Tino Magnatta is a self-described people person.
That has helped him become a household name in the casino business, through hosting his daily “The Voice of Gaming” Casino Update videos that are prominent on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.
On the show, Magnatta interviews casino executives and tribal leaders from all over the country to discuss a variety of important issues in the industry. He posts up to five interviews per day and says that he has released 3,000 interviews since 2020 that are seen by up to 60,000 people in his target market that encompasses the casino and hospitality world.
Magnatta is also the founder GTAD, a data company that has supplied retention and prospecting data to the casino industry for more than 15 years. He’s also been a movie producer, real estate investor, and digital- marketing leader. He speaks Italian and speaks, reads, and writes in Spanish and French.
But his superpower is his esprit de corps.
“My parents were both immigrants from Italy. Back in the 1950s, they emigrated to Canada. They were a classic immigrant story, except they were a little different. Although they came with nothing, my dad was very resourceful, a self-taught man. He opened up a barber shop that didn’t go too well. Then he figured out that women spend a lot more money on hair and beauty products than men. So he and my mom opened up their first salon.
“By the time I was older, my parents sold all their beauty salons and transitioned into real estate. They were true entrepreneurs. And they didn’t hesitate to switch businesses. My dad said there’s always an easier way to make money.
“He also advised me to be one of the people that people like to be around, because at the end of the day, that’s your brand. Your character is your destiny. I really love being around people, talking to them, and having great conversations.”
The movie business
“I went to film school and got my bachelor’s in motion-picture studies. After producing three or four movies in Toronto, at the age of 22, I moved to Los Angeles. I spent 15 years in the movie business, producing and directing.
“I produced Sam Kinison’s last album and won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album. I did a bunch of writing for Paramount and HBO and won more awards. But it’s a 24/7 business. When you make a movie or series, it consumes 100% of your life. So in 1995, I took a sidestep. I’m not afraid to change businesses. I love the challenge; that’s what motivates me,” Magnatta said.
Falling into Casinos
“It was a great time to pivot. The internet age had just started and there was a lot of opportunity. Also a lot of parties — internet parties, dot-com parties, launch parties, hundreds of parties. Of course, I went to as many as I could and at one, I met a guy who had a small digital ad agency here in L.A. I joined up and started to do digital advertising for real estate companies and car dealerships,” Magnatta related.
As for the casino business, he says he “I fell into it, like most people do. A buddy of ours knew this lady who was starting the first digital ad department in Las Vegas. It was with Park Place Entertainment. At the time, Park Place was in the middle of buying the Flamingo, Paris, Bally’s, Las Vegas Hilton, Caesars, and O’Shea’s, which is now The Link.
“We won the account. Next thing I knew I was on a plane going to Vegas meeting with six of the top casinos in the world and on the cutting edge of digital advertising.
“No one knew anything in Vegas about digital marketing, absolutely zero! And we came in with all these new ideas. We sent out the first email campaign in casino history from the Flamingo and in the early 2000s launched some of the first Google ad campaigns,” Magnatta said.
Next, Magnatta partnered with a former casino client to form GTAD Advertising, a digital firm that specializes in finding viable prospects in both the inactive and archive segments of casino databases.
“We started doing independent work for casinos. In the beginning, we launched a lot of the first email campaigns for Native nations. We’re known mainly for finding the email addresses that aren’t in the databases. It’s called an ‘email append,’ where we find the email addresses for you. We’re the number-one provider of that service in the industry.
“It costs too much money to send direct mail, so digital marketing is where the real money is. It costs so little to use and it performs great, because you’re dealing one on one with the customer. It’s like you’re having a private conversation with your customers and they decide if they want to have that conversation,” Magnatta stated.
“We started Casino Update during COVID. A couple of months into the pandemic, I was helping my wife dry dishes. I asked her, “What would you say about starting a show and talking to people in our industry? Right now, we’re in a kind of a dark hole. We have no light on what’s going on. The industry needs to come together and have a dialogue and the only way to do that is to talk to people.’ That’s how the whole thing started and it just blew up. Everyone wanted to be on the show. At that time, I did about 12 to 15 interviews a day,” Magnatta said.
With COVID at the forefront, the Casino Update community became the go-to place to find out what was happening in the casino industry.
