They Got Game

Twins Dan and Dana Napier took a big gamble on careers in the gaming industry. They are now the highest-ranking African Americans at MGM Grand Inc.

Back in the mid-1970s, when Dan and Dana Napier opted to forge careers in the gaming industry, they had no idea the odds were against them.

"We didn’t know anything about this business," says Dana, 46, the younger-by 20 minutes-of the identical twins. But they would quickly learn that gaming was a closed industry: closed to blacks, women and anyone else who didn’t grow out of its good ol’ boy roots. There was no precedent for the Napiers’ ambition to rise to the top. And no apparent venue that would allow them to succeed. But that didn’t stop the brothers from pushing forward.

Now, 20 years later, gaming has grown dramatically and transformed itself, outside and in. The neon marquees that seemed to endlessly headline Rat Pack impersonators now hawk the star power of Tina Turner and The Artist (formerly known as royalty). The dizzying tackiness that defined casino decor for decades has given way to something more tasteful but no less exciting. And the ultra-exclusionary hiring and promotion practices of the past have finally given way to the dictates of the times.

Dan and Dana Napier have been in the forefront of championing such changes. Now they are poised to benefit from them as well. Each is within steps of becoming the first African American to head a major gaming operation for MGM Grand Inc., a $3 billion franchise.

As vice president of national marketing for the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, a $1.5 billion property, Dan Napier’s success is central to that of the entire operation. High rollers-those gutsy gamblers who routinely bet with more money in a weekend than most people earn in a year-can account for as much as 40% of the annual gross of a property. Thus, they are highly sought after and highly prized.

Dan is MGM’s high roller point man. It is his job to attract these high-end clients to his hotel and casino and ensure that, once there, they are thrilled-not merely pleased, but flat-out wild-about their stay. He oversees a staff of about 250 and a budget that he won’t discuss "for competitive reasons." Suffice it to say, hundreds of millions are spent each year to woo an exclusive clientele of about 800 people. But as one analyst observes, "What’s $40,000 or $50,000 spent against someone who’s going to gamble with $600,000 to $1 million?" (Actually, Dan has seen as much as $5 million laid out in one weekend!)

Dana’s mission is different but no less central to the organization. In 1998, MGM Grand lured him away from Caesar’s Palace Hotel and Casino, offering him the opportunity to become vice president of table games operations at the company’s start-up facility in Detroit. Overseeing a staff of 1,200 and a $50 million budget, Dana’s goal is to make MGM Grand’s Detroit table games a can’t-miss destination for gamblers near and far.

Dana’s position offers him a great opportunity but the hotel

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