Casino executive: Problem gamblers are not welcome

December 27, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS

UNCASVILLE, Conn

Not all gamblers are welcome at the Mohegan Sun casino. William J. Velardo, president, CEO and general manager of the Mohegan Sun, is also an officer of the National Council on Problem Gambling. "I think allowing someone to consume the product when you know the person suffers from a gambling disorder is wrong," Velardo told The Day of New London.

Velardo, 48, grew up around casinos. His family moved to Las Vegas when he was three and his father was a casino manager. Velardo's first job was as a busboy at Caesars Palace, and after college he dealt blackjack. He eventually moved into management and held positions in Lake Tahoe, Atlantic City and New Orleans before coming to Connecticut in 1995 to run Mohegan Sun.

He said that throughout his career in the gambling industry, the problem gambler has been a concern. "Of any company I have ever worked for, I don't believe they consciously allowed someone who had a disorder to play," Velardo said. "Even when I was a dealer 26 years ago, we'd discourage someone we thought had a problem from playing."

There were no councils on problem gambling back then, Velardo said. But there was human caring, and if a customer was obviously in trouble, Velardo said somebody was likely to tell them, "Take a break,' or "There's always another day."' Gambling disorders are difficult to uncover, Velardo said. Just because somebody plays at the casino frequently doesn't mean they have a problem. And sometimes people can afford to lose large sums of money.

Velardo sometimes consults with Marvin Steinberg, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, about a case that comes to his attention. He can permanently exclude patrons from Mohegan Sun. Steinberg said he speaks with Velardo often, and that if he calls the casino manager with a problem, Velardo doesn't delegate and doesn't waste time in finding a solution. "He'll say, 'Let's deal with it right now,' or I'll call you back in a half hour,"' Steinberg said.

The national council and its 34 state affiliates take a neutral stand on gambling and try to work within the system to help people with problems. In Connecticut, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods contributed $200,000 each this year to the state council.