“In 2020, it snowballed. People were craving information and anxious to know what other people were doing. When we started to have an inkling of how we’d reopen the casinos, it got really hot. People were looking at these interviews with those who had opened their doors.
“We were the first to report on the story of Coeur d’Alene Casino. We interviewed Laura Penny, the CEO. She became known across the industry for reopening the first casino in the United States after the shutdowns.
“From that, people started to feel confident, thinking, if this casino can do it, we can do it. Then, as things were progressing, we started to follow everything — the setbacks, the problems, the evolution of technology. All those things people wanted to hear about, we were talking to people across the country every day.”
“We’ve had an evolution and a renaissance in our business since COVID. The way we look at things now is completely different than before the pandemic. From that perspective, I’m very pleased, privileged, and blessed that I’ve been able to go on this journey with everybody in our industry. You’ve got to hand it to all the people that have been on the show and the people that watch the show. They really made a community and we became the voice of gaming,” Magnatta declared.
I asked Magnatta if he considers himself a reporter or an influencer.
“You know, I think I’m both. I see myself as a builder of community. I built a community of incredible people who now have voices they didn’t have before. We never heard from these GMs, CEOs, CMOs, COOs. I interview tribal leaders; they have a lot to say and we’ve never heard their voices before.
“It’s been a good year for Native Nations, but you still have issues that need to be discussed and changed. Protecting sovereignty, water rights, land in trust, education, health care — it’s a big list. Native Nations are resilient and tribal people are great people who care about everyone. It’s amazing. Just think of all the tribes that paid their employees in full during COVID. That speaks volumes! I’m very proud to be able to give Native people a platform to express their opinions,” Magnatta stated.
Interviewing casino operators on a daily basis gives Magnatta a unique perspective. His discussions often cover trends in the industry. I asked what he believes is the most important trend in the industry today.
“The number-one trend in our business today is people. It really took off during COVID and why is that? Because our business is all about people.
“You can’t automate the spa, having robots give massages. You can’t automate the personal experiences of high-end players. They’re at that casino because of their hosts. The business of people is very high on the totem pole right now.
“Now you’re seeing benefits increasing. You’re seeing three days at work, two days at home. You’re seeing all sorts of incentivization for team members with parties and free lunches. There was never any of this before. Why is that? Because retention is the key. Retention is key to running any business, especially our business,” Magnatta declared.
I asked Magnatta to what he attributes his personal success.
“I genuinely care about people. The show has allowed me to become a conduit for all the wisdom of all these amazing people in our industry. It has created a dialogue between the speakers and the audience and this makes me extremely happy. Let’s keep the conversation going!”
Tino Magnatta has brought a community to the gaming industry through his Casino Update interview show. He is a social person who created a unique show targeting casino operators, based on his love for communicating. And it all started one day during COVID, while he was drying dishes with his wife.
Entries in the Faces of Gaming series:
- Willy Allison — From New Zealand bloke to world game-protection leader
- Tom Jingoli — From gaming enforcement agent to COO of Konami Gaming
- Tino Magnatta — Interviewing the interviewer, 3,000 and counting since COVID (now reading)
- Deana and Brady Scott — Still talking shop with the owners of Raving Consulting
- Kevin Parker — “Putting everything into everything I do”
- Laura Penney — Putting in the Work as CEO of Coeur d’Alene Casino
- Andre Carrier — Paying it forward
- Jean Scott — The original casino influencer, still frugal gambling after all these years
- Anika Howard — From Harrah’s First Interactive Employee to CEO of Wondr Nation
- Anthony Curtis — Gambling Guru, Las Vegas Expert, Customer Advocate with Street Cred
- Mark Wayman — An executive recruiter with a brand and something to say
- Melonie Johnson — From rural Louisiana to resort-casino leadership
- Brian Christopher — From actor, Uber driver, and cater waiter to slot celebrity
- Allan Solomon — From accountant and tax lawyer to pioneering casino owner
- Kenny Epstein — A Niche from Nostalgia
Tom Osiecki is a casino consultant who writes an occasional column for CDC Gaming Reports called Faces of Gaming, about interesting and engaging people in the gaming industry.
Tom Osiecki is a marketing and management consultant for Raving Consulting and can be reached for consulting engagements at 775-329-7864.
If you know of a fascinating personality in the gaming industry you would like to see profiled, please send Tom Osiecki an email at firstname.lastname@example.org