weather icon Clear

Longtime Flamingo executive Horst Dziura remembered as pioneer, mentor

Updated April 5, 2020 - 10:10 am

A longtime executive of the Flamingo who paved the way for nongaming amenities becoming profit centers has died, family members said Saturday.

Horst Dziura, who served as president from 1976 to 1999 of what then was the Flamingo Hilton, died after a lengthy illness in Santa Barbara, California. He was 79.

Tributes from around the casino industry poured in for Dziura, who died of a longtime lung disease on March 17. His family made the death public Saturday.

Dziura was a mentor to several of today’s top gaming executives statewide, including MGM Resorts International interim CEO Bill Hornbuckle, South Point owner Michael Gaughan and Ferenc Szony, CEO and managing partner of Truckee Gaming.

Dziura retired after spending 30 years at the Flamingo Hilton, the last 25 as president. After growing tired of retirement, he went to work with Gaughan for seven years at The Orleans and the South Point.

“We knew we couldn’t pay him what he was worth, but he said he just wanted to get back out of the house,” said Gaughan, who met Dziura while operating Flamingo’s neighbor, the Barbary Coast, now The Cromwell.

“He ran The Orleans for us (Boyd Gaming), and we just got out of the way for him,” he said.

Walking the casino floor

Gaughan said he was impressed with Dziura’s daily routine of walking the casino floor when he arrived first thing in the morning, talking with employees and then doing it again before he left for the day.

It was a practice that endeared him to employees and that he kept while at the Flamingo and Gaughan’s properties.

“He was a well-loved leader of the Flamingo and a legend,” said Eileen Moore Johnson, regional president Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s Cromwell, Linq, Flamingo and Harrah’s properties.

“Employees would talk to me about his ‘president’s walk,’ where he and his direct reports would walk the property and he would direct fixes and improvements as they toured. It would happen quickly and they would also talk to employees in their work space. He also had a popular employee newsletter called ‘The Bird’s Word.’”

“There was a presence about him, and he was kind and he was elegant,” added Jan Jones Blackhurst, a former Caesars executive who now serves on the company’s board of directors. “I always said there was something regal about Horst and the way he carried himself. He had a demeanor and a bearing that was just elegant and lovely.”

Dziura also was admired by peers.

“He was a pioneer who established order and structure when the industry desperately needed it,” Hornbuckle said. He was a true mentor who tutored many of today’s senior executives, and he will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go to the entire family, may he rest in peace.”

Szony went to work for him right out of college at UNLV. He now owns the Club Fortune Casino in Henderson and five other properties in rural Nevada.

‘Modern Las Vegas’

“He was a landmark of the modern Las Vegas,” Szony said. “I interviewed on a Saturday morning, showed up for work on Monday and we were in L.A. marketing the property on Tuesday. He was just a hard-driving guy at a time when Vegas was just exploding.”

“Everybody focused on the Las Vegas Hilton with Elvis and the shows and the high-rollers. Horst was the one who took the Flamingo and had the vision for taking the place from a pretty run-down old joint and turning it into a juggernaut of profitability for the company. It wasn’t the fanciest, but he was the guy that said ‘We’re going to serve the middle market. We’re going to serve tour travelers, the airlines and tour companies.’

“He really drove the idea that the casino was going to make money anyway. But if we do it right, food and beverage can make money. And the tennis courts can make money. And you can get the hotel to make money. He drove that into so many of us and was able to bring it to the bottom line way before any of the other properties in town really thought about the idea.

Dziura is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Glenda, and a son, Horst Dziura Jr., who has a large dental practice in Southern California.

