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The Casino Club at The Greenbrier

The Casino Club at The Greenbrier

Casino Life’s Steve Karoul chats with Todd Fishon VP Casino Operations , Greenbrier Resort, West Virgina USA.

Casino Life recently featured an interesting casino article written by Peter White.  The opening sentence stated “The Ritz Club is without doubt one of the most luxurious and exclusive private member’s club to be found anywhere in the world.  Having conducted business now in well over 100 different countries around the world, I have seen more than my fair share of casinos everywhere.  All casinos share certain common traits but some just stand out as extraordinary.  The Ritz Club is definitely one of my favorite as well.  However, if I ask different people what they think represents the finest casino in the world the answers will vary dramatically.  Normally the most common answers are The Ritz Club, Monte Carlo, Sun City and even the Ciragan Palace Casino in Istanbul, Turkey which unfortunately closed with the closing of all casinos in Turkey several years back.  However, there is one additional casino that is probably one of the best kept secrets in gaming history. That is the Casino Club located at the world famous Greenbrier resort in the United States. 

The Greenbrier has a very interesting history and heritage.  The Greenbrier has been welcoming guests, celebrities, dignitaries and royalty for over 200 years.  The Greenbrier is the oldest resort in North America and began operating in 1778.  Today the legacy of luxury continues at The Greenbrier which is now an award-winning resort located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia which is fairly close to the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.  As a national historic landmark, The Greenbrier Resort’s classic architecture, exquisite interior design, meticulously maintained landscape and gardens, impeccable service and outstanding resort and casino amenities invites a new generation to experience and enjoy each visit.  Both vacation experiences and unique gaming experiences set the Greenbrier above most other similar facilities in the world.  The Greenbrier combines the history, elegance and graciousness of the past along with exceptional comforts for today.  Most of the staff at the Greenbrier have been employed there for years with many of them proud of their 30, 40, or 50 plus years of continuous service making members feel as if they are almost family.  It is an overall warm and friendly atmosphere.  In summary, The Greenbrier is widely regarded as one of the finest luxury resorts in the world today.

The Greenbrier sits onover 10,000 acres of private land.  It is so large that they have their own farms and grow most of their own organic produce as well as raise some of their own beef and poultry.  The Greenbrier Farm provides farm-to-table dining.  Located on 40-acres of pristine farmland just east of The Greenbrier, The Greenbrier Farm grows everything naturally with no pesticides. A knowledgeable and experienced staff of blue ribbon winners with 32 years of experience oversees the planting and harvesting of a variety of prize-winning produce including heirloom tomatoes. The farm raises nearly all of the produce for The Greenbrier Restaurant Collection including 23 varieties of vegetables. The Greenbrier is probably best known for its world famous golf courses.  Each year now The Greenbrier hosts one of the most popular PGA Tour events called The Greenbrier Classic which is held on its oldest golf course known as Old White.  The Greenbrier has hosted well known golf pro’s such as Hogan, Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus, Trevino, Faldo, Watson, Ballesteros, Woods, Mickelson and many others.  The four distinctly different golf courses offer some of the best golf in the world in one location.  The Greenbrier and Sir Nick Faldo developed the state-of-the-art Greenbrier Faldo Golf Center. Featuring instruction based on Sir Nick's award-winning "A Swing For Life" teaching theories, this unique center is the only of its kind in the United States. Instructors are hand selected by Faldo and the center features Faldo equipment (irons, wedges and putters) as well as fitting systems by Edel in addition to the established brands of Callaway, Titleist, TaylorMade and NIKE. 

While players are busy in the casino the wives will have plenty to do roaming through the more than 50 quaint boutique shops located on property.  In addition, the Greenbrier has the world’s only Forbes Five Star mineral spa offering a complete array of both traditional and exotic spa treatments. The Greenbrier Spa is definitely a favorite with all of the women.  One will never be bored at the Greenbrier since the resort offers more than 50 different resort activities in very unique and very elegant surroundings.  In some ways a visit to The Greenbrier is almost like time travel back a hundred years ago.

Fine dining and impeccable service are part of The Greenbrier tradition and culture.  The Greenbrier offers fourteen unique restaurants, cafes, bars and lounges.  Regardless of venue or menu, every meal is truly exquisite and prepared by award winning chefs.   The Greenbrier also holds many secrets from the past.  However, their biggest secret is now out and is public information. The recently declassified “Bunker” at The Greenbrier is a must-see experience that takes you behind the scenes and walks you through a fascinating period in the resort's history. Carved deep into the mountainside beneath the West Virginia Wing is a very large and caverous emergency Cold War fallout shelter capable of housing and feeding the entire US Congress, President and Vice President underground for up to one year in case of a nuclear attack or some other catastrophic situation. This once top secret U.S. government relocation facility for Congress is now open to anyone interested in reliving a legendary piece of The Greenbrier history. Bunker Tours provide a unique and in-depth look behind the giant hidden steel doors and let you explore an aspect of The Greenbrier that no other casino resort can claim.  The Greenbrier is all about tradition.  Couples become engaged and married at The Greenbrier and their children and grand-children also follow suit.  Each year families visit The Greenbrier and begin a tradition that carries on for generations.  A large percentage of resort guests book the exact same dates, rooms or cottage year after year.  Many companies hold their annual meetings at The Greenbrier and also return year after year. 

