Ron Bailey, Valley Forge Q&A: Experience and accessibility

March 22, 2024

For Ron Bailey, the VP and General Manager of Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, the key to the hospitality business is offering something different. Also the differentiating factor for him and Valley Forge is its experienced and accessible staff.

What’s your background and how did the journey you were on eventually bring you to the Valley Forge?

I’ve been in gaming since 2000. So, I started off with Caesars Entertainment when it was Harrah’s, working in hotel operations. My background started in hotel operations in five diamond hotels in the Texas area. And then my boss left to go work for Caesars, so I followed him to open the hotel portion of a Harrah’s property in Louisiana, in Shreveport.

 An opportunity then presented itself to go work for MGM, so I went to Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi. The world works crazy. At that point, my boss – who would be my boss – was leaving the company, so they flew me to Las Vegas to meet with the then-VP of hotel Randy Morton, who eventually became President of Bellagio. They interviewed me there and I said, “You know, sir, at some point, I’d love to come to Las Vegas.” And he’s looking at me like, “Yeah, kid. Have at it.” [Laughs] But nine months later they were making plans to open Spa Tower and they transferred me to the Bellagio, to open Spa Tower, and I got the experience to do that. I spent three years at the Bellagio and then transferred over to Luxor when MGM bought the Mandalay Bay Resort Group at the time. So, I was Director of Hotel at the Luxor.

 Then the downturn. I went to go work for Gaylord Entertainment for a bit and really wanted to get back into gaming and had the opportunity to work for Boyd. And that’s where I’ve been for the last 12 years. I have worked in three different jurisdictions with Boyd. So, I’ve been in Nevada, in Louisiana and now in Pennsylvania. 

 Tell us about those different experiences. Nevada, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and you also mentioned Biloxi, Mississippi – those are very different gaming markets.

They are uniquely different. In the South, Louisiana and Mississippi are probably a little more similar. But in Biloxi, they are more barges than they are riverboats. So, it’s much larger. The property I worked at, we called it the Beau, when they built that property, they actually built a barge, sunk that barge and built a barge on top of it! So, you really couldn’t tell you were on the water – other than being around the water.

Then obviously at that time the promotional environment and all of those areas were significantly different as well, as far as where your customer-base comes from. Even though Biloxi was very destination-driven, very seasonal. As you get to Las Vegas, at least working at the time on The Strip, it’s seasonal but it's such a big convention town, plus your gamers. So, it's always busy; there's always something happening.

 But it’s also local. Your locals want to go out, they want to eat. They want to go to the clubs, day pools and places like that. So, it was definitely a different time. I worked at the Orleans, where I was Assistant General Manager. It is like the city within the city there. You know, even though it’s off The Strip, you’re right around the corner from that, having an arena and a showroom, bowling alley, movie theater and almost 2,000 rooms. It was the same thing: always very busy.

Yet you also have that very local customer that loves coming to the property. We had plenty of convention space, doing a lot of group business, especially with sports. At the time, it was very basketball heavy. It was always very cool when the Summer League was in town, things of that nature; there’s always something happening at that property. A lot of fun, a lot of people. What I found there, because Vegas is obviously the gaming market, it’s been there the longest. So, the beauty we had of being at that property is that we had so many long-time team members. I remember going to a team member, someone who had been with the company 40 years. [Laughs]


It was a very cool environment and a great experience, with a great team there. Then the opportunity presented itself to go back to Louisiana and become the General Manager of Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino Shreveport. I was very familiar with that property because it was my first casino ever when it was Harrah’s. It was the same building, so it was like the circle of life was complete there.

Overall, from a regulatory standpoint, they’re all uniquely different. Las Vegas being the oldest gaming market if you will, it’s doing promotions, licensing, things of that nature. It’s a little bit of an easier environment to get by, to make things happen. Where even within Louisiana and other markets, getting slot machines approved or getting side bets for table games, or getting your promotions are a little bit harder. But you get used to it.

I think being here in Pennsylvania, even though it’s a newer gaming market, being so close to Atlantic City, they’ve adopted many of the things that have happened in Atlantic City over the years. And the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has been easy to work with. We learn the rules of engagement, we play within that box, we get things done and we make it fun for the customers. 

That’s great. Tell us a little bit about Valley Forge. What’s your gaming space, your amenities, that sort of thing?

We’re a Class III casino, so we’re limited to the amount of, not gaming space, but machines and table games. So, we have 850 slot machines. We have 50 table games. But for us it’s an advantage we’re in Montgomery County. It’s a growing community.

