The Gaming Life: London Swinney

Driven, independent and full of heart, London Swinney fits the definition of a strong businesswoman. Swinney is the vice president of table games at Luxor Las Vegas and the Excalibur Hotel Casino, overseeing table games, race and sports, and poker for the two properties.

“I am proud to have the opportunity to oversee the casinos at two large properties,” she said. “I feel fortunate that the people I admire at MGM Resorts have the confidence in me to encourage my professional growth.”

Swinney has been with MGM Resorts for 18 years, previously working at MGM Grand, MGM Grand’s Mansion casino, The Mirage, and New York-New York Hotel & Casino.

Her 23 years in the industry began with a desire to move out of her parents’ house and purchase her own house at age 21. She discussed the idea of learning to deal cards with her father, who has worked in the industry for 42 years.

“He tried his very best to talk me out of dealing,” Swinney said. “He said that I would never work in finance if I became a dealer. Although my dad had always encouraged and supported me in anything I wanted to do, he was not happy about me working in a casino.”

Without her father’s blessing, Swinney went to a dealing school on Fremont Street and learned to deal blackjack while still pursuing a degree in finance at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A month later, she was a break-in dealer at the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino.

“Financial independence attracted me to the gaming industry and to my surprise, I loved working in casinos. Even as a dealer, no two nights at work were the same,” Swinney remarked. “I enjoyed the challenge of keeping customers entertained while they were winning or losing money. I found the eclectic group of people I worked with fascinating.”

After five months at the Gold Coast, she auditioned and was hired as a dealer at Bally’s Las Vegas Casino Hotel. In 1993, she opened MGM Grand Las Vegas as a baccarat dealer, and so began her long career with the company.

Today, Swinney’s father is proud of what she has achieved in the gaming industry. “My father has always told me that I could be and do whatever I set my mind to,” she said. “All career fields come with their own unique challenges and rewards.”

An endless list of current and former people in executive leadership roles helped—and still do help—Swinney grow in her career. Some of her mentors include: Bill McBeath, president and COO of ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel and Spa at CityCenter; Brian Benowitz, vice president of table games at ARIA Resort & Casino; Cynthia Kiser Murphey, president and COO of New York-New York Hotel & Casino; Trevor Scherrer, senior vice president of casino marketing for MGM Resorts; Renée West, president and chief operating officer of Excalibur Hotel Casino and Luxor Hotel & Casino; Scott Snow, senior vice president and CFO of Excalibur and Luxor; and Debra Nutton, senior vice president of casino operations and marketing at MGM Grand Las Vegas.

“I have had the pleasure of working with some of the smartest people in gaming and hospitality,” Swinney said. “Not only are they smart, but they share their knowledge and experience in order to nurture the growth and development of their teams.”

A few key women stand out in Swinney’s mind when she thinks of who blazed the trail for females in gaming—Nutton, West, Kiser Murphey, and Gracie Olson, vice president of table games at The Mirage, have all been an inspiration to Swinney.

Kiser Murphey is the second woman to be named by MGM Resorts to head a major Strip property, following West, who was appointed president and chief operating officer of Excalibur in 2005. Olson and Nutton started as craps dealers when there were hardly any female dealers, especially in craps.

“I can honestly say that I have not found it difficult to be a woman in the gaming industry,” Swinney said. “I am fortunate to have followed some fantastic women who blazed the trail for me and other women in gaming.”

When her grandfather and father started out in gaming, there were far fewer women in the industry. “Obviously, my dad never imagined that I would work in gaming,” Swinney said.

Swinney added that she, too, never thought she’d work in gaming. As a child, she dreamed of becoming a pilot, news broadcaster or interior designer. In high school, she dreamed of working on Wall Street. Her interest in finance and Wall Street was sparked in a government class where she had to pick a stock and follow its performance for the school year.

“I purchased 1,000 shares of L’Oreal, I was 16, what can I say,” she said. “At the time, you had to check the performance in the newspaper or the Wall Street Journal that our class shared. I suppose there are similarities in gaming and the stock market—in both cases people bet to win knowing that they may not. Casinos and gambling are for fun and entertainment.”

Swinney knows a thing or two about fun. “My children like to say that I laugh loud and sometimes I’m the only one laughing,” she said. The mother of two and philanthropist enjoys charity work, spin classes, reading and watching news, golfing and cheering for her children at their sports activities.

“Charity events are opportunities to give back to the community while also spending fun time with my children,” she said. “It’s important for my children to learn more about the community and to contribute in making their community a better place for all people to live.”

Balancing personal life and career is vital to Swinney. She counts her tremendous family and friend support as a key factor in maintaining her busy life. “I am very fortunate to work for a company whose leadership encourages work and family balance,” she added. “I don’t know how working moms functioned before BlackBerrys!”

Swinney’s primary goal for the future is to guide her children to become healthy, happy, productive adults. She also looks forward to her future with MGM Resorts, which she describes as a “growth-oriented company.”

She has seen growth and changes during her 23 years in the gaming industry. Swinney grew up in Las Vegas and recalled that children were rarely seen in casinos. “Families didn’t walk through casinos to go bowling or to see a movie,” she said. “Las Vegas is no longer just a gambling destination. Dining, retail and entertainment have created a broader audience for Las Vegas.”

She noted that customer behavior has changed greatly too. Casino operators are tasked with improving customer loyalty without eroding margins. “Table games customers have always been attracted to Las Vegas for the glamour, excitement and action. A big fight, concert or even just gambling were good enough reasons to go to Vegas. Now there is an expectation of extra incentives,” Swinney explained.

She said slot manufacturers have introduced some exciting new virtual table game technology to the market. “They are the closest I’ve seen in simulating live table games. I don’t see them as competition for tables. They are great transition games for the novice table games customer.”

As with most industries, the economy remains a challenge in the gaming industry. “It’s been a tough time for the community and people that I work with,” Swinney said. “Keeping employees upbeat and motivated is more challenging when futures are uncertain.”

Employees, customers and people in general are Swinney’s favorite parts of her job. She enjoys collaborating with co-workers on improving business and the guest experience. The dynamic nature of her job keeps her interested—there is always a new guest, employee or business-related situation.

“There are people that come from all over the country and all over the world to work in Las Vegas. I grew up on the west side of Las Vegas and it was a very small town,” she said. “To me, working in a casino in Vegas is like traveling all over the world and meeting new people without getting on a plane.”

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