With over thirty years in the casino industry, Steve Pfann is helping elevate the customer experience at Ocean Casino Resort. Steve is part of an amazingly talented gaming team who are engineering changes designed to entice and impress anyone that comes in to pull a lever or roll a dice. I sat down to chat with Steve as he planned a multi-phase refresh of the property’s gaming space. We discussed the start of his career, the lessons he has learned along the way, and how Ocean is changing the game in Atlantic City.
Michael Cook: How did you land in gaming and get started in the casino industry?
Steve Pfann: I was actually going to school and thought that it would be a good idea to make some additional money for tuition. Little did I know it would become my career. I came to Atlantic City and was immediately fascinated with the casino industry and everything that came with it. It was fun and it was fast-paced. Being 21 years old and getting a job where I was able to meet and interact with lots of people in a high-energy atmosphere was a dream come true. I really enjoyed it!
MC: So many people in the gaming business find themselves exploring multiple opportunities at multiple properties; were you one of those people?
SP: I am not really the type of person to hop around. I was in Atlantic City for about twenty years when an opportunity came up for me at Parx Casino in Philadelphia. Initially I said no, but Pennsylvania was new to the gaming market, and my competitive side kicked in. I saw it as an opportunity to go to a new property and face new challenges. I took the job at Parx and was there for almost ten years.
MC: How did you land at Ocean Casino Resort?
SP: I was happy and not necessarily looking for a change. But, when I spoke to the leadership at Ocean, I made the decision now was the right time to make my Atlantic City return. I was then, and continue to be now, excited to lend my expertise to a team eager to evolve and achieve their next level of success.
MC: How do you think your competitive nature and leadership style has helped change the culture at Ocean Casino Resort?
SP: From the casino floor to the side bets on the table games, a lot has changed since I arrived, and we are still evolving. Within my first year, I really dove in and identified things that could be adjusted. We are growing with an amazingly talented team and I am eager for what the future has in store.
MC: How is the growth of Ocean Casino Resort’s gaming area starting to take shape?
SP: I’m proud to say that we debuted our new high-limit slot experience, The Cove in late 2020, and we have so much more planned in 2021. In March we took gaming to new heights with The Loft, a private luxury gaming suite located on the 44th floor with astonishing views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We have also started a reconfiguration of the casino floor, including new pathways throughout the casino. I am so excited and I know that this year into 2022 it is going to be fabulous!
MC: What do you think are some of the biggest innovations to the gaming industry that have completely changed things?
SP: When I started in the business there was only Las Vegas and Atlantic City, so the competition was not what it is now. As new gaming jurisdictions opened, up you had to evolve in order to stay competitive. I believe it is all about the experience and what amenities you have that set you apart from others. That is something that we are working on at Ocean. Slot machines are more interactive than they have ever been. We have a vast selection that is constantly being updated by our slots team, championed by one of the best in the industry, Ted Herzchel, Ocean’s VP of Slot Operations. On the table games side, it’s about the novelty games and what you have that is different to entice customers.
We have customers on property weekly or monthly, whereas, Vegas averages less visits per year than AC. Because of that, it is extremely important to constantly update gaming entertainment to ensure that it never gets stale.