|By Jerry Berrios, The Miami Herald|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 10, 2004 - James F. Allen doesn't get a lot of sleep.
As chief executive for the Seminole Tribe's gaming operations, he oversees five existing casinos. But, at the moment he is sleepless over the new Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
It is an event Allen has been working toward for more than three years.
"It's a monumental task," Allen said last week while standing close to the 50-foot replica of Jimi Hendrix's Fender Stratocaster guitar, which sits in front of the Hollywood complex. "We have come a long way in a short period of time." Allen, 43, started working on the Seminoles' Hard Rock projects in Tampa and Hollywood as an executive vice president of The Cordish Co. -- the group that developed the complexes. He was later hired by the tribe.
Moses B. Osceola, vice chairman of the Tribal Council, said Allen has top-notch gaming and resort experience.
He has worked with Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Atlantis -- the Bahamian marine resort and casino, and the Mohegan Sun, a Connecticut casino and entertainment complex with shops, a spa, 1,200 hotel rooms, 30 eateries and a 10,000 seat arena.
Plus, the tribe finds Allen easy to work with. "He has been a great fit for us here," Osceola said. "He is very respectful of our ways, our culture, our Tribal Council."
Allen said his understanding that the facility belongs to the Seminoles guides his relationship. "They are the owners," Allen said. "They have to feel like they are part of the process." His former colleagues say he works hard. He is detail-oriented. He gets it done.
Allen is responsible for developing and operating the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino facilities in Hollywood and Tampa, as well as the existing casinos in Hollywood, Tampa, Coconut Creek, Immokalee and on the Brighton Reservation north of Lake Okeechobee.
"You can expect that Jim is going to take time to understand each element of his operation," said Kevin DeSanctis, president and chief operating officer of Penn National Gaming.
That aspect was evident on a recent tour of the Hollywood facility, when Allen showed his visitors how large the housekeeping closet was and that it had trash and linen chutes.
People need to have the ability to do their job and do it well, Allen said.
Some of the employees at the Tampa facility were a little timid at first, Allen said, and he told the food and beverage manager to take them into the kitchen and break 10 plates on the floor to show them that mistakes happen.
"We have to have the most happy, loose employees," Allen said.
DeSanctis worked with Allen on and off for 13 years. "I never had to worry that the job was going to get done and get done extremely well," DeSanctis said.
He recalled Allen checking rooms at the Atlantis resort at 3 a.m.
DeSanctis credits Allen as the primary reason why the second phase of Atlantis opened in 1999.
DeSanctis also recalled walking into the Mohegan Sun office and seeing Allen sitting at his desk in the same clothes he wore the previous day. He had worked all night, and DeSanctis sent him home.
"He obviously hadn't had a shower. He obviously hadn't shaved," DeSanctis said. "He looked pretty disheveled." But Allen said he didn't go home immediately. He did concede, however, three or four hours later.
"I had been up 36 hours straight without any sleep," Allen said with a smile.
Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, worked with Allen at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City in the early 1990s.
"He doesn't sleep," Brown said. "...There is no off switch." With this project, the Seminoles are stepping up to the next level and so is Allen.
This is his first time in charge of every aspect of casino resort, including financing, operations and marketing.
"It's more responsibility, no doubt about it," Allen said. "I always operate at any level as if I owned it myself."
No detail is too large or too small for Allen. He keeps track of the finances and rattles on about the Egyptian cotton sheets, European duvets, the sweet grass in the lotion and a stylish phone booth divider.
"From my standpoint, I always knew this was going to be world class," Allen said.
The difference is in the details, Allen said. "By focusing on the details, you create an atmosphere that is special," he said.
DeSanctis said the Seminole Tribe made the right choice.
"Jim -- he is one of those people," DeSanctis said. "You want him on your team." When asked what is he going to do on Wednesday, the day after the grand opening, Allen didn't mention catching up on sleep or taking a rest.
He said, "Look at the numbers from Tuesday."
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