Las Vegas gamblers are a tough crowd. Not only do they get visibly irritated when the dealer is green and inexperienced, but they become downright verbally abusive when a wig is so bad it distracts them. These were but a few of the challenges faced by Scott Sibella, president and COO of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, when he went undercover at the second-largest hotel in the world.
Sibella took it all in stride. He said he was just glad he didn't have to put on tights to perform upside down in the MGM Grand's Cirque du Soleil show, 'KA.' "That was considered," he confided to AOL Jobs.
The MGM Grand stretches across 126 acres of prime real estate on the Las Vegas strip, has 7,000 rooms, 170,000 square feet of casino space, 9,000 employees and more than 50,000 visitors a day. Sibella had only been running the massive property for a few months. Just a few months ago he'd transferred from one of the company's other 13 properties on the strip, the Mirage, which is smaller, with "only" 3,000 rooms.
The Strip stripped down
Although new to his position, Sibella was happy to go undercover because he was anxious to see how the recession was affecting the hard-hit workers of Las Vegas. "Three years ago we couldn't find enough people to fill all our staff positions," he said. "Now when a position becomes available, we have many applicants and it's very competitive." Sibella knew that the high unemployment and high foreclosure rates were extremely hard on the city he'd lived in since he was 2 years old.
And he sure got a taste of that as he tried the various hotel and casino jobs the 'Undercover Boss' crew had set up for him. His first duty was to work with a black jack dealer named Eddie. The gregarious dealer did his best to explain his job's intricacies, but Sibella had a hard time catching on. The rowdy players gave him an extremely hard time, but ended up winning (possibly because of Sibella's goofs), so at least they were happy.
Eddie seemed like a generally happy guy as well, working hard to raise five boys. Eddie told Sibella they enjoyed watching UFC matches together. Eddie was elated when, after Sibella's reveal, he was informed that the president of the league would fly Eddie and his boys on his private jet to see a match. Sibella also gave Eddie $10,000 to help raise his family.
Going back -- way back
Sibella's second job was a blast from the past. He worked with a front desk agent named Angelina doing some of the same duties he'd done during his first year of college at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he studied hotel administration. But he found the new computer system made things far more sophisticated -- and complicated than they had been so many years ago. He was a little frustrated to find out that the brand new system took so long, and that the one it replaced was faster.
His frustration only grew when he found out that Angelina took smoking breaks in the valet area where customers can see her in uniform, kicking back. She knew it was taboo, but she said that area was closer and quicker.
She was admonished for her public smoking in the end, but she was also told that the computer system would be fixed so that it would be faster and more user friendly. He also told Angelina that she was a hard worker, and good at what she did, so he was giving her a real break -- he'd send her and her husband on a paid, romantic vacation of their choosing, all expenses paid.
Playing with the players
It was back to the casino for Sibella's third job, with a roulette dealer named Donn who had been with the casino since it opened in 1993. Roulette is an extremely complicated game, and Sibella confessed it was tough to get a good spin and to remember all the players' payouts.
And the players weren't exactly patient with him. Comments like "Nice rug!" referring to the uncomfortable undercover disguise he was wearing, were among his challenges. Donn said there are worse things to watch out for, like the cigarette smoke dealers are exposed to. Sibella realized this is a difficult issue because smoking and drinking are so often a big part of gambling to many customers.
But he also realized the importance of seeing what could be done about the second-hand smoke the dealers face, so when he met with Donn sans disguise, he told him they were going to install small fans on all the tables so all the dealers would be more comfortable. While they worked together, Donn had mentioned he was a big football fan and was active in a veterans support group. So Sibella promised to fly Donn's brothers in for a big football game, and also pledged $5,000 to be given, in Donn's name, to the veterans group.
Service beyond the casino
The fourth job was a tough one that not everyone is aware of. Sibella worked with Sandy as a guest service representative in the slot machine area, making sure everything is clean and signing up guests for Players' Cards, which allow them to earn free buffet dinners and tickets to shows at the hotel. Sibella found that getting players to sign up for the bonus program was not as easy as it looked -- he couldn't even describe the program correctly.
When Sandy was finished with work, she asked Sibella if he'd like to come with her on a little charity errand -- it seems she delivers flowers every week to a senior citizens facility. Sibella was so moved by this he told his family about it, and in the end, offered to come along with Sandy each week and bring his two teenage children along to help. The MGM Grand provided more flowers, and also donated $5,000 in Sandy's name to the charity of her choice. The icing on the cake was sending Sandy and her husband on a cruise.
In less than two weeks on 'Undercover Boss,' Sibella learned almost as much about the lives of workers at a gambling resort as he had in an entire lifetime in Las Vegas. "I worked with some great individuals, and it was so touching to see what they're going through," he said. "Sometimes you forget what it's like, when you reach my level, but this reinforces how much our employees -- and our customers -- mean to us."
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