We literally lived in the hotel at the casino for a period of time. Some of my best friends were employees of the casino. I got to sing on stage with Diana Ross when I was 10. As a young child, I didn’t realize how special those experiences were. As I got older, however, I couldn’t think of another profession where that would be the norm.
As I explored other opportunities, it felt like the casino world was where I needed to be and where I could have the most fun doing something that I loved.
I went to the University of Nevada Las Vegas and got a job as a card dealer to understand the inner workings of the casino.
In the hospitality businesses, it takes certain kinds of people to excel. Those are typically people who find satisfaction in making someone’s day.
The business of turning cards over is a pretty mundane task. But when you truly engage the customers and create a unique experience for them, you find that you can do the job seven days a week and really never have the same experience twice.
I learned that in hospitality we’re in the business of creating experiences.
Out of college, I joined Isle of Capri Casinos and did almost everything — from waiting tables to becoming vice president for gaming operations over the 16 properties.
I lived on the Gulf Coast, leading operations in a casino there when Hurricane Katrina hit. The casino was destroyed. But I’m so proud of what we did as a company.
We took a position we weren’t required to take. We were able to reopen the facility in temporary capacity just four months after the hurricane struck and put every one of the employees back to work much sooner than anyone thought it could be done.
There are times when you face a challenge and upon receiving it, you see it as a mountain.
As you chip away at it, you feel like you’re making no progress. But before you know it, you’ve climbed a mountain. It’s cliché but it’s so true when you’re talking about a project taking two or three years.
I think the most important thing was for me to set a path that was clear for everyone to follow.
From there I moved to a company called the MTR Gaming Group, which has casinos in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and a race track in Ohio.
Then came this opportunity in Maryland. It’s a great project in a great location that is being developed by a great company. It’s a win-win for me. Anne Arundel County is a beautiful area and the project is one of the largest to be built in decades.
It’s an opportunity to be a part of creating something so spectacular in the middle of the economic troubles that the country is facing.
Goal one is getting it opened and putting 1,500 people to work and executing on the goal to be a world-class destination right here in Maryland.
—Interview with Vanessa Small