I’m not gonna lie; I’m a big fan of Turning Stone Casino. I’ve been a fan since it first opened in the early 90’s when, compared to the casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it seemed barely like a casino I’d ever seen. Yet it was flashy and I enjoyed myself, especially once I stopped playing the slots and started playing poker in the early 2000’s, before the “hold-em” poker phase. I’m especially fond of their Season’s Harvest Buffet, where I once got to meet Ray Halbritter; cool indeed!
I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately as it feels like the central New York area is suddenly being saturated with new casinos. Maybe nothing like the other two cities I mentioned, but in February the casino at Exit 41, Del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre (their official address is Waterloo, but it’s actually in Tyre), will open, and it’s about 10 minutes closer to where I live in Liverpool than Turning Stone. There’s also the Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango, which is owned by Turning Stone so I guess that doesn’t necessarily count as much… although it does.
You might think that’s it, that’s enough. Nope! There’s also Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady and a possible casino (I haven’t heard if that one’s been finalized yet) in the Binghamton area. I’m not including the Batavia Downs Casino, the new slots at Vernon Downs, the casino in Buffalo and the one in Niagara Falls and one that’s been proposed to be in downtown Rochester (goodness!).
I’m not necessarily against casinos; actually, I’m not against them at all. What I am kind of against is over-saturating an area with too much of the same thing. For instance, I think Liverpool NY has way too many Dunkin’ Donuts (I live less than 10 minutes from 7 of them). This area was almost consumed by almost a dozen MRI centers in the early 90’s. And don’t get me started on all the drug stores, some within a couple of blocks of each other.
Why does Turning Stone work so well?
First, it was centrally located. Sure, it wasn’t Syracuse, but people from Rochester to Westchester County pretty much had the same distance in driving to get there.
Second, it brought in a lot of traffic from outside the state. Because it’s on the Oneida Nation property, people under age 18 were allowed to play, whereas the existing casinos in other states limited poker players under the age of 21.
Third, their growth has been astounding over the past 20 or so years. I can’t think of a time when they weren’t constructing something new, to the extent that they have 3 world class golf courses (I don’t golf) and bring in some of the top entertainment talents from around the world.
Then again, it’s easy when you don’t have any competition. What happens now that they’ll have lots of competition and probably lose at least 50% of their potential consumers? The surrounding counties aren’t going to send enough people to stay at their hotels, golf is seasonal, and I don’t believe some of these other locations won’t try to cash in on their convention business. I know already that the new casino opening in February already has a quality line up of performers booked including Flo Rida, Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall and Bad Company; not bad for a startup.
My worry is that the outside casinos will cannibalize the casinos within central New York, and that the outside casinos won’t be able to sustain themselves, especially since some of them don’t offer table games at the present time. Maybe they’ll follow the model of the racetrack casinos, which bolster slots with a few high quality restaurants and, at least at a couple of them, still offer horse racing. Then again, a couple of the new casinos will still have to tout the 21 or older mantra (such as Del Lago) since they’re not on a reservation, so that might help some.
I’m wondering what the opinion of others might be about the issue I’ve brought up above. If you’re totally against gambling, your response might be a bit skewed, but I welcome those comments as well.
Dr. Emad Rahim is probably one of the most accomplished people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing, and he’s “kind of” from right here in central New York. His is an intriguing story, starting off in the killing fields of Cambodia, then a refugee camp in Thailand, eventually making it to Syracuse where he lived his adolescent and teen years within an abusive family and selling drugs to help support his family. Eventually he saw the light to a better life and now, after a high number of accomplishments, he’s back in Syracuse trying to help those who deserve to live a better life.
Let me throw out a few bonafides from his latest book Resilience:
Emad is a Fulbright Scholar, TEDx Speaker, writer for Forbes and CEO Magazine, featured in Huffington Post, WorldClass Magazine and Syracuse.com (they beat me to it lol), Kotouc Endowed Chair at the Project Management Center of Excellence and an associate professor at Bellevue University, earned his doctorate via SUNY Empire State College with credits from Harvard, Tulane and Maryland/UC. He’s also served as a Dean for many universities across the country.
