New president planning to shine fresh light on longtime Strip casino

Ron Thacker believes his new position heading the Tropicana, one of the Strip’s most storied resorts, is part of a larger rebirth for him.

In 2006, his children were grown and his wife of more than 25 years lost her fight with cancer. That left Thacker facing an uncertain future without his wife, whom he called his best friend, by his side.

After completing a stint at the Cosmopolitan and then Fontainebleau, Thacker resigned from the Strip casino business in August with no real plan for his future.

“I wanted to change something in my life,” the third generation casino worker said. “I was thinking about going to California, one of the Indian casinos. I was talking to (Tropicana Entertainment COO) Bobby (Yee), and I told him I was going to one of the tribes down there, and he told me he might have an opportunity for me here at the Tropicana.”

After a lunch with Yee — the two had worked together at Casino Windsor in Ontario 10 years ago — the 55-year-old Thacker felt he had found a place where he could finally see himself finishing his career.

With a new girlfriend, also an industry veteran, and a new outlook, the Western High School graduate says he is ready to tackle the challenges facing the former “Tiffany of the Strip.”

Question: What is the single biggest challenge facing you at the Tropicana?

Answer: The big challenge is trying to manage in today’s economy. These are circumstances I don’t believe anyone has had to deal with. Try to be creative, try to make the property profitable. It takes thinking outside the box. Our team is going to concentrate heavily on finding unique and different opportunities to survive this economy downfall. There is no place that sets precedents on how to deal with an economy like this in the gaming business.

Question: What was the appeal of the Tropicana position considering the recent turmoil at the property connected to the bankruptcy and the previous owner?

Answer: The historical value of the Tropicana. It’s an original property here, just like the Flamingo was. Built in 1957, it has a lot of history.

When I was a kid I used to sneak down here and swim in the pools. Coming back in here, I hadn’t been in here for a very long time. Just to see the nostalgic value of it. And the employees. There are so many employees that have been here over 25 years it is unbelievable. And the morale is excellent.

I did a little fact-finding before I accepted the job. I came in just like I was a customer, talked to porters, valet attendants, ate in the coffee shop a couple times before anybody knew who I was. I was just truly amazed at the pride the employees here have.

Question: With new, multibillion-dollar properties along the Strip, is there a value for the Tropicana being one of the last old casinos from the original days of Vegas casino growth?

Answer: I think there is and I plan on exploiting the nostalgic factor. Obviously, if we could afford to rebuild everything from scratch, it would be another Encore. But we won’t be able to do that for a while, so we’re going to make this property looking good again.

We’re going to put some money back into the property with the infrastructure itself. Bring it up to the standards our customers expect and our employees expect. That’s the number one push for this year. The process has already started. I think if you walk into this place six months from now you will see a vibrant change in energy we currently don’t have at this point.

Question: When did you break into the casino business?

Answer: Eight days after high school, I was in the Marine Corps and I loved it. My father, Jimmy Thacker, was in the Marines. I just wanted to follow in his footsteps. I was three years active and five years inactive.

I probably would have stayed in the Marines, I was doing real well. I made sergeant in 21/2 years, but I was married and had two kids. I had a good job lined up in Vegas as a break-in dealer at the Golden Nugget in 1975 through my family. My grandfather and dad were in the gaming business. This was right after Steve Wynn had bought it.

Question: How did you break into management positions?

Answer: In 1978, I went into the casino manager’s office at the Flamingo Hilton (Las Vegas) and I asked him if I could be a floor supervisor. He looked at me like I was crazy. I was making twice the amount of a floor supervisor as a dealer. He said, ‘Why do you want to do that?” And I said, “Because I’m looking at what I can make 10 years down the road, not what I can make today.”

So it was a bold move, having a wife and two kids and taking a cut in pay to get into the management side of it, but it paid off.

Question: When did you break into the executive ranks?

Answer: I had a three-year contract at Casino Windsor and I was going to let it expire. Bobby Yee was the president, and I went and told him I was going to take my wife and go back to Vegas at the end of the contract. He told me not to do that and made me senior vice president of the hotel. I took over other entities other than gaming. I took over facilities, engineering, the parking garage and the outside of the facility. That gave me a lot of experience on the hotel portion. I returned to the Flamingo Las Vegas as senior vice president of gaming in 2002.

Question: Why did you leave the Flamingo?

Answer: After 18 months at the Flamingo, I decided I wanted to semiretire. Take some time off while I was still healthy. My wife and I were empty nesters so we did a little traveling. I knew I wanted to go back to work, but I just wanted to take some time off. It’s ironic how things happen in your life. I was married for 25 years to a great person, my best friend.

We took that time off, did a lot of traveling, and then an opportunity came in from the Cosmopolitan, so I worked for them for three years. But after a year, my wife became ill with cancer. I took a year off work until she passed away in 2006. I went back to work at the Cosmopolitan in August that year.

Question: What is your family’s history in the casino industry?

Answer: My grandfather, Oscar Thacker, opened Caesars Palace as a shift manager. He was real good friends with Sam Boyd and helped him open the California Club, now the California Hotel. My dad worked at the Dunes for many years. My grandmother was the first woman pit manager in the state of Nevada at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe. My children didn’t follow. It’s weird that they work in casinos but not the gaming part. My son is an engineer at South Point and my youngest son is a valet lead at South Point.

Question: What brought your family to Las Vegas as a kid?

Answer: My mom came out here to get a divorce from my biological father. A friend of hers was moving from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Nellis Air Force Base, so my mom hitched a ride. She got a divorce and remarriage in the same day. Only in Las Vegas. My father, Jimmy Thacker, adopted us. I had a great life growing up here. It was a small town back then.

