Winging away to a VIP experience in Vegas

2013-03-21T14:49:00Z 2013-03-22T10:58:56Z Winging away to a VIP experience in VegasBy Lu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent
March 21, 2013 2:49 pm  • 

GARY | One by one, five Horseshoe Casino’s employee-turned-VIPs and their guests stepped from stretch limousines and into the Gary Jet Center at the Gary Chicago International Airport on Thursday, where their bosses greeted them with applause, signs, maracas and colorful clappers.

It was an exuberant sendoff aboard a private corporate jet to Las Vegas for the winners of the casino’s Trip of a Lifetime contest. The contest was the culmination of an incentive program for employees to drive customer service.

The five were selected at random from a pool of front-line employees and first level supervisors. These employees received more “A” scores from guest surveys than in previous years, said Dan Nita, senior vice president and general manager Horseshoe Casino Hammond, who greeted each employee and guest.

Welcomed aboard the luxurious Gulf Stream IV by Capt. Gary Webb were marine operations deckhand Bobby Oaks and his wife, Michelle, of Whiting; slot supervisor Amanda Weaver and husband, Chris, of Crown Point; dealer Anna Haro and husband, Juan, of Hammond; bartender Mike Hayes of Sauk Village, whose guest is fellow Horseshoe employee Joe Milanovich; and tables games supervisor David Von Alven and girlfriend, Malisa Moles, both of Beecher.

For Bobby and Michelle Oaks, the trip is a belated honeymoon.

“We got married in December and I had to get right back to work,” he said. “I’ve never been to Vegas.”

Amanda Weaver proclaimed, “I don’t know how I won. I’m never lucky.” Her husband said he’s never flown in a plane.

“Well, this is a great first experience,” said Erin Chamberlin, vice president and assistant general manager of Horseshoe Casino Hammond. Chamberlin and Dawn Reynolds Pettit, vice president of human resources, flew aboard the jet with the newly-minted VIPs to help arrange all the luxurious details of their trip.

“They will be put up in our newest hotel tower at Caesar’s Palace, will stay for four days and three nights with $1,500 spending money to go to the spa, dine, attend shows, have a personal host for the weekend, and the list goes on,” said Nita.

Relaxing and visiting the spa are high on Anna Haro’s list for Las Vegas while her husband said he’d spend time gambling.

“When they called me at home to tell me I’d won, I kept saying ‘stop lying to me,'” she said.

Von Alven said he hopes to “win big and walk the Strip.”

A frequent visitor to Las Vegas, Milanovich said he plans to show first-timer Hayes the ropes and downtown.

“I’m going to call a woman I know there and ask her to pick us up and take us some places,” Milanovich said.

Although the signs supervisors carried suggested that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, each employee was given a camera with video recorder.

“We want them to record their experiences and then when we have all-employee meetings, they can have our other 2,100 employees share their experiences,” Nita said.

Laughing, Nita also gave a last-minute “order” to the employee winners and their guests:

“No drama. Anybody who goes to jail, stays in jail.”

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