Massari Moves West
Mobster Bugsy Siegel came to Las Vegas with a dream to cash in on gambling. In many ways, he was the first visionary of today’s Strip. The Flamingo, Siegel’s lasting legacy, first opened Dec. 26, 1946. Siegel didn’t live long enough to see Las Vegas evolve into the gaming capital of the world.
When Massari first visited Las Vegas in June 1998, there were no such grand dreams—but there’s a happier ending. Wooed by the group that would open The Venetian, a dubious Massari planned to simply listen to their sales pitch and then have a decent time in a city he distrusted.
“I viewed it as a time-share presentation,” he recalls. “I had a preconceived notion of what Las Vegas was, and it was not positive.”
Overlooking the fabled Strip for the first time, Massari soaked in the impressive venues and hoards of travelers who’d already bought into the destination. He finally understood Siegel’s vision. But Massari saw something more for the city built on the desert—a need for corporate business meetings. Knowing he could add value to the already bustling Las Vegas, he signed on as director of sales at The Venetian.
In doing so, Massari became part of a new wave of hoteliers who would change the way Las Vegas did business. Gaming was never going away, but the idea was to take the city’s top strength—customer service—and turn it into a draw for meetings and events.
At the time, Vegas properties struggled outside the world of trade shows and expos. To expand business, hotels placed meeting attendees into the same category as a casino’s best customers. Amenities like world-class restaurants and top-level hotel suites got event planners’ attention while casinos worked furiously to create meeting space to match that level of opulence.
Massari’s fateful trip went “from being something to get a free weekend to becoming my life’s work,” he says.
Good or Lucky?
Caesars, MGM, Venetian and other Las Vegas hotels did their job well attracting meetings—perhaps a little too well. When the Great Recession struck in 2008, Vegas-based extravagant meetings felt the federal government’s wrath.
The meetings business Massari helped build crumbled. He estimates Caesars lost $100 million virtually overnight.
“It shook the foundation of everything we thought we were,” says Massari, who joined the Caesars team in 2000. “You questioned whether you were good or just lucky.”
Fast-forward nine years, and Vegas stands as tall as Massari’s 6-foot-5 frame. He and his counterparts adapted during the downtime, learning to streamline and cut costs—words not often associated with the excess the destination thrives on.
To this day, Massari says his focus remains on finding the most efficient ways to do business at a high level. Having long ago ushered in a new era to Vegas, he can only fine-tune the product. Indeed, many Vegas properties are undergoing expansions and renovations to ensure the meetings they lured to town in the early 2000s don’t think the grass is greener elsewhere, despite the advantage Las Vegas holds in amount of meeting space over other destinations.
Closer to his hometown, Massari is part of the effort to increase Atlantic City’s meetings presence. He played a key role in the development of Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, which opened in 2015 and has hosted several major industry events like MPI’s World Education Congress. His accomplishments for the destination are another reason Massari is considered one of the biggest proponents of face-to-face meetings in the industry.
Now in his mid-40s, Massari is hardly done in his career. But he isn’t looking ahead—at least for himself.
His daughters are now 13 and 15—the same age he started at September’s Place. And yes, dad hopes the kids follow in his footsteps. He figures the industry has at least 20 more years of growth ahead, making it a safe bet for another generation.
“The hospitality business is filled with people who love what they do and want to help others,” Massari says. “It’s got incredible experiences associated with it. I would recommend it to any person.”