The Gaming Life: Frank Neborsky

He’s the vice president of slot operations that helped build Mohegan Sun’s floor from the ground up. And with 30-plus years of gaming under his belt, he certainly knows his way around the business. So then why, upon meeting him, do people often say, “Oh, so you’re Frank Neborsky!?”

Whether that statement is taken as a compliment or with a grain of salt, it’s clear that Neborsky doesn’t necessarily fit the picture that many players may have of a VP. In fact, this humble executive usually avoids the words “vice president” entirely if he can, even when someone asks what he does for a living. Instead, he prefers to say simply, “I work in slots,” or “I work at a casino.”

But it’s certainly not because he doesn’t love his position. Neborsky has been at Mohegan Sun since 1995, about a year before it opened. And he has enjoyed it ever since—the daily challenges, interacting with players and vendors, and working on gaming expansions over the years. The only slight drawback, he believes, is others’ perceptions of the title.

“I think sometimes titles change how people look at you, and I try to be fairly down to earth, pretty friendly,” he explained. “When you talk to somebody and kid around, they don’t necessarily know who you are, but they know you’re friendly. And when they find out you’re the vice president, they’re either shocked, taken aback, or they don’t know what to do because it’s something they didn’t expect.” Whether people are intimidated by Neborsky’s title or not, there’s no argument against the fact that his laid back and caring attitude helps make Mohegan’s gaming floor a great place to be.

Another anomaly about Neborsky as a VP is the fact that he doesn’t have a favorite casino game, let alone consider himself to be much of a gambler. He doesn’t see that quality as a drawback, though, instead listing it as an advantage for his position. “I look at it as giving me a more objective outlook on what I try to provide for entertainment and value to our guests,” he said. “Not being a gambler, I have no predisposed likes or dislikes for a particular type of game or particular type of event.”

He also makes a point of seeking out feedback on games and floor issues from multiple sources, many of whom are his co-workers and staff who play at other casinos, telling him what works and what doesn’t. “Our team members are a terrific source of information, whether from their own experiences or from providing feedback from our guests,” he said.

“The more opinions I can get of how we do things or how we look at things, the better off we are. Everyone looks at things through different glasses and sometimes it’s good to have contrasting opinions. And sometimes supporting opinions for what you do give you a better outlook, too. Vendors are a great source of information as well. They can provide performance data and game analysis from many different gaming markets.”

When Neborsky isn’t researching new games for his floor, he’s out being as active as possible. He is a referee at baseball and football games for kids from youth up to high school-aged, attends movies and theater productions, barbecues, works on cars and motorcycles, attends biker rallies (apparently, the folks aren’t as intimidating as they seem), and participates in water sports like jet skiing, boating and canoeing. And if that weren’t enough, from Thanksgiving ‘til the snow disappears, Neborsky tries to get out to the mountains to ski as much as possible. He’s already looking forward to planning trips to Vermont this fall with his two sons, Matt, 18, and Nick, 20.

Skiing seems to be the top contender for his favorite activity. In fact, he confessed that if he hadn’t gotten into gaming, he may have ended up as a “ski bum.” “I probably would have gone away to college somewhere in northern New England, Utah or Colorado, disappearing into the mountains, skiing as much as I could and working as little as possible.”

Even though Neborsky didn’t take that fork in the road, he’s still ended up in a great location to participate in all of his hobbies, including skiing. In southeastern Connecticut, he’s a couple of hours from the mountains and mere minutes from the water. He also said that the environment is a great place to raise a family and continue his career.

But Neborsky didn’t always call New England home. He was born and raised in southern New Jersey, and got his start in Atlantic City. After graduating from community college, he had the decision to make whether to continue his studies at a four-year college or enter the gaming industry. He chose gaming and was hired by the Golden Nugget in 1979 to start as a slot mechanic at their opening in 1980. “There was an extreme amount of excitement and enthusiasm in Atlantic City at the time, and working for Steve Wynn—what an icon, just wonderful,” Neborsky said.

It seems, though, that Neborsky had gotten a taste for casino openings. He left Golden Nugget and opened the Tropicana in late 1980, and left there in 1984 to work for another icon at Donald Trump’s Trump Castle. Then in 1989, he moved on to the Trump Plaza.

In 1994, needing a change, Neborsky left Atlantic City for New Orleans to open two riverboat casinos. He had never worked in a maritime environment before, and really enjoyed the change of pace. He even got the chance to accompany one of the riverboats as it was sailed from Mobile, Ala., where it was built, across the Gulf of Mexico and up the Mississippi River to its downtown New Orleans berth. And according to Neborsky, you get a lot of stares when you take a bright yellow paddleboat out for a spin on the Gulf.

Both the riverboat casinos opened and closed, and within a year he was back north, part of the initial management team for Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. The casino’s pre-opening phase was challenging, as Neborsky worked on everything from designing game bases, and choosing product from slot and chair manufacturers to collaborating with architects and planning a casino layout. “All you have is blueprints,” he said. “All you have is drawings. You have nothing other than common sense and your own desire to get this accomplished—to be able to take little pieces and put it together bit by bit, piece by piece, until you end up with the finished product.”

And surprisingly, that product was finished in less than a year. It was a huge development for the Mohegan Tribe, both in the size of the property and the economic infrastructure that was put into place. Also, it was one of the few Native American properties open at the time. Neborsky stressed how fortunate he feels that he has been a part of the property from the beginning, seeing it through expansions and huge success. Mohegan Sun is also fortunate to have a VP of slots with so many skills in his tool belt.

When he was still in school, as well as at the beginning of his gaming career, Neborsky actually had his own subcontracting business for electrical work, building decks and minor alterations to homes. Through the years, either in that business or in fixing up his own “handyman special” houses, he’s done just about everything that goes into building a house, except for actually building it. “It helps to teach you how to fix things, how to build things, trial by error,” he said.

And the lessons he learned from working with his hands translated into his current career, where he has to “fix things” every day. In fact, his favorite aspect of his position is its daily challenges. Neborsky said: “What’s interesting about the casino business is that no two days are generally the same. You have operational issues, developmental issues, employee issues, projects, interacting with vendors, looking at new technology—every day is a little bit different. It’s a challenge. It’s very rewarding. It also helps to be working for a great company with terrific tribal, operational and business leadership that keeps the job fun. And they really care about the business that we’re all in.”

Of course, it’s not all roses, as all those challenges take time, and on occasion, take time away from one’s personal life. And like any devoted dad, Neborsky would love to take some of that time to be with his sons more. “One of my greatest personal accomplishments was the birth of my children—actually, the greatest accomplishment,” he said. “Having children changes everything, changes your perspective on what’s important in life. I mean this in a good way, not bad, regardless of the situation. It’s extremely rewarding to see them grow and develop, the gift that keeps on giving.”

But looking down the road, Neborsky doesn’t have plans of leaving the gaming industry anytime soon. “I’d like to continue to be a contributor and an asset to the Mohegan Tribe and Mohegan Sun, because I love working here and wish to continue to do so,” he said. “And eventually, like anyone else, I want to be able to retire and be comfortable … see my boys graduate college, see them be happy in their lives as they get older. I guess my goals are pretty simple.”

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