The Casino Club at The Greenbrier is about the only facility that is new other than their Executive Health facility. The Casino Club was opened in 2010 with a truly gala celebration. The Greenbrier Clinic is known as "Pioneers of Executive Health." Executive health care makes good business sense today and helps to ensure future success for the resort. In 1948, the founders of The Greenbrier Clinic reasoned that healthy people make for healthy corporations. To ensure the health of the nation's top executives, the clinic was formed with the objective of providing complete diagnostic health care within the luxurious setting of the world famous resort. Their philosophy of executive health care is that regularly scheduled preventative examinations are the best way to reduce an individual's risk of developing a more serious disease later on in life.  Consequently, Greenbrier Health employs some of the best medical doctors in the country.  The owner of The Greenbrier is a local self-made billionaire named Jim Justice who has a vision for the way he wants The Greenbrier to operate in the future.  Jim Justice is a formidable looking individual standing almost 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighing in excess of 350 pounds but friends describe him as a gentle giant teddy bear with a heart of gold.  Mr. Justice is a very generous philanthropist giving away millions of dollars each year to various charities.  One of his personal pleasures is coaching the local high school girl’s basket-ball team. The ‘best of best’ is about the only way to sum up his vision for The Greenbrier.  Jeff Kimec, the resort CEO, is a real perfectionist and resort professional who is also totally focused on outstanding customer service and enhancing the guest experience at The Greenbrier.

Mr. Justice’s vision played a big role in the development of the Casino Club at The Greenbrier.  The casino is basically a private casino with a special license and is not open to the general public.  One needs to be a member of the resort, the golf club or a guest in the hotel.  Never-the-less, Mr. Justice still wanted to build one of the most elegant casinos in the world.  He personally visited numerous top casinos all around the world looking for ideas.  He eventually recruited and hired Todd Fishon as his Vice President of Casino Operations who helped Mr. Justice design his dream casino that would still fit within the elegance and tradition of The Greenbrier.  The casino is 103,000 square foot venue filled with world class gaming at its very finest.  The casino is colorful and reflects the creative talents of Carleton Varney, a world renown interior decorator whom was responsible for much of the interiors throughout the resort and the casino adding his own unique blend of color with creativity.

The casino has 320 state-of-the-art slot machines and 37 table games that include Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Baccarat and three-card Poker.  However, Mr. Justice felt that the casino was not a casino unless customers could hear the cling of real silver dollars hitting the slot machine metal coin trays.  Therefore, Todd Fishon had to conduct an extensive search to find twenty old reel machines that he had gold plated and reconditioned to operate today with real silver dollars. The slot cashier pushes what looks like an ice cream cart that contains the silver dollars which are actually quite rare today.  Todd told me that many of the silver dollars actually disappear from the floor since many customers want to take them as a souvenir or gift for their children or grand-children.  The Greenbrier Salon Prive is very elegant as well and offers players a more secluded area with substantially higher betting limits than those found on the main gaming floor.  The main gaming floor is also quite unique and contains a replica of the famous sulfur spring canopy right in the middle of the casino.  Each night at approximately 10:00 PM the casino offers a free floor show with colorful costumed entertainers who perform live under the canopy and throughout the casino. At the conclusion of the floor show is a signature dance choreographed to "The Greenbrier Waltz" while complimentary champagne is passed to all casino guests to make a toast to good health and good luck. If all of this sounds appealing one must remember that Casino Club has a very strict dress code that is enforced without exception no matter how big of a player one is.  Sport jackets are required by all males after 7 PM, no jeans and no jeans or slacks for women as well after 7 PM.  No exceptions.  The casino does however maintain a large coat room full of sport jackets in all sizes that they are happy to loan to any casino guests who may have forgotten theirs or that were unaware of the dress code. 

Overall the atmosphere at the Greenbrier Casino Club is very warm, friendly and fun.  Todd Fishon also understands casino marketing and creating unique fun casino special events for all of his members and guests.  Surprise and delight seems to be the norm where members and guests are concerned.  Whether it is a gaming tournament, a golf tournament or a casino special event the overall atmosphere is always “fun” and everyone seems to have a really great time.  The Greenbrier Casino Club is in a unique position of being housed at a very unique resort and therefore Todd tries to constantly utilize as many different areas and facilities for his casino members to enjoy besides just gaming.  Win or lose, nobody really cares especially if they had a fantastic meal and fun evening.  The Greenbrier has a great website with lots of photos for anyone interested in learning more. www.greenbrier.com

Steve Karoul is a well-known and respected casino consultant with over 35 years of experience. Steve has lived and worked in many different countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in more than 100 different countries. He understands gaming, online gaming, online poker, high rollers, casino junkets and Asian casino marketing.  He is also a gaming industry innovator who openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow casino industry executives. For additional information, Steve can be reached at skaroul@comcast.net  or www.euroasiacasino.com