Terry Lanni, Industry Visionary
Winner, G2E’s 2019 Sarno Award for Lifetime Achievement in Casino Design
Terry Lanni wasn’t an architect. He wasn’t a designer. He didn’t have a grand vision of what any property under his leadership should look like prior to its design and construction.
But make no mistake about it, Terry Lanni was a leader, and the shape of the Las Vegas Strip, and really the entire gaming industry, would be very different without his involvement for 30 years and more.
Lanni began his career with Caesars World in 1977 when he was named chief financial officer. He led the company’s entry into Atlantic City. While the original “Boardwalk Regency”—now Caesars Atlantic City—wasn’t an architectural milestone, it served the purpose. A converted Howard Johnson’s, Caesars Boardwalk Regency performed admirably, creating impressive revenues for the company.
It was later in Las Vegas that Lanni demonstrated his eye for the future of the industry when, as president of the company, he approved construction of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace against the advice of almost all the experts. In a short while, the Forum Shops became the most successful shopping mall in the world, starting a trend for retail to be included in all future casino resorts.
Lanni joined MGM Grand in 1995 as president and CEO after 18 years at Caesars.
Lanni helped to engineer the purchase of Mirage Resorts in 2000 and the even larger purchase of the Mandalay Resort Group in 2005. When Lanni joined the company, it operated one casino—MGM Grand in Las Vegas. When Lanni retired in 2008, MGM had full ownership of 17 casino resorts in Nevada, Mississippi and Michigan, and 50 percent ownerships in four other properties in Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois and Macau.
Lanni presided over the MGM Resorts board of directors when it approved the amazing CityCenter development, which
has become one of the must-see attractions in Las Vegas.
It was not only Lanni’s expertise in understanding what the customer wanted in his casino resort experience, it was also his dedication to the industry as an economic development engine and a positive member of any community where it is located. As a member of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in 1999, Lanni represented the industry with his signature class and charisma, earning the respect of even the most virulent anti-gaming members of the commission. The final report issued by the NGISC reflected Lanni’s views, and the industry emerged unscathed.
His commitment to diversity is celebrated each year at MGM Resorts, and has been emulated by all the major gaming companies around the world. His death in July 2011 robbed the industry of his vision, skill and sensibilities.
No, Lanni my not have had the architect’s eye or the designer’s palate, but he had the courage and the leadership to forge new ground in the gaming industry and helped to make it what it is today. Awarding him the 2019 Sarno Award at Global Gaming Expo in October is indeed appropriate and overdue.