LuAnn Pappas has won consistently — although some would say the odds were against her.
“Not only am I female, but I’m also almost 65 years old,” says the CEO of Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort. “Age and gender don’t matter. You can overcome those things; it is how you chose to deal with it.”
You don’t have to take Pappas’s word for it; the proof is in the results. Recently, she was named a finalist for American Executive of the Year in the Global Gaming Awards, while the Scarlet Pearl was a finalist for 2022 North American Property of the Year.
“It’s 37 years in this business, and you say, ‘wow’; you don’t know what else to say,” Pappas exclaims. Attributing much of the success to the Scarlet Pearl team, associates, customers and surrounding community, she adds, “You have a family willing to do things differently, to not have any preconceived notions about how things should be done and very supportive of anything we want to try.”
The Global Gaming Awards, among the most prestigious in the business, honor leading companies, up-and-comers and dynamic individuals making their mark on the industry. Judges recognized that under Pappas’s leadership, Scarlett Pearl was the first casino in the country to have a 100 percent vaccination rate among eligible employees — achieved through communication, education and on-site vaccinations offered for staff and their families. Also mentioned was the support provided via the UKG Wallet, a financial wellness app meant to help employees through tough times by giving them access to a portion of their unpaid wages, as well as budgeting tools, educational resources and financial counseling.
As for the Scarlet Pearl overall, judges were impressed with the casino’s $13 million investment in VIP and high-end amenities.
“The luxury extends from chevron marble floors and gravity-defying bars to a buffet including charcuterie and an assortment of award-winning desserts,” they noted. “E.I.P. card holders also can enjoy the Parlor, a plush salon inspired by the nostalgia and glamor of private clubs from the early 1900s.”
Presiding over many improvements in her seven-year-tenure, Pappas can’t help but reminisce about the property’s early years, when it started without a database, virtually from nothing, and many doubted it could succeed.
“It is 24-7; there are sacrifices you make that do pay dividends in the end,” she says. “I did have a lot of great mentors, including my father.”
Raising her as a single dad, Pappas’s father taught her to work hard, “to never accept anything less, and always be very vocal when things don’t look right or feel right.”
“He didn’t like silent participation, and he had a saying: ‘Nothing gets done until someone becomes engaged,’” Pappas recalls.
Heeding his lessons, she climbed her way up through the gaming industry, working in retail, marketing, operations, food and beverage and other departments with Harrah’s Entertainment and Caesars Entertainment Corporation before becoming the Scarlet Pearl’s CEO.
Her strong belief in giving back has made Scarlet Pearl a local leader in charitable giving. In addition to the most recent accolades, New Orleans Magazine has named her a Steel Magnolia for her accomplishments as a businesswoman and philanthropist. She also has received Top Influencer honors at the annual Success Women’s Conference, been recognized by Global Gaming Business Magazine as one of 25 people to watch and received the Annette O’Keefe Humanitarian Award, among other distinctions.
The Scarlet Pearl likewise has been singled out repeatedly for excellence. For instance, in May, Casino Player Magazine named the casino resort the winner of six first-place honors in its annual Best of Dining and Nightlife Awards.
The Scarlet Pearl is the first Gulf Coast property to be a Global Gaming finalist since the awards began nine years ago and is the only finalist from the Southeastern United States. Pappas is also the first Mississippi gaming executive to be selected as a finalist in the award’s history.