Hard Rock's Boss Keeps The Resort Rocking - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hard Rock's Boss Keeps The Resort Rocking

Hard Rock Biloxi's new president disagrees with an assertion made by a Harrah's executive on WLOX News. On Tuesday night, Harrah's central region president John Payne said that when Biloxi's newest casino came in, "It didn't grow this market."

A day later, Hard Rock boss Duncan McKenzie said the market has grown since last July. And his resort could take some of the credit for that.

"We lost 5,000-7,000 mom and pop hotel rooms and certainly that has hurt the market," McKenzie said. "And the market is still at the same levels it was. So in fact, there has been a net gain from us coming into town."

McKenzie's new job is simple. He has to figure out what Hard Rock must do to keep the resort rocking.

Gamblers say they go to Hard Rock for the great music, because it's a fun place, and because of the nostalgic goodies inside. Back in January, McKenzie was put in charge of all those goodies, all that music, and all the games inside the Hard Rock.

"When I came here, all I saw was opportunity," he said.

To get Hard Rock to rock the way everybody expected, McKenzie went back to the company's most basic principle -- love all serve all.

"The Hard Rock brand is about inclusiveness," the resort's new president said. "Music is in our DNA. And it's music for all genres, all ages, all types of people."

Specifically people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. So that generation's music will be performed on a new stage that's being built in the middle of the casino.

"I think baby boomers are a part of our future success," said McKenzie.

The CEO also had his staff reconfigure where slot machines were set up, so people had an easier time getting around the gaming floor.

During our interview, McKenzie wouldn't give into industry insiders who felt initial criticism of Hard Rock's debut were justified. However, he did bet that the downtown Biloxi resort's second act would play to rave reviews.

"I think what we need is for people to come, take a look at us, give us a shot, inform their own opinion. I think they'll like what they come and see," he said.

The Hard Rock resort currently has 1,200 employees. It's one of 11 casinos in south Mississippi.

By Brad Kessie

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