DOVER — When new vice president and general manager of Bally’s Dover Casino Resort Nick Polcino walks the gaming floor, he rarely does it in a straight line.
He can often be seen checking in with housekeeping personnel to see if they need anything, then waiving to the card dealers or stopping to say hello to guests.
It isn’t a show. While he’s greeting his people and guests, he’s noticing where the bartenders are standing and if they are ready to serve customers; he’s measuring up table games for optimal placement; and he’s watching how guests travel through the casino.
He can’t help it; the hospitality and gaming industry is in his blood.
Mr. Polcino isn’t new to Delaware or Dover for that matter. He was appointed to the same position in 2019 when the COVID-19 global pandemic hit. Bally’s corporate leaders then tapped Mr. Polcino to lead the company’s Atlantic City, New Jersey operations. Once work there was completed, he was sent back to Dover to lead the operation here.
Born and raised in Atlantic City, Mr. Polcino started in the industry very young.
“I originally was always interested in hospitality. I came from a service family. My mom worked in a bank, but everybody else were service employees, low-end service employees,” he said. “As I grew up through high school busboying and doing all those things, my dream job was to run a hotel, but never had the grades in high school. Luckily, I got in college and I did well. I didn’t finish college because I was making money in the service business. And I didn’t have the kind of family that pushed college.”
He set out to start a career in the hospitality industry. He tended bar and got to know his customers, many of whom unbeknownst to him were executives at many of the casinos in Atlantic City.
One day in 1979, he applied for a food and beverage manager position at Bally’s Atlantic City. He was granted an interview and went in to secure his path in the hospitality field.
As he was walking to the interview, he heard a voice from a back office calling his name – it was Sam Hogan, one of his regular customers he served as a bartender. Mr. Polcino went into Mr. Hogan’s office where he asked him what he was doing there. He replied that he was here to interview for a food and beverage department job.
Seeing that Mr. Polcino was looking for a new opportunity, Mr. Hogan seized on it.
“I said I got an interview in 15 minutes. He picks up the phone. He says to the person on the other end, your interview won’t be there. He’s going to work for me,” Mr. Polcino said, smiling.
Mr. Hogan was the vice president for Bally’s Atlantic City’s gaming operations. The next day, Mr. Polcino became a craps dealer.
Mr. Polcino found that he enjoyed the gaming side of the resort business and set out to learn as much as he was able.
“I thought, if I’m going to do this, I want to learn as many games as I could,” he said.
That’s what he did. After learning how to deal the games available, which included craps, baccarat, and blackjack, he set out to learn the rest of the industry. He took some night courses and eventually earned a gaming license and set out on the path to management.
In 2003, he became the executive director of operations for Resorts in Tunica, Mississippi. Soon after, he was promoted to assistant general manager. He then worked his way up to top management positions in properties in Colorado and Nevada. He joined the current Bally’s team in 2015.
During his career, he said he’s learned many lessons. First among them is the power of building good relationships. The relationship he built with Mr. Hogan started him on his path. He said that is why it’s important for him to check in with his employees when he can and has a strong open-door policy and makes sure the other leaders on his teams use the same philosophy.
The other lesson, and one he said he shared with his children, is to take “opportunity over security.”
“When it comes to an opportunity in your life, you’ve got to take it and it may not be foolproof. It may not be exactly what you want. If somebody wants to give you a house and it’s painted black, that’s an opportunity. you can change the color,” he said.
When it comes to the Bally’s Dover Casino Resort, formerly Dover Downs, Mr. Polcino is looking for new opportunities to serve his guests.
Mr. Polcino said the resort will have to update its indoor pool area soon. Seeing an opportunity, he is working with designers and engineers on ways to replace it. One idea is to create an outdoor swimming area complete with a swim-up bar.
Other opportunities on the horizon include updating the casinos high-roller slots area and the casino’s Fire & Ice nightclub, Mr. Polcino said.
When asked if guests were returning to the casino resort as expected — he replied with a resounding yes. The resort’s current problem is that many of its employees did not return following the lockdown.
“I could fill my hotel every Friday and Saturday, all 500 rooms. I don’t fill it because I can’t clean them,” he said.
Mr. Polcino said the gaming and hospitality industries must look at how they compensate their employees in the future. He said the field has flipped.
“It used to be everybody that worked in fast food and other industries begged to get into the casino side or the hotel side. Now why would you do that when Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays and paying $15 an hour?” he said.
“We have to change. That process is going to be slow.”
Mr. Polcino is looking forward to looking for an opportunity that will help him solve his employment issues.
When he is not at the casino, Mr. Polcino said he likes to explore the region with his wife and help in her garden. The couple bought a home near Dover and are looking forward to setting down roots here.
“I’m not moving houses again. I moved three houses in four years,” he said, smiling.
He hopes to build more relationships and become a larger part of the Dover community.