Steve Callender has seen it all during his four decades working in the Atlantic City casino industry.
From the arrival of legalized gaming in 1978 to the economic collapse a decade ago that resulted in five closed casinos, to the more recent re-revival of Atlantic City, Callender had a front-row seat.
As the current regional president of Caesars Entertainment Inc.’s three Atlantic City casinos and president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, Callender has been the market’s de facto spokesman during the toughest 12 months the gambling industry has ever seen.
On Friday, Callender, 66, said he is calling it a career. He will officially retire Wednesday.
“It’s time,” he told Play NJ. “It’s been almost 43 years and there’s other things I want to do with my life.”
The view from the top is always nice
For most of the last 11 years, