Living a Vida Vegas: a Growing MBA Opportunity in the Gaming & Hosptiality Industry

Picture yourself getting paid to dine in 5-star restaurants, party with Kobe Bryant, meet and greet with Warren Buffet, and learn the ins and outs of how to run a premier casino. If this lifestyle appeals to you, then definitely consider a career in the gaming & hospitality industry.

During the weekend of September 27-30, a group of 20 HBS students went on the Las Vegas trek to find out more about this much celebrated yet rather mysterious side of the business world. Led by EC students Aastha Gurbax and Shirin Odar, and co-organized by Josh Schwarzberg, we visited the Wynn, the Venetian and Caesar’s Palace. It was amazing to see how different the business models were among the big three gaming and hospitality companies.

Our first stop was breakfast with the Wynn senior executives, including the Senior Vice President Human Resources, who joined the company after a successful career on Wall Street. Our conversations ranged from how to transition a career into the gaming business to Wynn’s global expansion strategy. Following a tour of the hotel (including a 1900 square feet Tower Suite), the Vice President of Investor Relations chatted with us about the company and its clients. The Wynn’s business model has always revolved around the idea of a “fun” experience for its customers. It has positioned itself successfully in the luxury segment of the business, respectively in its hotel & resort, gaming and entertainment, and retail divisions. Wynn’s customers value privacy, exclusivity and comfort, and Mr. Wynn’s vision to provide that offering is without peer in Las Vegas, earning the hotel resort the only 5-star and 5-diamond rating on the strip. With the opening of Wynn’s second tower “Encore” in fall 2009, and a resort & casino in Macau, China, the Wynn enterprise aims to extend its luxury offerings to high-end customers worldwide.

We then transitioned to the Venetian, part of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. founded and owned by Chairman & CEO Sheldon Adelson. A buffet lunch at the employees’ cafeteria awaited us as we were presented with an “HBS” cake and greeted by a pair of Italian tenors singing our praises. The Chief Operations Officer, Rob Goldstein, described the Sands’ rapid growth strategy in different business areas: hotel & resort, casino and convention. The company consistently has the highest return on investment in Vegas and Mr. Goldstein projects that Macau will exceed Vegas in scale as the company expands its development in that region.

The highlight of our visit was certainly having Mr. Adelson, the 6th wealthiest person in the world, impart wisdom. Having come from a humble background, Mr. Adelson’s entrepreneurial vision and acumen propelled him from being an unknown to one of the most influential figures in the hospital and gaming industry. He credited his success to his ability to create, seek out & develop novel business opportunities. Smart risk taking is part of his mantra. Mr. Adelson loves being the ‘outsider’ in Vegas and took Las Vegas Sands public in December 2004. He is currently building $1.8 billion Palazzo resort adjacent to arch-rival Steve Wynn’s Wynn Las Vegas.

Our final stop of the day was at Caesar’s Palace with Harrah’s Entertainment. Harrah’s is the biggest gaming & hospitality company in the world with numerous locations worldwide. It also has the most developed rotational program for business school graduates. Nicole Wolf, the President’s Associate and a panel of recent MBA graduates, answered many of our questions on their perspectives of the company, their careers and future opportunities in the industry.

For most trekkers, the big take-away was the growing recognition by the gaming & hospitality companies in recruiting MBAs to lead their future business. Patrick Bosworth (MBA 2007), an executive program associate at the Wynn, told us that the goal of the rotational program is to expose him to various facets of the company. In less than a decade, Patrick hopes to lead and manage a Wynn casino and resort of 9,000 staff somewhere in the world.

Of course, nothing can round out the Vegas experience without a bit of partying. A sumptuous meal featuring Asian cuisine at Tao restaurant at the Venetian, and dancing to the latest tunes at the Tao nightclub rounded out the evening. Many of us ended up club hopping at LAX at Luxor, Pure at Caesar’s and celebrating Gilbert’s birthday at Tryst at the Wynn.

Overall, everyone had a fantastic time on the Vegas Trek. A big thank you to the Vegas Trek organizers. Don’t wait until graduation to check out the city – Vegas is open 24/7, 365 days a year!