Insider Interview: Foxwoods High Roller Butler Anthony Garry
A love of gambling is one thing – being a high roller is another. For the real "big timers," those who gamble more than $1 million per trip, resorts roll out all the stops – private penthouse suites, insider-only casinos and dining, and service so dedicated, that so long as it's legal, the task will be accomplished.
Foxwoods bears the distinction of being North America's largest casino property. High rollers are comped stays in the hotel's 23 special penthouse suites, which range from 1,000 to 5,000 square feet and offer views of the Mashantucket reservation from 20+ stories up. High rollers are allowed access to private dining a dedicated casino above the hotels' AAA Four Diamond Paragon Restaurant.
Many of New England's elite, including sports figures and celebrities frequent Foxwoods and employ these services. Some utilize the private facilities as a way to evade professional sports regulations that prevent gambling, while others are drawn simply by the allure of convenience – at just under two hours from cities like Boston and New York, it's a much faster "fix" than Las Vegas.
And who would know better what goes on behind the velvet ropes than the men and women who see it all unfold? We got the scoop about what really goes on from Anthony Garry, Foxwoods' head butler and a 20+ year industry vet.
How did you get into the business?
In college, I worked part-time in Atlantic City, and that's what first exposed me to the industry. I was a Chemistry major in college, and originally wanted to be a Pediatrician. I'd like to think I am still in that business. I take care of people and their needs.
How does one train for a job like this?
I started out as a "regular" hotel butler. I was lucky enough to train under two talented individuals who had worked for Steve Wynn at Golden Nugget. I worked my way up the ranks to eventually take over the head butler role.
What exactly does a high roller butler do, and how does it differ from a traditional butler?
I think of my job as melding traditional butler services (like Alfred from Batman or Mr. Belvedere) ... but in a casino setting. We're generally providing all of the services you'd get at a hotel but we're also challenged with building relationships with our guests to help drive business. In essence, we're marketing tool for the hotel. We help personalize the company to the guest.
It's about getting inside the psyche of the customer. Many of our visitors have seen it all, done it all. We've got to figure out what they want, and then exceed their expectations upon delivery.
How do you determine what clients need?
One of the most important things I teach my staff is that "no" is not an option. If we can't provide what a customer wants, we have to find a suitable alternative. Obviously, we have to stay within legal lines ...
Many guests can be particular or idiosyncratic. We have one guest that faxes eight pages of needs over before every visit. [Guests like that] make it very easy for to provide for. We know everything from how many boxes of tissues they want to what music should be playing and what channel to tune the television to.
How do you educate your staff to serve such a savvy clientele?
A lot of it is on-the-job training and comes through experience. We also do formal trainings on a regular basis, from food and beverage service training to shoe shining education. You'd think it's remedial, but when people come in with $1,200 Gucci loafers, you have to be careful!
We also have a staff meeting once a month to discuss issues and determine what needs to be worked on. I have two former chefs that work for me on my staff – it makes my life a lot easier. Special sessions can include training in cigars, the best way to pack and unpack a suitcase, and instruction on the proper way to hang clothes.
Describe a high roller's experience from the moment of entry.
High rollers are immediately escorted into a beautiful private villa for check-in. From the moment they arrive to their rooms, it's all about luxury and convenience – from Frette linens to private access floors to upgraded bath amenities. It's steps above what you'd get in other areas of the resort. Specialized butlers and housekeeping staff service these areas. On average, the service is three employees to every guest.
What is the strangest request you've ever gotten?
We've had a few! We had a frequent guest from Florida normally came with friends and business associates. One weekend, he brought his family, and wanted us to turn the entire top floor of a 5,000 square foot suite into children's playroom. He requested that we make one of the rooms into a ballet recital room, the other side into a basketball court for his six year old, the rest into a playroom. We did it- and he was thrilled. For this request, we probably had 4 to 5 days notice, which helped, but it's unusual.
We once had a guest arrive on a Friday who wanted his grandson baptized. We arranged that too.
Are most clients pretty nice?
We focus a lot on relationship building –they're generally pretty thankful. We've built out a special reservations system called the Butler's Assistant that I designed to keep track of our guest needs and preferences, and really strive to provide the best possible service, as we know we're competing with hotels in Las Vegas and Atlantic City for the same clients.
How high of a high roller do you need to be to get comped?
The criteria is set by our marketing department, but generally you need a half-million dollar credit line for the smallest villas, and more than a million for the big rooms.
What would you like others to know about a high roller butler's life?
I love the challenge of meeting and exceeding expectations. The other butlers and returning guests ... they become like family to you. I'm lucky to have a great staff that "gets" it. Customer service is what it's all about. We consider our guests extended family – we don't cross a professional line, but we're here for them when they need us.