New Orleans native takes helm at Hollywood Casino

by Administrator
in People

When Justin Carter graduated Dartmouth College 20 years ago with bachelor of science degrees in biology and chemistry, it would have seemed a bad bet to predict he’d be in charge of a Toledo casino now.

But general manager of Hollywood Casino Toledo is the title he has held since late last fall, and Mr. Carter, 41, said his career change resulted from a recruiter’s visit while he was completing his master of business administration at Purdue University.

The man who once designed medicines for Abbott Laboratories in Chicago is now the person in charge of plotting the Toledo casino’s future — as well as that of the Penn National racetrack outside Youngstown whose state license traces back to the former Raceway Park in North Toledo.

Mr. Carter officially took the local helm Oct. 1 but spent about a month in transition between here and his previous assignment in Tunica, Miss., before shifting to Ohio full-time. He said Thursday that his first objective is ensuring the Toledo casino maintains its appeal for loyal patrons.

“The casino is seven years old now, and we need to focus on people who’ve been coming in since the start, so it always feels fresh and new to them,” he said during a Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce reception at The Heights in the Renaissance Hotel.

That includes making Hollywood Casino Toledo an appealing dining and entertainment venue even for patrons who aren’t necessarily interested in gambling while at the same time offering the latest in slot machines and other games for those who are.

“We’ll be purchasing a few hundred new [slot] machines this year” to keep that casino updated, Mr. Carter said.

For poker players, Mr. Carter noted, there are plans in the works for Toledo to become a stop on the Heartland Poker Tour, an asset Penn National acquired when it bought the Pinnacle Entertainment casino chain last year.

The mid-range buy-in tournament series has had events across the United States since its 2005 launch and already has a tour stop scheduled at Hollywood Casino Columbus in April. Mr. Carter said the Toledo stop is likely to be held during the summer, but its dates have not yet been announced and the event still needs Ohio Casino Control Commission approval.

Mr. Carter said he views the casino as “an integral part of the entertainment, leisure activities, and tourism” sector for Toledo’s regional economy, and he wants to support and help the local business community in any way he can.

The casino also needs to be “a go-to for charitable and civic activities” as well, he added.

A New Orleans native, Mr. Carter obtained his bachelor’s degrees from Dartmouth College in 1999 and had been promoted to supervisory management at Abbott when he enrolled in Purdue’s business school.

He said he expected at the time to stay in a scientific field when he got his MBA but was open to opportunity if it knocked, and that’s what happened when Caesars Entertainment recruited him in 2006.

“Once I started to learn what takes place in the business, it was a no-brainer,” Mr. Carter said.

With Caesars he held positions in St. Louis, Atlantic City, N.J., Kansas City, the Bahamas, South Africa, and England before concluding as assistant general manager of what was then the Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati.

In 2015 he was hired with Penn National Gaming as assistant general manager of its flagship operation in Charles Town, W.Va., then was promoted to general manager of the Hollywood Casino in Tunica.

After Penn National bought the Resorts International and Bally’s casinos in Tunica, he was named in May, 2017, as general manager for all three Penn National properties there.

In Toledo he succeeds Rafael Verde, who Penn National promoted to regional vice president.

“It’s a positive, a good testament to Toledo” that the casino’s prior general manager received that promotion, Mr. Carter said.

Coming to Toledo, he said, “was a great opportunity for me to be in a market that’s still growing, as well as receiving additional responsibilities.”

He has settled with his two toddler daughters, ages 1 and 2, and fiancee in Perrysburg.