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In the C-Suite: Nick Polcino

Katie Tabeling
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Bally’s Dover Casino Vice President/ General Manager Nick Polcino

DOVER – If he had to choose words to live by, Nick Polcino’s would be “choose opportunity over security.”

After all, it’s what guided his career when he started as a craps dealer in the 1970s, and worked his way up to vice president and general manager of the Bally’s Dover Casino Resort today.

“I always tell people, change is good if you’re willing to accept it, and opportunities don’t come exactly how we want them,” Polcino said. “Often, opportunity is about leaving your comfort zone and working back into it.”

Polcino has been in the casino industry for 43 years, but in April he was named the local leader for the Bally’s Dover Casino Resort. It’s not exactly a new job; he served in the top job in 2019, and later went to Atlantic City, N.J., when Bally’s bought the casino there.

Now that he’s returned to the First State after a few years away, Polcino aims to stay. He jokes that he bought a new house and has no intention of putting it back on the market — and this time, he’s got a new game plan.

“When I was new to Delaware, I didn’t quite get how the community was huge here. I told myself when I was offered the job, my future here is going to be different,” he said. “I’m going to get more involved, and we have to get the Bally’s name out there and show the young kids there’s a chance for a career here, if they want it – or even just a part-time job while they’re studying hospitality.”

Growing up in Atlantic City when the casinos were newly crafted, Polcino started his career as a busboy and dreamed of working in the food and beverage industry. After getting his high school diploma, he didn’t finish his degree at Brookdale Community College. Instead, he worked in hotels and tended bars.

In 1979, he came to Bally’s Atlantic City Casino and applied for a food and beverage manager position. But on his way in for the interview, one of his regular patrons saw him – and offered him a job as a craps dealer instead. 

He fell in love with “life in the fast lane” as he put it, and quickly learned other games and started taking management courses. He was promoted to craps boxman, and later worked his way to other manager roles. 

“That was when [South African casino tycoon] Sol Kerzner took a liking to me, and he had the Resorts International hotel-casino in Atlantic City. But when I was brought on, it was sold – and I was worried about ‘last one in, first one out,’” Polcino said. “But that didn’t happen.”

Instead, the new management asked him to investigate some new casinos acquired in Mississippi. When he returned, he was asked to head up operations at Resorts Casino Tunica. He mulled it over, and a conversation over beers later changed everything.

“My son and I went to the local watering hole, and I was talking about it. He looked at me and said, ‘Dad, you’ve been lying to us? You have this great opportunity, and you’re making excuses. He was 21. I didn’t know whether to hug him or punch him,” Polcino said, laughing.

So Polcino took the job at Tunica. The rest is history.

He worked his way up the management at Tunica, and later managed the Riviera Black Hawk Casino in Colorado and the Golden Nugget in Nevada. In 2015, he joined win Rivers Worldwide Holding team, which acquired Dover Downs in 2019.  The company went on to buy the Bally’s name a year later.

Throughout those years, the key to success was adaptability. When he started attending meetings with the Mississippi gaming enforcement, he would come in with a mindset of what worked in Atlantic City.

“I was told it’s not New Jersey. And you know, they’re right. It’s their state. I can offer an opinion when I have one, but you have to adapt with the changes,” he said.

Looking to the future, Polcino  knows that the biggest challenge is shoring up the workforce at Bally’s Dover. He’s working on outreach to local high schools and colleges to show another career pathway.

The casino itself is due for some major changes. A new steakhouse, headed up by the Touch of Italy management team, will make a debut. The casino will hand off its banquets to a third-party. The spa is due for a “more futuristic” style renovation.

But thinking of the big picture, Polcino said the casino life isn’t about the games. It’s about the people he’s met throughout his career – and those he hopes to help along the way.

“Anyone can learn blackjack. The real reward is seeing someone get ahead, and saying, ‘I helped them.’ That’s my management style, trying to coach them to succeed,” he said. “I can’t drive to a building and say I did that. But I can say I’ve opened the door for kids who’ve gone on to executive roles in or out of the business.”

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