By Jen Khedaroo
As Public Relations and Community Director, Michelle Stoddart is the face of Resorts World Casino NYC.
Her responsibilities range from handling donations, responding to feedback, serving as the community liaison, and tackling any issues that occur on Resorts World property.
Whether it’s working with press on a story or working with various community organizations like Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, Boy Scouts, YMCA, Queens Botanical Garden and Queens Chamber of Commerce, Stoddart said she and her department have open lines of communication.
It’s a skill that she brought over from her time at the Queens Economic Development Corporation, where she was director of Marketing and Tourism for QEDC for six years. Stoddart was familiar with all of the arts, community and nonprofit organizations throughout Queens and the rest of the city.
“Coming here with that knowledge and being able to bring that to a new entity, a new industry in this borough, was what I could bring to the table,” Stoddart said. “Yonkers was the closest casino, but to bring it within city limits was huge.”
For Stoddart, a Kew Gardens resident, it’s also important to let the community know that while Resorts World Casino is a destination for gaming, there are still thousands of people who visit the casino for concerts and other entertainment options.
Many stop by just to watch live sports on the 18-foot-high television screen, the largest in Queens.
Upcoming events in August include Latin nights on Tuesdays, tribute nights on Wednesdays, and comedy nights on Saturdays. Actually, there’s a show at the casino’s Bar 360 every night of the week.
There are also dining choices such as the upscale RW Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar or the food court.
“Casinos in this country have different reputations, we just want to make sure that in Queens we’re seen as an entertainment center,” she said. “In the same way that you’d go see a movie or a play, we want people coming here for healthy entertainment.”
It’s important to the casino that guests are spending within their limits and that they visit the casino purely for enjoyment. There is a fine balance between gambling and gambling too much, and the casino offers a counseling office for those who need it.
When speaking with members of the community, Stoddart rarely focuses on the gaming side of the casino because Resorts World’s presence is already known in the community. Instead, she dwells on events and the arts.
And the recently announced $400 million expansion of Resorts World Casino will further its reputation as an entertainment destination. The project, which is expected to be complete by mid-2019, will include a luxury hotel and new dining, gaming and entertainment options.
In terms of the public’s trust, Resorts World has come a long way since first opening in 2011. Stoddart acknowledged that while the city had its concerns over the opening of a casino in the borough, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and its former executive director Jack Friedman met with the casino’s operators to get to know them better.
The result was a relationship in which the chamber helped get the message out to the community that Resorts World wanted to be a good neighbor. The chamber held a networking event at the casino, where they invited stakeholders to see the property and to tackle preconceived notions.
When the casino was being built, a lot of the buying and sourcing was done locally and the chamber helped to spread the word.
“It was important for us to have a strong business-centered partner to help us speak with the community,” Stoddart said.
Now in its sixth year, Stoddart measures her success by how “quiet” it is at the casino. Damage control and being responsive to issues is a big chunk of Stoddart’s duties. In addition to taking care of any problems that may arise on the casino floor, there is a heavy emphasis on security so guests can feel safe and secure.
For a venue that features 20 hours worth of entertainment daily, Resorts World’s corporate culture is strictly upheld. Employees receive training constantly. For example, customer service employees are trained when they initially start working at the casino and then there are refreshers and meetings held every morning.
“We’re under a microscope, so it’s very important for us to take whatever feedback we get and run with that,” Stoddart said.
In her profession, Stoddart has come to rely solely on the digital world for marketing for several reasons, including the cost effectiveness and reaching out to the younger generation.
“I just think in links, photos and blurbs,” Stoddart said.
For those starting out in the public relations industry, Stoddart offered a piece of advice for getting your name out there.
“There is so much opportunity to do it yourself now,” she said. “You can jump on Youtube or publicize the events of your friends that are singers or fashion designers.”
Anyone who is interested in public relations should learn business structure through an internship, she added.
Presently, Resorts World is marketing everywhere in the city except the Bronx due to its close proximity to Empire Casino in Yonkers. It’s a way to stay respectful of Empire while also catering to customers who may not have to take a toll or sit in traffic to get to Resorts World, Stoddart said.
Still, the casino sees many people come down from the Bronx to attend events such as Latin night. “In terms of marketing, we want people who want to come here,” she said.
In the summer, the casino sees a slump as people tend to leave for vacations. To combat a loss of business, the casino has several promotions and giveaways. In July, the casino’s giveaway was a new Lexus.
The most enjoyable part of her job is working with the community and local nonprofits. For Father’s Day, the casino exhibited photography based on fatherhood done by members of the South East Queens Camera Club. She also enjoys working with and building up organizations like the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning.
“When people come in and they’re pleased with what you’re doing, they build that trust with you,” Stoddart said. “And that’s what I’ve been able to bring to the table.”