Services are planned in Santa Barbara. Donations can be made in his memory to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation at pulmonaryfibrosis.org.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Horst Dziura’s name.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Status of renters and homeowners during COVID19 pandemic - Video
Rj reporter Eli Segall discusses how COVID19 is affecting renters and homeowners in Nevada. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Health experts: Smoking in casinos should be banned - Video
Experts say smoking can spread the COVID-19 coronavirus. But not because of airborne particulates. The virus could spread from a smoker’s likely pattern of fingers-to-mouth-to-gaming-device. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Knights’ empathy questioned
A sports talk host called this week a public relations disaster for the Knights and a tourism official said it may shorten the honeymoon period between the team and its devoted fan base.
Chinese visitors in Las Vegas - Video
There were 236,970 visitors from China in Las Vegas in 2018, according to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Resorts World Las Vegas lights up - Video
Construction crews tested exterior lights at Resorts World on the Las Vegas Strip, May 19. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Station Casinos releases health and safety plan for reopening - Video
Station Casinos rolled out new health and safety protocols Monday morning, May 18, including the use of thermal scanners, testing all employees for COVID-19 and “enhanced cleaning technologies.” (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Maverick Helicopters offers 250 free tours for two - VIDEO
Maverick Helicopters will restart its flights on Friday, according to a news release. To celebrate, Maverick will give away 250 flights for two with its “Our Vegas” promotion. (James Schaffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts to bring back free parking on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
MGM Resorts on Monday announced free parking for all guests at its Strip resorts for the foreseeable future. New York-New York and Bellagio are the first announced hotels to reopen for casino business and return to the golden days of no-cost parking.
Laughlin’s iconic Colorado Belle to stay closed indefinitely - VIDEO
The Colorado Belle, an iconic hotel-casino on the Colorado River in Laughlin, will stay closed for the foreseeable future and lay off its 400 workers. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Laughlin’s iconic Colorado Belle to stay closed indefinitely; 400 to lose jobs - VIDEO
The Colorado Belle, an iconic hotel-casino on the Colorado River in Laughlin, will stay closed for the foreseeable future and lay off its 400 workers.
MSG Sphere construction site remains dormant - Video
The MSG Sphere at The Venetian construction site remains sidelined and representatives of MSG Entertainment offered no updates on when workers might return. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Gaming Control Board keeping reopening plans confidential
The state Gaming Control Board requires every licensee, from the megaresorts to the corner gas station convenience store slot machine operators, to submit reopening plans, but they intend to keep them confidential.
Natural turf added to Allegiant Stadium field tray
The massive field tray, which will roll in and out of the stadium, has a fresh layer of natural grass turf for Raiders home games.
Players show up at Gila River Casino in Arizona - Video
Gila River Casino at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona, is packed with players on the casino’s reopening day, Friday, May 15, 2020. (Elizabeth BrumleyLas Vegas Review-Journal)
Casinos reopening in Phoenix area - Video
Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino reopened in Maricopa, Arizona, on Friday, May 15, 2020. It was closed during the government shutdown for coronavirus. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars Entertainment to phase In reopenings - Video
Caesars Entertainment, the operator of Caesars Palace and eight other Las Vegas resorts, on Monday announced it would phase in reopenings with a comprehensive safety and health plan with employees wearing masks across its network of properties. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Gaming Commission meeting
Full meeting of the Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday, May 7, 2020.
Sisolak says businesses will begin reopening under phase 1 - VIDEO
The first phase of reopening Nevada’s businesses will begin Saturday, May 9, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson winery reacts to Sisolak's economic plan - VIDEO
Governor Sisolak's reopening plan is easier said than done for the only winery in Clark County. Grape Expectations is trying to figure out how to open up shop when they are three businesses in one. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Southwest requiring face coverings
In an effort to increase safety for passengers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest Airlines is updating protocols that include requiring passengers to wear face coverings beginning May 11.
Locals rush to reopened tennis courts
Daniel Nunez and Sarah Germain made immediate plans to go to their local tennis court, Darling Tennis Center, when they received an email that the facility would open on May 1.
Businesses in Henderson begin reopening - VIDEO
In downtown Henderson and at The District at Green Valley Ranch, small shops are opening their doors for business. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM CEO: Bellagio, New York-New York to reopen first after shutdown - VIDEO
The head of MGM Resorts International isn’t sure when he’ll be able to open properties in Las Vegas, but said Thursday that New York-New York and Bellagio will likely be the first to open their doors. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New visitation report shows plunging numbers for March
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Thursday that convention attendance fell 54.8 percent to 249,800. March normally is one of the city’s strongest months for conventions and trade shows.
US jobless claims climb to 30 million in 6 weeks - VIDEO
The Labor Department released the tally of the most recent jobless claims on Thursday. First-time claims for the week ending on April 25 increased by more than 3.84 million. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Venetian to have EMTs, thermal cameras upon reopening - VIDEO
The hotel-casino operator, Las Vegas Sands Corp., announced updated protocols on April 28 for when its Las Vegas properties reopen, sometime after May 31. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Unions contracts expiring - VIDEO
RJ investigations reporter Arthur Kane and Renee Summerour discuss the uncertainty of union contracts expiring in June, and how the extent of the financial damage from the crisis will make it difficult for unions and governments to negotiate collective bargaining agreements, possibly sending many to arbitration. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Strip hoteliers outline cleaning plans upon reopening - VIDEO
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has yet to confirm when casinos will be able to reopen, but operators are already preparing for the day they’ll have to reassure guests their properties are clean and safe amid the virus outbreak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Treasure Island plans to reopen May 15 - VIDEO
Treasure Island is planning to open its doors to guests May 15, despite Gov. Steve Sisolak saying Wednesday that gaming shutdowns, currently set to end April 30, will probably be extended an undetermined amount of time. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders logo goes up on Henderson headquarters - VIDEO
The iconic Raiders emblem gets installed on the team's headquarters and practice facility in Henderson on April 22, 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Macao casino owner Stanley Ho dies at 98

Casino tycoon Stanley Ho, whose business empire dominated the Portuguese gambling enclave of Macao for decades, has died in Hong Kong at age 98.