FLORENCE, Ind. (March 2004) Larry Buck roams the majestic
halls of Belterra Casino Resort like a proud father, greeting customers
and surveying the progress of the Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.s
$35 million expansion project.
The newly hired vice president and general manager, at only 43, has
a lifetime of experience in casino management, after having started
as a change attendant on the floor of the Golden Nugget in Atlantic
City while still a college student at nearby Syracuse University.
From there, he worked his way up the ranks, first into the accounting
department and later into top management. Buck earned an MBA at Drexel
University in Philadelphia while attending school part-time and working
full-time at the casino.
by Don Ward
Casino GM Larry Buck shows off the new 10,000-sq. ft. conference
Since those early days, the Cherry Hill, N.J., native has made the
rounds through the casino industry, from Louisiana to St. Louis to
Reno, Nev., before landing his previous job in 2000 as general manager
at Hyatts Grand Victoria Casino in Rising Sun, Ind. When Belterra
Casinos Alain Uboldi accepted the top post at Pinnacles
soon-to-be-completed casino in Lake Charles, La., Buck in January
was offered the chance to move 10 miles downriver. He started at Belterra
on Feb. 2.
The move was no roll of the dice. Buck stepped into a prime situation,
with Belterra now riding on solid financial footing in the wake of
Uboldis budget-tightening moves in the previous year to stem
the financial losses the casino had experienced. And he came at a
time when Belterra was about to open its new 300-room hotel addition,
complete with conference and meeting rooms and an outdoor swimming
The new addition, to officially open in mid-March with all hotels
ready by April 30, will give Belterra 600 rooms, making it one of
the largest hotel facilities in the tri-state area. The project also
adds 33,000-square feet of meeting and conference space, with one
10,000-square-foot reception hall that can be subdivided into three
sections. Groundbreaking took place in February 2003, when officials
announced the project would generate 80 new jobs.
by Don Ward
Casino's new addition.
Completion of the project, combined with the floating casino, 18-hole
Tom Fazio-designed championship golf course, 1,800-seat entertainment
showroom, European-style health spa and salon, and several stores
and restaurants in the main hall, will take Belterra yet another step
toward becoming a true destination resort.
Its a great place, said Buck, who resides in Hebron,
Ky., with his wife, Lorraine, and four children, ages 11 to 11 months.
My biggest challenge will be to increase our market and our
To do that, he said the casino company will be targeting businesses
big and small in a wider geographic range with out new conference
space. Our marketing effort will now extend as far north as
Cleveland and as far south as Nashville.
Buck said the demand for hotel rooms is already there. He cited 2003
statistics that showed Belterras occupancy rate averaging 90
percent, while compared to a 54 percent average among Northern Kentucky
and Cincinnati hotels.
by Don Ward
cut carpet in the parking lot of Belterra Casino Resort.
Belterra currently has 1,100 employees and needs to hire about
50 more today, Buck said. Other changes are in store. Casino
officials also plan to redesign the front entrance by adding a fountain
and potted plants to give people a sense of excitement upon
their arrival, Buck said. The current entrance is primarily
plain walls, with no decorations or signs or elaborate amenities.
In addition to Ben and Jerrys ice cream parlor and several stores
along the hallways, Buck said a Starbucks Coffee franchise will
soon open in the location of the coffee shop at the front entry. And
he is working on a plan to bring in a Jeff Rubys Steakhouse
in the location of the current Fireside Steakhouse.
By mid-summer, hotel guests will be able to lounge on the pool deck,
which is being constructed on the western side of the complex near
the golf pro shop. And when the new highway corridor is completed
connecting I-71 to Markland Dam, Buck believes improved access to
Louisville and Lexington markets will make a big impact on Belterras
The sooner that happens, the better, Buck said, because
what breeds business in the casino business is traffic.
Buck better strap on his seat belt because it looks like Belterra
is in for a great ride.