation of customer service to bear at each of his locations.
His belief was that his customers should be able to predict with 100% accuracy how their interactions with his employees would go, and his devotion to this principle ensured loyalty in a very competitive market. While you may not have had the wildest night of your life at his venues, you’d always have an enjoyable one.
After Harrah passed away in 1978, Holiday Inn purchased his 2 casinos and put his name on a project in development in Atlantic City. Under Satre’s leadership, the Harrah Way perfectly adapted to the casino expansion that took place in the 1990s: instead of an infrequent experience available only in Sin City, it became an excursion punters could enjoy once a month, or even weekly. Guests were being catered to and comforted, not wowed, and it was this adjustment of a formula that worked in the 50s and 60s that allowed the company to triumph in terms of the expansion wars.
Satre’s success gave Holiday Inn enough financial clout to purchase properties in a range of markets, but no lavish resorts resulted from it, either. After all, the casino pioneer had proved that guests may visit the Strip to gawk at novelty entertainment, but they’ll gamble where they get great service and comps that are delivered predictably and consistently.
This method is possibly an answer to the mature modern-day casino market, with gambling trips no longer being an annual excursion, but one possible anytime, anywhere. If you can get the financing, you’re welcome to try and replicate the full Las Vegas experience in Anytown, USA, but remember that what players want is somewhere that’s comfortable to sit, and where comps are handed out predictably.