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Volume 20 No. 46
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Plugged In: Nehme Abouzeid, Vegas Golden Knights

Growing up in Boston, Nehme Abouzeid was a frequent pond hockey player and a Boston Bruins fan. But after more than 12 years working in the casino industry in Las Vegas for companies such as Wynn Las Vegas and Las Vegas Sands, the sport wasn’t at the top of his mind. That was until the NHL awarded a franchise to the city and owner Bill Foley. He quickly expressed his interest and became the Vegas Golden Knights’ first executive from the city when he was hired as senior vice president and chief marketing officer in November.

There are still people who think we have to sell 17,000 tickets to tourists every night. In fact, the tourists will be just the icing on the cake. There are enough people here to sustain two teams, and there is plenty of discretionary income because of the low tax rate. We’ve needed something to rally the community around here for a long time, and I think this team will be it.

On the buildup to the team’s launch next season: We have so much to do over the next two to three months, and almost all of it has to happen in lockstep. We’re building a marketing organization, while we’re working on events and our content strategy. In June, we’ve got two drafts, a jersey and a mascot unveil, as well as the opening of our retail store and our broader retail strategy. We’re also going to market on all of our sponsorship categories, finalizing our radio and TV deals and rolling out our foundation.

On the difference between the gaming and sports industries: Gaming is very collegial, but it’s extremely competitive. People don’t share data. They don’t share standard operating procedures. It’s a very tightly held industry. … Having the guide rails of the NHL has been really important, and the league office as well as all the teams has welcomed us into the family. They’ve … been extremely willing to provide assistance when asked.

On what sports could learn from the casino industry: Experiential marketing is still really an untapped area. Even though premium ticket sales do a lot of hand holding and touching, I think it hasn’t trickled down to all ticket holders. The casino industry does a really good job of one-to-one communication with guests, and I want to make sure we have that same approach.

On the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas: We gladly welcome them, and I think the 60,000-seat arena will be a game changer for the city and will benefit us all. The more high-profile events we have and the more international guests that come in to see them will only raise the profile of professional sports in Vegas.

                                                                                                                               — Ian Thomas