Charlie Lombardo, Hall of Fame casino gaming operator: The Rumor
Charlie Lombardo is the first gaming executive to be inducted into the EKG Slot Awards Hall of Fame under the newly created category of Slot Operations. After a brief stint in the US Air Force, Charlie started his gaming career as a slot mechanic at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He later worked as a Senior VP of Gaming Operations for the Seminole Tribe in Florida.
This episode discusses the following topics:
- Charlie’s golf game and continuing to work for Seminole Tribe after his “retirement” (7:00)
- Background of Charlie’s Air Force career (10:00)
- Transitioning from being a machinist in the military to the gaming industry (13:00)
- Early career in slot operations for MGM (17:00)
- “If you want the job, start a rumor that you’re gonna get the job” (19:00)
- Developing the first Wide Area Progressive (WAP) jackpot system while working at Bally’s (21:00)
- How the WAP is used in modern gaming (26:00)
- Getting rid of the one-line bet option while working at the Hard Rock in Florida (27:00)
- Early career experiences with the Seminole Tribe and developing their first casinos in Florida (29:00)
- The process of legitimizing Class 2 machines from the previous gray area (Class 2 machines are a combination of a slot machine with a bingo outcome) (31:00)
- The culmination of Charlie’s negotiations to legitimize and legalize Class 2 machines (36:00)
- Advice to current game designers and developers (40:00)
- What Charlie’s favorite casino is (42:00)
- The downsides of the industry continuing to cut costs when it comes to employees and payouts rather than improving as operators (43:00)
- Good practices of the management style of the Seminole Tribe (46:00)
- Charlie’s management style as an operator and dealing with senior management (47:00)
- Building a following and attracting repeat customers while working at Bally’s (50:00)
- Payback strategies for machines while working at Bally’s (52:00)
- What excites Charlie most about new technologies in gaming today (53:00)
- Gambling stories (54:00)
“If you want the job, start a rumor that you’re gonna get the job”— Charlie Lombardo
More about Charlie Lombardo
After starting his career at MGM Grand as a slot mechanic, Charlie quickly moved up the gaming ranks and was appointed the SVP of Slot Operations at Bally’s Las Vegas. Charlie was one of the first operators to open his slot floor to new suppliers, working with vendors and regulators to test new games and products. Charlie also worked closely with gaming suppliers to develop proprietary games only available for play at Bally’s. In addition, Charlie worked closely with Bally Technologies to develop a multi-denom, multi-site progressive jackpot system, eventually leading to Bally’s first Wide Area Progressive (WAP) jackpot system.
After the merger of Bally’s casinos and Hilton in 1996, Charlie was tasked with designing and setting up the slot floor for the new Paris Las Vegas casino under development. After a successful opening of Paris, the company, then known as Park Place Entertainment, acquired Caesars Palace. Charlie was eventually promoted to VP of Slot Operations and managed the slot operations for Caesars Palace, Paris, and Bally’s on the Las Vegas Strip.
While serving as SVP for the Seminole Tribe in Florida, his responsibilities included developing two new Hard Rock branded casinos and managing the operations of the Tribe’s existing four casinos. In addition, Charlie was instrumental in getting a legal Class 2 gaming system set up and approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) for the Seminole Gaming operations in partnership with Bally Technologies. Under Charlie’s leadership, the Seminoles significantly expanded their casino operations and have become one of the world’s largest and most profitable gaming organizations. Charlie also represented the Seminole Tribe of Florida as an Advisory Member to the NIGC tasked with establishing Class II regulatory and classification standards. In addition, Charlie remains a strategic consultant to the Seminole Tribe.
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