Trust me, there’s a lot more, but if I type it all we’ll never get to the interview. Let’s get started:
1. To prove you’re from Syracuse, name 3 things you like from your past here.
As a kid, my favorite memories were skipping class at Grant Middle School to play video games at Buttons Arcade on the north side, Friday nights at Dance and Skate and teen nights at the Country Club.
2. How did Syracuse University miss having you as a student?
I earned my diploma from Fowler High School through the Occupational Learning Center (OLC), which focused more on teaching us vocational skills at Central Tech. I had a learning disability that negatively impacted my writing, spelling, math and testing abilities. I barely graduated school and was not aware of entrance exams like the SAT or was equipped to complete a college application without adult assistance. A school as prestigious as Syracuse University seemed out of reach for me and my peers.
Those that graduated, were either going to community college or was trying to secure a full time job. In addition, I was the oldest in my family and was responsible for helping my mother and siblings. I ended up going to Onondaga Community College (OCC), and worked multiple jobs in the evening and weekends to help my family. OCC provided me with a great education and the opportunity to find myself.Resilience
3. Let’s talk about the book. It’s a mixture of stories from your past and lessons that help explain the SALT principle. Who came up with that as an idea, you or Dr. Casey?
Dr. Casey Reason and I came up with the SALT model together. I spent a few days at his house in Prescott Arizona to design the layout of the book. Casey had written dozens of leadership books and was an award-winning author. After we had worked out the different type of stories that will be included in the book, Casey developed a storyboard to organize all of the content. Based on the topics covered and transition of the stories, and being a Syracuse native, the SALT model was born.
4. Many people living in this area believe that Syracuse gangs aren’t really gangs, because they try to compare them to those in larger cities. Is it a different structure or the same structure but on a smaller scale?
We have/had real gangs here for many years. When I grew up many of the gangs were connected to different housing projects in the city. When I was in high school certain neighborhoods and city blocks started associating themselves with gang names and connections. In addition to the local gangs, we have/had Latin Kings, Bloods and Crips. I went to school with a lot of them.
We also have a Gang Violence Task Force, and in 2003 the RICO Act was used to indict several local gang members in the city. If you know anything about the RICO Act it is used to do after organized crime, which was initially developed for the Mafia. So, I don’t think it’s a different structure or scale. Gun shootings, murders and robberies are all terrible crimes. While gang culture plays a role in them, I believe things like poverty, drug abuse, and the lack of education, opportunities and the support of loving parents play a larger role in our problems with violence.
5. You got some tough love from a couple of people who supported you and convinced you to change your ways. Why do you think they were drawn to help you, and are they still around?
I am unsure why certain people decided to be my mentor, but as a young adult I knew that modesty and honesty was key to securing professional mentors. I would attend different events and functions in my early 20s and made it my job to learn about people, not what they did for a living. I would work the room, and try to find opportunities to add value to a conversation or solution to a problem. These types of interactions got me invited to private conversations with people that eventually become my mentors and coaches.
As a kid, I had a hot temper and got into a lot of trouble. Will Dowdell, a former administer at Fowler High School, took upon himself to mentor me and became my father figure. I learned what it took to be a man through him. He is still in my life today. Mr. Dowdell somehow saw potential in me and pushed me to succeed.
6. When you decided you were ready for a change, what steps did you take to begin the metamorphosis?Emad & Cjala
I developed a career plan that included the need for a college degree, developing new skills, obtaining more professional experience and growing my network. As my career aspirations change, my plan gets modified. But, the foundation stays the same. As I got more education and new experiences, my network and skills grew. I started to travel more, became more cultured and my professional network pool evolved. This also impacted my self-esteem, self-confidence and leadership skills. The more I learned, the more ambitious and curious you became.
