The Gaming Life: Louis Rosa

It’s hard to believe that Louis Rosa has such a laid-back attitude—he is, after all, an executive at the biggest casino property in the western hemisphere. But, Rosa’s relaxed approached is one characteristic that makes him an effective leader as the vice ­president of slot operations at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Many people in the industry say that they had no intentions of entering gaming, and it’s something they just happened to fall into. But for Rosa, it was something he had always been attracted to.

A native of Philadelphia, Rosa says his family had a summer house on the Jersey Shore, so he saw the early days of Atlantic City and was drawn to the environment of the gaming industry. “Like most in those days, I was attracted to the jobs that the industry brought,” he says. “But more importantly, this industry has been quite dynamic.”

He’s only been at Foxwoods for three years, but Rosa has 25 years of gaming industry experience under his belt. He started in finance and internal audit, and in 2000, made the transition into the operation side of the industry. After operating and managing casino operations for several properties—including Harrah’s, The Venetian and Players Island Casino—Rosa landed the position at Foxwoods and says he feels right at home. “I love challenges and this place has no shortage of them,” he says. “The slot team has spent the last three years fixing the product mix and the service delivery process. The funny thing is that there is still a lot to do so the challenge remains.”

One of the unique aspects of Foxwoods, Rosa notes, is the size of the property. “This place is huge,” he says. “It’s 1 mile under roof, from one end to the other. Many of our guests have only been to one part of the facility, so if you tell them about something elsewhere, they have no idea it even exists. I find that pretty humorous.”

With 6,300 slot machines and essentially six separate casinos, Rosa says this presents an opportunity to experiment. “What works on one side of the building doesn’t necessarily work on the other. You can test everything from product to placement. The good thing is you can see how things do incrementally before you make a big bet on something. I call this concept measured risk.”

Another angle of being an executive at this larger-than-average property is the challenge that comes with managing such an enormous team. “I love being able to go into a department and help to make things better.” he says. “That’s what I’ve been doing over my professional career—going into situations such as start-ups, problem departments—and fixing them. But you do it through teamwork. People want to feel that their opinion counts. Creating a team, aligning goals, communicating and following the plan are what gets things done. ”

He says that one of the most common difficulties he comes across at such a large property is getting everyone on the same page and in line with the same operational goals and processes. “When you have a deficiency in your product or your layout, going through and making adjustments just takes time,” he says. “It’s like operating a cruise ship. You can’t turn the thing on a dime. It takes a mile for it to turn around and start going in the other direction. You can’t move as quickly as you like.”

In the past, Rosa had only worked in 3,000-slot machine environments, which he says are very different that his current stomping ground at Foxwoods. “This sounds goofy, but you know every slot machine, and you’re intimate with every slot machine,” he says. “Here you just don’t. It’s just so big that it’s hard to know everything that’s going on everywhere, then make changes as required.”

Whether he’s in a small casino property or one of the largest in the world, there’s one aspect of business that always remains at the top of his priority list—treating employees well. The well-known service-profit chain that he was taught years ago must be followed, he says. Specifically, Rosa understands the importance of treating employees well and giving them essential tools so they’ll treat customers well, in turn bringing money back into the organization. “It’s an old paradigm that I learned in my early days that really holds merit,” Rosa says. “Stressing customer service, I believe, leads to market share. Once you have great service, then you can advertise it.”

Rosa’s dedication to creating a good environment for employees might have stemmed from an experience he had at a property several years ago. “I was working as an accountant and was walking the back halls,” he shares. “I was this 23-year-old kid, just starting out, and would walk by certain people and they would just ignore us. I just thought to myself, ‘If I’m ever an executive in this industry, I’ll never act that way.’ I’ve really taken to that. People need to feel worth, and feel part of the team. If you can convey that, you really can get people on board and pursue a common goal. No one wants to work for jerks. And trust me; there are lots of them out there.”

While he does walk the floor greeting customers and employees to “gauge the pulse,” Rosa says that one of the most important daily activities he has is to think strategically. “I don’t necessarily have to get myself too involved in the day-to-day operations from a performance aspect,” he says, “because I have such strong managers and a great director that take care of those things.”

Between studying, keeping up with new technologies, marketing concepts, websites, international activities with online gaming and meeting with his team to gather input, his days are left with little free time. He rarely makes an important decision on his own, involving team members and asking what they think. “I don’t make decisions in a box,” he shares. “I can tell you that I have had bosses who tend to make decisions all on their own. That’s not for everybody—that’s not for me. People need to feel empowered.”

One subject he has studied a lot is the technology involved in mobile devices, online gaming and real-time marketing, a subject he’s grown passionate about over the past few years. Rosa says that several casinos have been dabbling in all these concepts. “How do all these technologies fit together in your overall marketing plan?” he asks. “How does the online environment correspond with the physical property? Mobile technology and the world of smartphones is just an incredible leap forward. Lastly, it is very intriguing to be able to market at the slot to drive incremental visits or current trip revenue. I have theories on it, but who knows? We have to be quick on our feet and willing to shift gears easily to figure out how all this works together.”

Although he loves the busy environment and working with a team, Rosa says that he enjoys his solitude. He can often be found cooking or grilling at home, hanging out outdoors or in the gym. He lists skiing, exercising, biking and hanging out on the beach as a few of his favorite hobbies. His wife of 22 years, Carol, and his children—ages 19, 17 and 11—can often be found accompanying Rosa on these outdoor excursions. Rosa quips, “There goes the solitude.”

Some might find it surprising that he occasionally participates in these activities alone. “It’s not uncommon for me to—like I did on Monday—drive three hours north and go skiing in Vermont by myself. A lot of people ask who I go with, and I say by myself… that, to me, is no problem. I enjoy that.”

One of his greatest personal challenges has been moving his family all over the country when having to relocate for jobs. “My wife and I have owned five houses in our 22 years of marriage,” he shares. “There’s a cost to that. I have children that have had to move a lot, and while it comes with a reward, there are definitely costs associated with it.”

If he wasn’t in the gaming industry, Rosa says that his profession would probably have taken a turn toward education, perhaps getting a Ph.D. in history, philosophy, or economics. Rosa says,“If I really had my druthers, I would love to be teaching at the university level.”

Bringing his goal of continuous improvement to the casino floor is just one of the ways Rosa makes Foxwoods a tremendous property. His dedication to customer services and an even higher dedication to employee happiness make him an executive perfect for the gaming industry.

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