Don Marrandino can't wait to hit the surf back home.
The 50-year-old president of five casinos on the Strip for Harrah's Entertainment has been named the company's new Eastern division president, an assignment that will take him back to the Jersey Shore of his youth.
"I love to surf and I love to run on the Boardwalk," the Atlantic City-born Marrandino said. "I played that balancing game about how my life will change. Every single member of my family lives within 10 miles from where I'm going to live."
Marrandino will oversee the company's four Atlantic City properties -- Caesars, Bally's, Harrah's and Showboat -- and Harrah's Chester in Pennsylvania.
He is replacing Carlos Tolosa, who is retiring at the end of the year after 38 years with the company. Tolosa will assist Marrandino with the transition and will assist company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman with "strategic initiatives."
Marrandino's family still lives in the Atlantic City area, and he expects to find many people he grew up and went to school with to be working in the casinos on the shore.
Rick Mazer, regional president for Harrah's Indiana covering the Horseshoe Hammond and Horseshoe Indiana, will replace Marrandino and oversee Harrah's Las Vegas, the Imperial Palace, O'Sheas, Flamingo Las Vegas and Bill's.
Despite his ties to Atlantic City, and his at-least-once-a-year visits, Marrandino never thought he would return. That was before Loveman approached him about the job.
"I did a lot of thinking and it was a promotion," said Marrandino, who is looking at a house across the street from where he was born. "You really shouldn't turn down promotional opportunities."
Marrandino's career started in 1981 at Bally's Atlantic City in the hotel division. He climbed the ranks, leaving Harrah's Atlantic City to move to Las Vegas in 1989.
Marrandino worked at the Rio, which was owned at the time by Tony Marnell, as the general manager for six years. He then moved over to Station Casinos in 1995 for six more years.
He had a brief stint as chief operating officer for Peter Morton at the Hard Rock Hotel, where he brought in the Rolling Stones for a concert.
He then spent time with Steve Wynn during the development of Wynn Las Vegas before rejoining Harrah's and moving to Lake Tahoe in 2003.
In 2005, Marrandino returned to Las Vegas, eventually running the five Strip casinos across from Caesars Palace.
Marrandino is known for his entertainment acumen and responsible for many of the entertainment options at his properties, including Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill at Harrah's and the return of Donny and Marie Osmond to the stage at the Flamingo.
Loveman referred to Marrandino's entertainment sense in an company e-mail announcing the changes, stating that Marrandino is "one of the most energetic, engaging and creative leaders" at Harrah's Entertainment.
"Don is probably most well-known for his innovative entertainment strategies, but he is more than Mr. Entertainment," Loveman said in a memo dated Aug. 18. "Throughout his career, he has shown an unwavering dedication to service and a knack for cultivating innovation."
It is too early to say what changes might be made, Marrandino said, but he knows the Atlantic City market presents one of the company's biggest challenges.
"My charge will be to get in there and build on the things Carlos and that team have done and maybe find other ways to approach the business," Marrandino said. "In any new job you walk into you've got to take 30 or 60 days and figure out who does what better and put them in a position for success.
"The one thing about me is, unfortunately, I'm a workaholic," he added. "I throw myself into it for as long as it takes to figure it out. There's got to be some things there that we can do."
The appointments are pending regulatory approval in the various jurisdictions, but Marrandino said he expects to be in Atlantic City in late September.
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at email@example.com or 702-477-3893.