Contact Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly @reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Holiday Parade Lights Up Downtown Summerlin
Holiday parade lights up Downtown Summerlin every Friday and Saturday night through Dec. 22.
Nevada's solar industry on the rebound
In 2015, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted in favor of a new tariff structure that reduced net energy metering buyback rates and increased fix fees for residential solar customers.
Apartment complexes selling fast in Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ apartment vacancy rate is among the smallest in the country, and rents are climbing faster than the national average. (LVRJ)
Aristocrat Opens $45M Campus In Summerlin
Aristocrat Technologies Chairman Ian Blackburne discusses the company's growth. (LVRJ)
Sunrise Hospital celebrates 60 years
Sunrise Hospital opened its doors to patients on Dec. 15, 1958. Employees of more than 35 years celebrated at a luncheon Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Jessie Bekker/ Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Maya Cinemas to open soon in North Las Vegas
Moctesuma Esparza, CEO of Maya Cinemas, talks about the newest location in North Las Vegas, set to open Jan. 10. The aim of the theatre chain is to serve latino-centric, underserved communities.
Holiday shopping and returns make this the busiest time of year for UPS
The UPS Las Vegas South facility is the company's busiest pre-load operation in the country, and it's even busier this time of year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Primm’s outlet mall has fallen on hard times
The mall, attached to Primm Valley Resort, opened in 1998. Back then, it was a “textbook, perfect outlet-center location." But now, Primm’s outlet mall has fallen on hard times. Las Vegas Boulevard has endless shopping spots. And there are other outlet malls that don’t require a hefty drive to the state line. Its mortgage-holder foreclosed on the mall in late September.
Miltary auction at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers
Humvees, ammo cans, construction equipment, field gear and more is on the auction block Friday and Saturday at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. About 10,000 items in all are for sale in what GovPlanet bills as the largest auction of its kind.
Las Vegas residents discuss avoiding holiday scams
Las Vegas residents discuss their donation habits and how they avoid giving money to scam charities during the holiday season. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory ahead of economic impact expectations
The Tesla Gigafactory’s economic impact on Nevada has exceeded projections, bringing in more than 7,000 jobs. In 2014, Nevada agreed to give the automotive and energy company $1.3 billion in tax abatements. In return, Tesla promised to meet certain requirements in areas like employment and capital investment. As of June, Tesla has brought in a total of $6.05 billion in capital investment, surpassing the $4.95 billion projection. The original contract gave the company until 2024 to make $3.5 billion in capital investments in Nevada. Derek Armstrong, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Land sales near the Las Vegas Raiders stadium
Land around the Las Vegas stadium site has been selling for high prices. A few months before the stadium’s groundbreaking, Global Trust Group acquired a 2.5-acre parcel just north of the stadium site. The property sold for $7.25 million, or $2.9 million an acre. Osprey Real Estate Capital and Huntington Hotel Group acquired a 2-acre industrial site just west of the stadium site in late November. The property sold for $6.5 million, or $3.15 million per acre. That's roughly 12 times the average price of land in the valley this year as tracked by Colliers International.
T-Mobile Tech Experience Truck parks in Toshiba Plaza at T-Mobile Arena
The Tech Experience Truck is a state-of-the-art showroom on wheels, with demonstrations that put connected drones, smart cities, augmented/virtual reality and smart tracking. The exhibit shows new wireless technology – including 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Steve Siegel, CEO of the Siegel Group, speaks about helping families and other needy residents
Steve Siegel, CEO of the Siegel Group, speaks about helping families and other needy residents to keep them from teetering off into homelessness. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vrgas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Crowds camp out for Chick-fil-A opening
Dozens of customers camped out 24 hours ahead of the 6 a.m. Thursday opening of the new Chick-fil-A on Rainbow Blvd.
Cheapest listings for sale in Las Vegas
Listed for $39,990, 585 S. Royal Crest Circle, Unit #9 is one of the cheapest homes currently listed for sale in Las Vegas. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Terry Miller discusses Convention Center
Project Manager Terry Miller explains the phases of Convention Center construction.
Zappos treats their team members on Cyber Monday
Zappos rolls out a variety of food, drinks and special activities for all team members at their downtown Las Vegas headquarters for Cyber Monday. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Team Hybrid at the 2019-Model Motor Trend International Auto Show
Among the companies showing off the 2019 model cars, Team Hybrid shows off its modified cars. Las Vegas resident David David talks about the team, which is in its ninth year exhibiting at the show, and his show car.
Black Friday Shoppers at downtown Summerlin and at the Arsenal
Black Friday shoppers at downtown Summerlin and at the Arsenal. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfYe
Black Friday shopping in Las Vegas
Black Friday sale shopers express their shopping experience. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas Livestock recycling Strip food waste
Las Vegas Livestock collects and recycles food from many Las Vegas Strip companies. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Friday at Fry's
Shoppers line up for deals early on Black Friday at Fry's Electronics on Las Vegas Boulevard South. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Friday shoppers at Best Buy at 5 am
Black Friday shoppers at Best Buy at 5 am on Nov. 23. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Black Friday - 1am Closing Time
Quiet night.
Black Friday - 12:30am - Best Buy Arroyo Crossing
Sam's Town Holiday Lighting Ceremony
On Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, Mystic Falls Park opened with its annual tree lighting ceremony, hosted by Boyd Gaming Executive Chairman Bill Boyd. The attraction features a Winter Wonderland theme and holiday-inspired laser light show, available daily Nov. 23 to Jan. 1. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What Is A Smart City?
George Karayannis, vice president of CityNow, Panasonic’s smart-city arm, explains. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Walmart uses virtual reality to train employees
Walmart Academy Facilitator demonstrates the VR training program being used by Walmart stores across the country.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like