Jake Vanderlei, Vice President of Casino Operations oversees the table games, slots and player development departments as well as components of marketing operations. He was formally the Regional Vice President of Gaming for MGM-Mirage and also held executive-level positions with Four Queens Hotel & Casino, Acres Gaming and Silicon Gaming in Las Vegas and was the Director of Slots/Casino Operations for the Casino Magic Corporation in Bay Saint Louis, Miss.
His hometown is Bakersfield, California, but he now resides in Tampa, Florida as a powerhouse executive for the most successful casino in the United States, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
We sat down with Jake for a little Q&A to find out what inspired him to break into the casino industry and his thoughts on the future of gaming here at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.
I had an uncle that was President of the Desert Inn in Las Vegas and when I was younger we would always stay in the suites there. I loved gaming from the time I first experienced it, so I decided to jump in to the industry and give it a try.
What was your very first casino job?
My senior year of college, my high school sweetheart and I got married and we’ve been together now for 25 years. I had an offer to become a dealer at Mainstreet Station in downtown Las Vegas and decided to take the risk by moving there from my hometown Los Angeles, California. When I got there I was in table games dealing craps and blackjack.
How did you get where you are today as the VP of Casino Operations?
I lived in four different states and moved eight times in ten years to pursue opportunities that were presented to me and would continue to develop me professionally. I started my career in table games, but I also enjoyed slots. One of my additional responsibilities was to assist in slot Installations for the opening of Grand Casino in Mississippi, which is where my career changed dramatically. There, I went from being a part of table games to becoming a slot shift supervisor. One of the executives there saw me as a leader and gave me the opportunity to manage. He took a risk and believed in me.
What is one of the biggest highlights in your gaming career?
I opened the first casino in the world where every slot machine had a bill validator installed, meaning guests could now put dollar bills in the machine instead of purchasing a roll of quarters. My decision to become a slot shift manager occurred at the perfect time. Slot machines really exploded and I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I believe that timing is really important in people’s lives.
What are some of your favorite elements of the new High Limit Slot Room?
The hand selected team that is able to anticipate our guest’s needs and be proactive instead of reactive.
As an industry insider, what are some of the trends you predict for the future of gaming?
With the upcoming generations, I think mobile gaming is certainly in the future. Also, I think multi-tasking gaming where guests play a slot and table game at the same time. From a gaming standpoint, I think we will communicate differently. How we market online will change because social media is constantly evolving.
What do you believe is Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa’s largest trend in gaming for 2015?
Our biggest focus is anticipating the needs of guests and treating them with the best service possible.
What’s the secret to your success?
The biggest secret to my success is that I’m a people person and that I love to get to know people. That’s what gaming is all about: people and relationships.
What do you like best about Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa?
I love the atmosphere and people, but you can’t sum it up in one word. There is never a dull moment and you’re always busy. I love the business and the way we react to the business and I love people.