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The Interview Issue: Family business with Mike Gaughan, Jr.

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Mike Gaughan, Jr. is the grandson of Las Vegas casino pioneer Jackie Gaughan and the son of Coast Casinos founder and South Point owner Michael Gaughan.
Photo: Sam Morris

You’re general manager at the JW Marriott resort and Rampart Casino in Summerlin, which is just next door to a casino your father built, the Suncoast. How’d that happen? I never personally worked at Suncoast, but I did work closely with the former GM there. It is interesting to be looking in the other direction. This is a unique and beautiful property, but when it first opened, the [people] who ran it were not interested in the local market. Of course, being involved with the Suncoast next door, we were high-fiving about that. Today this casino has been reestablished as part of the locals market.

What was it like growing up in one of the pioneering families of the casino business? I spent time here as a kid when my dad was building up properties and Coast Casinos. I actually got my degree in architecture, but came back here and started dealing cards. I was just going to hang out awhile, but my dad put me to work, thinking I’d be unhappy doing it, but I kinda liked it. I worked graveyard $2 tables at the Gold Coast. Outside of that, I worked valet in the summertime, and also hotel, cage, race and sports, but looking back I wish I had more food and beverage experience. Food is so important in the locals market.

At what point did you understand the impact your family has had on Las Vegas? You know, I’ve worked in different properties and seen a lot, and seen the impact of employment and how important that is ... In the last couple of months, since my grandfather [Jackie Gaughan] passed away, you notice it more. One thing I realized is that it seems everyone in Las Vegas either worked with my grandfather or got a steak dinner from my grandfather, and a lot of people did both. Understanding those connections has been pretty tremendous. Otherwise, I’m just a husband and a father raising a few kids here in Vegas. You don’t think about that big picture so much.

What are the things you’ve picked up most from working with or just being around your father and grandfather? First, to take care of your customers, to make sure they get an honest deal and they’re not being promised something that they don’t get delivered. And at the end of the day, if you’re not holding as much as the guy next door to you, that’s okay. That’s not the end of the world. Our customers have taken care of two older generations of Gaughans and myself and hopefully the next generation that’s already here. But also, to take care of your employees. When Coast had a bigger presence, my father said your employees at one property are probably your customers at one of your other properties. We take a lot of time and pride to take care of employees.

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Brock Radke is Las Vegas Weekly's food editor and author of the Strip-focused column The Incidental Tourist. He has written ...

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