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.

Las Vegas with two goals: to play basketball and study mortuary science in further preparation for taking over the family business. Neither goal would pan out. First, Dan, the more passionate ballplayer, injured his knee and got sidelined. Then, after one year’s worth of mortuary science classes, they both realized they’d rather focus on the management side of the family enterprise. So they switched their majors to business administration.

As a sophomore, to help pay for his car, Dan joined the labor union so he could get a job in Vegas’ main industry, gaming. Dressed in his interview best, and armed with his homegrown business acumen and lots of natural charm, he applied for a position at the Sands Hotel and Casino. It was 1972, a time when casinos relegated women and people of color to jobs as housekeepers and kitchen help. "I figured I could at least get a job as a bellhop," Dan recalls, "but they offered me dishwasher. So I took it."

But he didn’t keep it for long. Almost weekly, he searched the internal job postings and was soon maneuvering himself up through the ranks. By the time he left the Sands in 1979, he was assistant hotel manager,

and there would be no going back to the Crenshaw family business. (Today, it is run by their brother Don, with help from their mother.) Dana’s entree into the industry bore striking similarities to Dan’s. In 1976, he joined the Tropicana Hotel and Casino as a dishwasher. "I did it for a weekend, went to human resources and said, ‘This is a good job, but I’m a business major in college.’" He was moved into accounting, where he handled the food and beverage accounts. Then, one day, a colleague suggested he become a table games dealer. After seeing a dealer cash in one shift’s worth of tip chips, Dana agreed.

In 1980, after a stint as a dealer at the Las Vegas Hilton, he joined Caesar’s, where he spent the next 15 years rising through a number of supervisory and management
positions, all on the casino floor.

Dan’s career flourished also. In 1982, having spent a decade rising through the ranks of hotel operations, he decided to learn the gaming side of things. He spent four years dealing twenty-one and baccarat at the Golden Nugget, then moved to the Mirage as a casino floor supervisor.

In 1993, he joined the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino while it was still under construction. Once it opened, his job, to host and assist high-end customers, was one that he seemed born to do.

Spencer Christian, former weather anchor for Good Morning America, met Dana in the late ’80s at Caesar’s. Then, in the early ’90s, Dana hosted him at the MGM Grand. "I’ve met a lot of people in the hospitality business over the years, but when it comes to high rollers, hospitality is a different animal, and a lot

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