Go Behind the Slot Machines with Empire City Casino Host Sal Sciarra
The Yonkers resident is a people-person to say the least, and even though we loves to see people win big, his biggest prizes are his friends, family, health and happiness.
photo by John Rizzo
How did you get to become a casino host at Empire City Casino?
I grew up across the street from it when it was just Yonkers Raceway. I always wanted to work with the horses. I became a groom in 1981, when I was 16 years old.
So how did you get here now?
I went on to have a 7-Eleven franchise for 15 years, and I was in the limousine service business, but I’ve come full-circle. I came back here in 2010, took a job as the food court manager, and, from there, a little less than a year ago, I was offered a position as a casino host. I’m a native New Yorker, so I love dealing with people. It keeps you young.
What exactly does a casino host do?
A casino host is a concierge for casino guests. I get requests of all kinds: Guests will ask to reserve their favorite table in Nonno’s Trattoria, secure tickets to shows by their favorite performer at our summer concert series, reserve seats for their favorite band’s performance, or anything else.
If you weren’t a casino host, what would you be doing?
Well, I’d love to be a professional golfer. I’m an avid golfer.
What is your gambling philosophy?
Responsible gaming. Go in with a budget, with what you can afford to lose.
What’s the most you’ve ever won?
I made a couple of thousand when I was in Vegas once.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen during the later shifts?
One of the funniest things I saw was around 1 am one night when I was walking through our entertainment lounge. A very popular band was performing, the dance floor was full, and I noticed one of our older guests, she was in her mid-70s, dancing like she was 30 years old with a much younger man. The crowd was going wild watching them.
What’s your favorite casino game?
We’re not allowed to play, but the favorite game for customers here is, without a doubt, Wheel of Fortune. In January, we had a $200,000 winner from Westchester County.
What did she do when she found out she won $200,000?
We had Champagne to toast and celebrate her big win. She cried and was in a bit of shock. Every day, we watch people win all amounts of money and they shout out loud, dance around, cry, high-five strangers.
What is she up to now? Does she still come in and play?
Yes. She bought her daughter a car and is planning a cruise with her husband in the near future. She still comes in every Wednesday afternoon for our Forever Young promotion and live entertainment.
What’s the best part about your job?
We had more than eight million guests in 2012 who came from all over the world to have fun. I love helping them have a good time. You end up making a lot of great friends in this business.
What’s your philosophy on luck? Do you believe there is such a thing?
A lot of our customers say they knew they were going to win when they hit a jackpot. I’m a firm believer in positive thinking, so I think that’s what helps provide a little luck.
What is life’s true jackpot?
Having good friends, family, health, and enjoying what you do in life. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.