Harrah’s little brother turns fifteen years old
To Cindy Wooten, the most memorable times working at Bill’s Casino at Stateline occurred during its opening 15 years ago and last week.
When the casino opened on July 1, 1987 at 6 p.m., Wooten recalled the staff scrambling at the last minute to fill the slot machines with coins.
“It was both exciting and stressful,” she said.
Some could say the same thing about the Gondola Fire, which prompted many employees to watch the progress of it from the roof and back window.
“You know, (with) living up here, there’s always the chance. It’s amazing it doesn’t happen more often,” said Wooten, the cashier manager.
She worked her way through the ranks, starting out as one of 20 cashiers — double the staff of what exists now.
Most of the team came from other properties, like Wooten, who’s logged 23 years with the company.
Harrah’s Entertainment now employs 150 people in the summer and 120 during the off-season.
It’s this company’s employees who have have kept Wooten on the payroll.
“It’s such a wonderful team. And let’s face it, it’s such a wonderful company to work for,” she said.
“The employees are truly the backbone of this organization. Their efforts to this organization keep it going. We’re a lean and mean entertainment machine,” Marketing Manager Mike Traum said.
In 1987, Bill Harrah believed he had a niche to fill that wouldn’t cannibalize the revenue generated at his other namesake property.
Aside from some remodeling along the way, Bill’s Casino started with much of the same market, structure and premise that exists today.
“Value” for “regulars” in a “casual” environment brought those catch words into walking distance from the big guns of downtown Stateline. Part of the casual nature of the casino calls for staffers to wear Hawaiian shirts to create the mood.
Some employees refer to Bill’s as a West Coast version of the show “Cheers.”
It’s where “you know people’s names,” Bill’s Director of Operations Tim Tretton said.
Through the years, the casino on Highway 50 has undergone a major remodel, outside concessionaires giving way to internal food and bar operations and an ongoing dedication to the mainstays like the “Nuttin but Nickels” and “Pennies in Heaven.”
The promotions have kept their appeal to low-dollar players, said Tretton, who’s been with the company since 1978.
“We don’t kid ourselves. We’re not a $5 slot place,” Tretton said.
At the same time, Bill’s management has shown a willingness and creativity to expand into new slot games.
“They have some unique games here,” Dave Eckenrode said, sitting at a penny slot game.
The South Lake Tahoe man, who admits he plays more for entertainment than to make money, has frequented Bill’s a few times a month for the last five years. He tends to play whatever appeals “to his fancy.”
Eckenrode said he enjoys going there because of “easy parking and no crowds.”
“For me, it’s easier to get in here,” he said.
He said he also likes the employees’ relaxed attitude.
“Our employees have relationships with our guests,” Tretton said.
These relationships have become even more important in this day and age of challenging economic times, which often dictate businesses reinvent themselves or introduce new products.
Bill’s new baby is the blues.
In May, Bill’s opened William’s Back Door Blues Club to a rousing acceptance, management said.