Looking for the Next Steve Wynn, UNLV Hospitality Program Coaches Las Vegas Teens Early

Posted on: June 27, 2017, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: June 27, 2017, 03:49h.

Twenty Las Vegas high school students are spending their summers in a way that could only happen in America’s gaming epicenter: learning first-hand the complex behind-the-scenes daily operations required to keep the massive Sin City casino industry running smoothly.

Las Vegas YES casino industry program
Las Vegas high school students are receiving a crash course in what it takes to become a casino executive like MGM CEO Jim Murren. (Image: Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe)

A recent Las Vegas Review-Journal article on the topic brought the unique summer school opportunity to life.

Thanks to UNLV’s Young Executive Scholars (YES) program, the students, all of whom are entering their junior year in high school, are discovering a wide range of careers and positions that the casino industry offers, and possibly getting focused on joining the town’s #1 business themselves someday.

The goal of the mentoring program is to inspire college-bound high school students to consider future managerial and executive-level careers in Las Vegas.

If the next Steve Wynn or Sheldon Adelson is a visionary businessman or woman who happens to live in the Las Vegas Valley today, UNLV, and the industry as a whole, wants to make sure that individual recognizes the vast opportunity that lies before them.

Billionaires Sheldon Adelson (83) and Steve Wynn (75) are the two most distinguished casino names on the Strip today. But who will the leaders be in 20 or 30 years?

That’s what UNLV’s program addresses. For example, college students enrolled in the university’s Gaming Management program recently presented how they would push for a coveted Japanese integrated resort casino license to industry executives, as a way to hone in on their presentation skills in environments where it counts.

YES Schedule

UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration is sponsoring YES in conjunction with Caesars Entertainment and the Rogers Foundation’s nonprofit Core Academy, which targets kids who may not have the same wealth of opportunities as those from more socioeconomically advantaged backgrounds. All 20 of the students in the program attend West Preparatory Academy in North Las Vegas.

YES began on June 12 and runs through July 17. According to Core, YES is designed to help attendees “learn, grow, and get inspired through team collaboration, project-based mentoring, and a case-study analysis of the global hospitality industry.”

Various gaming executives are scheduled to meet with the scholars, and Caesars Entertainment’s Jan Jones Blackhurst (Executive Vice President, Public Policy & Corporate Responsibility) and Aria CFO Carlos Castro have already lent their time to the program.

Strip resorts are helping fund the university’s new $59 million Hospitality Hall. Caesars, Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Boyd Gaming, Station Casinos, and Konami Gaming collectively donated at least $2.5 million to the project.

Who’s the Boss?

Historically, the casino and hospitality industry in Las Vegas has been dominated by those not originally from the area.

New York City mobster Bugsy Siegel was a driving force in developing the Flamingo Hotel back in the 1940s. Kirk Kerkorian, the so-called “father of the mega-resort,” who built the International, MGM Grand Hotel, and MGM Grand, was a California native.

Steve Wynn is credited with resurging and expanding the Strip, and hailed from Connecticut as does MGM CEO Jim Murren. Both billionaire Sheldon Adelson and recently retired Caesars CEO Gary Loveman grew up in Boston.