7. Can you briefly explain SALT for the readers and how you came to designate what the “L” stood for?
The SALT model of Surviving, Adapting, Loving and Transforming was used to help me overcome the adversities that I faced in my life. Love to me is the most important model because we often overlook the power and need of Love. We take it for granted. Surrounding yourself with people that truly love and care about you is critical for success.
When we think of successful people that we admire, we often overlook the friends and family members that are there supporting them throughout their careers. We also don’t realize that developing and growing Love takes hard work. We want Love unconditionally, but often don’t express it that way with others.
8. What are the 3 top challenges you believe the city needs to address to reduce the poverty and get people moving forward again?
1. We need to improve public school education and deal with school bullying and drop-out rates
2. Create job diversity that starts in high school and turns into career opportunities after graduating
3. Having more community programs that bring people together and are affordable to the public: after-school, internships, family events, festivals, arts exhibition, health programs, etc.
9. You started from a background worse than most Americans could have ever conceived and have ended up achieving so much. Do you feel destined for success or do you see some of this as a path that anyone can achieve with a bit of perseverance and belief in oneself?
My past makes me humble and grateful. I could have been this angry kid that turned into an angry man, and blame everyone for my situation. But, I came to realize that my childhood experience helped to make me the man that I am today. This is why I believe everyone has the ability to achieve greatness. I am great example of this.
10. Your turn; what would you like to share about you, about your books, how to contact you, about Syracuse and your favorite movie of all time?
Here are some links to connect and learn about my work:
Blog Content: http://www.intelligenthq.com/emad-rahim/
Thanks to Dr. Emad Rahim for this interview; lunch is on him! 🙂 BTW, this post contains affiliate links.
Before I get too far, since it’s my blog, I’d like to mention that I made a top leadership blogs list for Mitch’s Blog; I’m feeling kind of good about that. 🙂
I can’t believe I’ve had this blog this long and haven’t ever talked about this consultant’s organization I belong to. It’s called The Professional Consultant’s Association Of Central New York. It’s geared towards mainly individual businesses for whom services accounts for at least 51% of their business. In other words, if you make jewelry or pizza you’re not really considered a consultant, even if you’re self employed. You’re considered a consultant if the biggest part of how you make a living is in working with others by offering services of all types, which can be consulting (like me), accounting, training, financial services, etc. The organization even accepts companies that have multiple employees as members and will be charged a corporate rate, where they can send as many members as they wish.
I’ve been a member since 2002. At the present time I’m on the board of directors and I manage both the website and the blog (I write most of the posts but I also post articles other members send me). I found the group when I was still pretty new to consulting and tried calling a bunch of consultants to ask them for general advice. Only one of them talked to me and he invited me to this group… and the rest is history.
It’s not a tip club; heck, there’s too many of those around already. Instead, it’s an educational and networking organization where topics are selected with the intention of imparting both knowledge and wisdom that independent contractors could use. Occasionally we’ll have guest speakers that involve those who have achieved great success, those who can offer advice on things like social media, finances and general legal advice, as well as those who are involved in events and organizations within the community which many of our members might want to know about.
One of the special things our organization does that very few others do is what we call our roundtable events. That’s where we’ll take a topic that we believe will be of interest to our group, then have one of the members moderate it, which often includes an introduction to the topic, and then everyone gets to share their thoughts on it. I’ve gotten some of the best information and education from these sessions because, as you might expect, the average age on the consultants in the room is around 50 or so.
A couple of the roundtable discussions we’ve had this season include: Public Professionalism & Social Media (I led that one) and Networking 101. Two of the programs we’ve had were: Cyber/Internet Security for Small Business and Syracuse CoWorks/One Million Cups.
We also have member spotlights, where each of our members gets to do a 3-5 minute presentation about their business or their skills, then entertains questions and suggestions for the next 5 minutes. Members find that valuable on both ends because one gets to learn how to refine how they define themselves while the membership gets to know each other better. Once again, there are no other organizations that do such a thing.
Finally, the main thing that explains what are group is about is our code of ethics, which is the organization’s most visited page. Members must be in high standing and be approved to join, and if they breach the ethics policy they’re kindly asked to remove themselves.