Fresh out of college in 1986, a graduate of UNLV’s hotel school, Steve Cyr called his mother to tell her he wasn’t returning to Salina, Kansas — population 40,000 — and planned on pursuing a career in the gaming industry.
She told him there were only two places he could go: Las Vegas or Atlantic City, and Cyr didn’t like the cold.
Now, 33 years later, there are only two states he can’t go, as Utah and Hawaii are the only ones that ban all forms of gambling.
Doesn’t matter, as there’s only one place he wants to be.
Quick history lesson: Cyr revolutionized the casino-hosting industry in Las Vegas, as he grew in power from the late 1980s to the turn of the century. The only thing missing under his well-tailored suits is a tight blue body suit with red trunks, red boots, and a long, flowing red cape, as he became affectionately known as “SuperHost.”
Cyr earned additional stripes by becoming a licensed junket rep, which was defined in 2012 in an article from Global Gaming Business Magazine as “a hybrid cross between a salesman or a saleswoman, a casino host, an adviser and a gaming resource. In financial terms, a junket rep is usually financially successful because the good ones have the ability to earn a lot of money from lucrative commission programs offered by casinos.”
Often known as the highest bidder of information on potential clients, he’s transitioned with the times in order to compete in what some may call a diluted industry.
“I lose 25 percent of the database every year,” Cyr said. “They’re sick of gambling, they’re broke. Or they’re sick of Steve — it certainly doesn’t happen, but it happens.”
Still got it
Cyr still has his resources. He’ll always have panache. Only now, he’s officially licensed to perform the same services he blueprinted decades ago. Services that have always been the standards he set for the industry.
“I like that it’s a privilege,” Cyr said. “There’s 700 hosts in town. There’s only maybe 15 that have the kind of license I have. I love it. I actually hope you win. What happens if you win? You bet more; you play longer.
“I’m the one-stop shop for the high-roller. You freezing your ass off in New York? Let’s put you on a Norwegian cruise line. You want to go down to the Atlantis, or the Bahamas? You want something mellow? You got the family? Take the kids to Sea World. You go golf, let’s stay at the Barona or Viejas.
“We’re still 20 years ahead of everybody, and they want to come to Vegas. I still find people every day that have never been to Vegas.”
Cyr, whose book “Whale Hunt in The Desert” is in its third edition, is constantly networking, using his old-school savvy in a brand-new world.
“The biggest shock to me in my 33-year career is how gaming exploded and (is) accepted,” Cyr said. “Not only are we gonna have the Raiders here, but I’m gonna be able to sit and bet on it in the stadium on my phone. I thought it would always be taboo, and it’s not.”
Newcomers are the ones casino hosts are targeting, using methods or tutelage matriculated down from Cyr’s business model. From grunt host, to vice president for player development, to executive casino host — all at many properties — he’s helped mold the business.
But in listening to Cyr talk of his industry’s evolution, it’s more than his role in it. He appreciates the growth itself, more than the fact he’s responsible for the transition. The glimmer in his eyes as you stroll by a foosball table, guitar station and sports memorabilia in a would-be dining room, just past the front door in his adult playground of a home, it’s different. It means something.
Cyr points out his prize collections of memorabilia that somehow can relate to Las Vegas, and he loves talking about history and reminiscing about a time the introduction of resorts on Las Vegas Boulevard first took place.
At a time the biggest attraction on the Strip was the Mirage volcano, there were no hotel nightclubs and you could get a tall Long Island Iced Tea for $4 at Tramps nightclub, which sat on the corner of Flamingo and Arville. The entire property The Palms sits on now, across the street from the Tramps Plaza, was desert.
“Now, they’re selling a bottle of Skyy vodka for 400 bucks,” Cyr said. “You can go buy it at Albertson’s for 10 bucks.
“In my 30-year career, the first 16 years, I had more hundred-thousand-dollar players over 45 than under 45. It’s switched. I have 70 hundred-thousand-dollar players — which makes me Michael Jordan —most of ‘em are under 45 than over 45.”
And back then, Cyr said he had zero women high rollers.
“Now I got a ton,” he said. “Women gamble, they’re more independent. They play blackjack online, now they want to try it. And now I would say it’s 60-40 women to men.”
There’s also the vast difference from when gamblers called because they wanted to come specifically to gamble. Now they’re ringing Cyr’s private line looking for two things: “Who’s in the showroom, and what kind of room (is) being offered? Everybody knows about comps; everybody knows about discounts — I wish we would have never started that.”
It’s a conversation Cyr has seen exponentially change over four decades. Players calling their hosts, dictating what they want to the same guys who are scrambling to compete for high rollers at their respective casinos.
“Times have changed with that same phone call,” Cyr said. “How much discount am I gonna get if I lose? Are you gonna pay my airfare up front and how much do I get in promo chips for free play when I walk in the door? They all want to be treated like rock stars.”
For players from other states, where operations are smaller and they’ve bullied their way into the good graces of casino managers and hosts, Cyr said it’s harder to find true gamblers because they’re more intrigued by the perks.
“Come in on Friday afternoon and you and their wives or girlfriends want to go to the pool, and have drinks,” Cyr said, still in story-telling mode, as he makes his way past a gaming table at the base of two stairs that lead into the family room, which includes his fully operational, prized jukebox, a fully stocked wet bar and more memorabilia. “Then, after showering and getting ready for the night, it’s dinner at Nobu. Then you want to watch the house band for a little bit — which recently could’ve been the likes of Santana — and at midnight, your lady wants to go to Body English and intrigue the club.
“When are you gonna gamble?”
Cyr said he needs four hours a day just to be able to comp a room with so much ancillary stuff to do at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. So, he takes a $10,000 player north on the boulevard, downtown to the “Golden Nugget, which will still have a limo pick you up. You lose ten grand at the Cosmo, we’re gonna comp your room and that’s it.”
The good thing for Cyr, who said his book has helped affirm his history in the casino-hosting industry, is he still breaks his back to deliver his end of the negotiation.
“I gotta take care of (them),” he said. “I either comp you because you got your ass kicked, or you give me a shot at some money. You play four hours a day, you break even or win, I’m still comping (you).”
It’s the type of loyalty that meant something to society when Cyr was still grooming. It’s the type of loyalty he abides by in 2019. He’s survived it all, and remains loyal to not only his clients, but also Las Vegas. Since the day Momma Cyr said he could choose between two cities to launch his career, and he believed in one.
“I’m not saying I’m the best casino host of all time,” Cyr said looking back on his career. “But I’m on the all-star team.”
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