Joe Graziano loves his job.
As general manager of Hoover Dam Lodge, you can see his enthusiasm when he walks throughout the casino and resort. His eyes sparkle like the sunlight glistening on Lake Mead, which the resort overlooks, and his smile is as wide as the Colorado River is long.
Formerly the director of gaming for Hoover Dam Lodge and the company’s sister property Laughlin River Lodge, formerly the River Palms, in Laughlin, he took over the general manager’s spot in April and hasn’t slowed down since then.
“It’s been a pleasure to take the property to where we want to go,” Graziano said.
The resort continues to evolve and with that comes “lots of changes. It’s a dynamic property.”
As a result, “I am continually developing my role,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun and very rewarding.”
“To see where the property came from to where it’s going … If you look at it as a sporting event, it’s halftime,” added Reggie Burton, a spokesman for Nevada Restaurant Services, which owns and operates the property.
Graziano said he has been working closely with owner Craig Estey to bring the property to their vision as a destination for outdoor adventures and recreation.
“We are trying to become a focal point for outdoor enthusiasts,” Graziano said.
One of the first steps has been to create vignettes inside the casino that showcase the types of adventures and recreational opportunities nearby and in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
“We want guests to come here and have every single activity at their fingertips.”
Graziano said they hope to create packages where people can combine a stay at Hoover Dam Lodge with adventures such as mountain biking, river raft trips, boat rentals, water skiing, helicopter rides, skydiving and zip line rides, and are working with local businesses to establish partnerships.
Helping with that outdoor adventure theme, they recently added a bank of slot machines where the player could win a jet ski.
He said one of the most rewarding aspects of his job is being able to have conversations with the employees and customers of the resort.
“I love the interaction with all the employees and customers,” he said, adding that some of “the best ideas comes from that feedback.”
Graziano said he also appreciates the resort’s location within Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
“Can you paint a better picture? Bighorn sheep come on our property and graze. I come down the hill and see the view (of Lake Mead). I wouldn’t trade it for any other view.”
He also is proud of helping visitors learn more about the history of the area through informational panels about the construction of Hoover Dam and the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge.
Among the changes he has seen since taking over as general manager was the installation of more games on the casino floor and the addition of a kiosk where people can bet on sporting events and cash in their winnings. They also are in the midst of creating La Villita, a casino within the casino that will have the feel of a Mexican village.
Graziano said the colorful La Villita will “most likely open by the end of the year.”
“Our vision with gaming products is creating something for everyone,” Graziano said, noting how the Dotty’s already open offers different games and rewards than what is available on the main casino floor.
Also in the works is a new concept, the Bourbon Street Sports Bar, that will have places for people to watch athletic events, amusement park/carnival type games and “fun” drinks like you would find on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, he said.
Graziano has been employed by Nevada Restaurant Services, which also owns Dotty’s, for five years.
“I was here when we purchased the property.”
He and his wife, Paula, have two sons, Tommy, 12, and Joey, 4.
Graziano said he enjoys sports and golf when not at work, and his job is inspiring him to become a bit more adventurous. Boating and zip lining have caught his attention, he said.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.