We’re a local casino. I would tell you that probably 80% of our gaming revenue comes from within 20 miles of us. However, we also have 100,000 square feet of meeting space. We have a great sales team that does a great job of booking different types of business throughout the year, whether its local, social, sporting groups or association business.

So, we get a lot of unrated play at the property, where people might not get a card, but they want to come and enjoy themselves, and be entertained. Also being in Montgomery County, King of Prussia, we’re fortunate to be so close to many other sources of entertainment – there’s a Top Golf that just opened next door to us.

We have King of Prussia Mall. We have Town Center. We have Valley Forge National Historical Park. So, from a sales perspective, as we’re selling the property, there are so many assets around us that we can promote; to not just make our property stickier but the whole area stickier, and give players reasons why they should come back and book their business here. 

Sounds fun. Sounds like a place we need to be checking out. 

Absolutely! Please.

You have a very robust sector in Pennsylvania, offering a number of different verticals. What’s it like these days?

From a brick-and-mortar standpoint, I think the property, in the three years that I’ve been here, we’ve continued to outperform year after year. Around a year ago now Pala Interactive was purchased by Boyd, which is now Boyd Interactive. So, Boyd took in its iGaming platform. With us already having a brick-and-mortar, and having iGaming use the Stardust brand for that, it’s doing very well.

 I think iGaming as a whole is still in its infancy stage. But we can see the growth and the potential of it. We can see it in our public numbers that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board puts out there. It’s doing very well. Still, I think it hasn’t even touched the surface as far as what it’s going to be able to do. Also I think having a brick-and-mortar with iGaming, for us it’s a benefit because we use the power of our player’s club. Boyd Rewards allows that person to, not only come to the property, eat at the restaurant, get food credits and things of that nature, but we have assets around the country that, for example, if somebody wants to go to a Raiders game, they can go to the Raiders-Eagles game.

If they want to go to Kansas City, they can go to a game there or hockey, or whatever the case may be. We have offerings outside of promotions for those customers. Sometimes they want to come to the steakhouse and eat. But sometimes they want to go and play at Belterra. So those opportunities, we make sure whether you play online or whether you play inside the casino, you have the opportunity to do those types of activities. Then, of course, we have FanDuel, the juggernaut. Having a partnership with FanDuel is awesome. They’re the king in the state and most states that they operate in. I call it the “Little Engine that Could.” Our sportsbook is not huge, but it’s always busy.

Obviously, people are using the app, but people coming in for the experience of whether it’s coming to watch an MMA event, boxing, playoffs for football, it’s always busy. Again, I use the term “sticky” because you always want things at your property that are going to give people reasons to stay, whether it's gaming, eating, some form of entertainment for those folks to stay at the property and enjoy themselves. 

That makes a lot of sense. Where do you see the Pennsylvania gaming market headed in the next few years? You hinted at it a little bit with the growth of iGaming. But what else are you seeing on the horizon? 

I think as a whole they have to continue to reinvest into the properties, because I think our customers across the board are looking for more than just a gaming experience, right? When I talk about things, you know, going to the Eagles game or Flyers or 76ers or going to another market and experiencing something like that, I think those types of experiences are more important to customers these days than having something to do, because we can all buy the same slot machine, we can all buy the same table game. It’s really about what is the differentiating factor in that. I think having great people is critical, creating great experiences as well. So, continuing to reinvest in the properties to make sure your core customers continue to enjoy those experiences, because when you have a local casino, I remember as a kid – I grew up in New Jersey. It was the Dunkin' Donuts time to make the donuts. You don’t want to it be a rinse-and-repeat experience. You want people to always come back. 

Guests come back for the people here and how they feel, but people want to see different things as well. Whether it’s changing up food, or changing up entertainment, people want to feel a change and experience different things when they come to the place they want to be entertained. 

What’s the differentiating factor for Valley Forge?

Easy, easy. It’s people! From a table-game standpoint, we have a great dealer base, which is very experienced. My leadership team here, we are not an in-the-office leadership team. We certainly work behind the scenes. That has to get done. But our culture is being with people. Most customers know me.

They know our executives from gaming, hospitality, food and beverage. They know us. so, if there’s something they don’t like or something they do like, they have no problem reaching out to us if they see us on the floor. They have our numbers. My business card has my cell phone number on it. I give people my business card and I tell them, “Call me. Please. If there’s something that we can do better, or something you like and we need to rinse-and-repeat that, then please let me know and we’ll do our best.”


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