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Owner: Casino Fandango growing market

John Seelmeyer

When Larry Woolf reads the state’s monthly report on gaming win, he likes what he sees.

The region that includes Carson City and the Carson Valley has been posting strong increases for the past year and the growth in the region’s gaming business tracks almost exactly the growth of Woolf ‘s Casino Fandango in Carson City.

And that,Woolf says,means that Casino Fandango has succeeded in growing the market rather than merely slicing the region’s market into thinner pieces.

It’s vindication, too, of a management philosophy that Woolf nurtured during a 37- year gaming career that began as a dealer for Harrah’s while he still was attending the University of Nevada, Reno.

Start with marketing.

“We market to our employees more than we market to the street,” says Woolf.

The reason? Employees who buy into the owners’ vision can deliver the sort of service that keeps local customers coming back several times a week.

“They’re committed to this property rather than us holding them in compliance with policies and procedures,”Woolf says.

Another of Woolf ‘s thoughts: The casino’s loyalty program allows customers to earn points that translate into cash at Carson City retailers or charities.

Or try this: Casino Fandango is considering a voice mail system that provides an individual mailbox for each of its 400 employees.

They’d check it daily for updates about the property and its promotions.

The 600-machine slot floor, meanwhile, is entirely coinless as the year-old casino decided from the start to rely entirely on ticket technology.

The results: Dramatically lower costs in handling coins, more play on machines that aren’t shut down to deal with coin-related issues.

Any casino,Woolf says, sells entertainment.

The difference in odds and payouts from one casino to another is a key reflection of operating philosophies.

A customer at a slot machine in an airport, for instance, is likely to spend only a few minutes at the machine and isn’t likely to return any time soon.

The strategy there is keep payouts tight to keep as much of the customer’s $20 bill quickly.

A locals place such as Casino Fandango, however, looks to provide a longer-lasting session.

The casino still expects to end up with the customer’s $20, but it provides an hour or two of entertainment rather than a few minutes.

And that keeps the customer coming back several times a week.

At the same time, however,Woolf and Garry Goett the Las Vegas developer who owns an 89 percent stake in Casino Fandango recognize that food rather than gaming provides the initial draw for most locals customers.

Since the property opened a year ago, its owners have added a 200-seat coffee shop and a 350-seat buffet.

Next up is a Chicagostyle steakhouse.

Each of them reflect the work of Peter Wilday, the project’s architect who previously handled design at the Peppermill and The Atlantis in Reno and John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks.