Aliante Gaming leader: Innovation adds to casino’s success

Terry Downey, president and general manager of Aliante, has little time or patience for pessimism.

Terry Downey had retired after a long and successful career with Station Casinos. But he was talked back into working and became president and general manager of Aliante Gaming, which runs the Aliante in North Las Vegas. The resort focused on ways it could set itself apart from others.

How have you adapted Aliante to fit the needs of locals?

By providing a high-value experience in a high-quality setting. Our amenities, restaurants, entertainment and Players Club program continue to evolve to fit the people of our community. We are dedicated to be part of the “neighborhood” and have partnered with notable charitable organizations to make a difference in North Las Vegas.

Why do you think Aliante has been successful?

Aliante is a stand-alone property owned by a small group of investors who have given the management team broad latitude to proceed aggressively, and swiftly, as business conditions change and as guest interests change. Also, Aliante has a strong financial foundation, and a dedicated, well-trained base of employees, which allows us to provide attention to the unique needs and interests of our guests. For example, we determined very quickly that our guests, both local and from out of the area, were tired of the exact same promotions being offered by our competitors month after month, just with the name of the promotion and artwork changed. So we’ve been innovative with our promotions, and our casino guests have responded with appreciation.

Another area where we differentiate our property from the competition is in food quality. We made the decision early on that we were going to buy fresh food and let our chefs not only cook but also create. It varies from the standard of buying everything pre-cut, prewashed, in cans and bags and just throwing it together in a pot. We like to say “our chefs work with knives, not scissors.”

What charitable organizations does Aliante support?

We are involved in a wide variety of community charities, from large organizations such as United Way to individual events such as delivering holiday presents to children at Nellis Air Force Base. We have also partnered with Red Cross, SafeNest, ONEHOPE, Opportunity Village and many others.

What prepared you for your position at Aliante?

I grew up in Las Vegas, have a hospitality degree from UNLV and have spent my entire career working in the industry.

I was always in love with the hospitality industry. I remember reading the Reader’s Digest version of “Hotel” when I was very young and being influenced by it. My mother worked in hotels her entire career, and I was enthralled with the stories she brought home.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Las Vegas is perhaps the most competitive hospitality market in the country, so we need to be constantly staying a step ahead of our competitors and attuned to the interests of our guests — both locals and out-of-town visitors, in making sure we are not only relevant but also cutting-edge.

For instance, our innovative kiosk-based games and promotions provide our guests with entertainment and a somewhat unique experience.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job?

Building a fantastic team that is taking Aliante from the depth of the recession to setting revenue and earnings records almost monthly.

How has the industry changed during your career?

Technology has changed so many things, especially with regard to the manner in which we find, keep, reward and communicate with our guests. I appreciate the technology tools that are available today, but the caveat has to be that you don’t forget who you are or what we are here for. We are in the business of providing hospitality.

Describe your management style.

Manage by walking around — being among all the people; customers and team members alike. That’s where our business really happens. If you aren’t in touch at that level, you are in the wrong business.

I have not always been a general manager. I worked my way through the ranks and have gained a great appreciation for what it takes to help a guest have an enjoyable experience and how difficult each employee’s job can be at times. And, early in my career, someone told me that “corn grows tall in the farmer’s shadow.” As my career has evolved, I have tried to cast a larger shadow.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’m not really sure, but I’m having the time of my life right now. I tried to retire once already, but I really missed interacting with folks on a grand scale like this job and career allow. So I would like to think I will still enjoy this enough in 10 years to keep doing what I’m doing.

What is your dream job, outside of your current field?

Jazz guitarist, history professor, writer … so many things, so little time. I would love to write a sitcom about the gaming industry. People have no idea what it entails. Or I would love to do anything in the sports field, because I love being outdoors.

Whom do you admire and why?

Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully — what a career! And after all these years, he’s still highly motivated and sharp as a tack.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Negative people. Pessimists tend to stifle the motivation of others and create an unwelcome environment. Thankfully, I rarely need to confront negativity in person. The culture of encouragement, support and optimism that we have created at Aliante tends to weed out the “lemon suckers.”

What is something that people might not know about you?

I have 10 grandkids. I am also an honorary commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base.

I have a deep and abiding respect and appreciation for the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces. Their sacrifices deserve to be honored.

Aliante is in close proximity to Nellis Air Force Base, so we frequently have the opportunity to provide hospitality to service men and women, and their visiting families. We always extend them a special welcome. Aliante is also proud to have been the site of many special events hosted by the Nellis Air Force Base leadership.

Further, we chose to honor the men and women of the 57th Wing, located at Nellis Air Force Base, by creating a permanent namesake at our property and naming our global cuisine restaurant Bistro57. The men and women of the 57th Wing are our friends!

Tags: The Sunday