When I moved to Las Vegas in 2006 and began my career in casino marketing, I was fortunate enough to have for my mentor the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be: John Romero. The man who brought the Beatles to Las Vegas when nobody in America knew who they were. The man who invented tournament format gambling. The man who wrote the book on casino marketing. Literally. A man whose contributions to our industry are so important, we give out awards bearing his name every year.
I worked directly with John in those formative years, and he took me under his wing. He shared with me the wisdom gained throughout his five decades in the industry, and the philosophy that guided him to success over that illustrious career. He told me I reminded him of a young version of himself, which was about the best compliment I could have imagined. He was the best storyteller I ever met. I’m glad that he finally got around to putting pen to paper and sharing with the world some of those old Las Vegas stories that he’d laid on me over the years.
Working with John, seeing how he framed the interaction between player and house, he taught me that what casinos sell is more than just entertainment. It’s emotion. As marketers it’s our job to give our casinos life in the minds of our guests when they’re not here. Winning isn’t entertaining. It’s emotional. Losing, even more so. The roller coaster isn’t just one of bankroll.
The knowledge that people visit casinos, not for entertainment, but for an emotional response, is one of the most overlooked truths there is about the industry. Any casino for whom John provided his expertise reaped the benefits of that understanding, and as a result, enjoyed stronger relationships with their guests. Long before the database age, John always knew exactly which word to use to transform someone from customer to loyalist.
John died April 30th. He was 85.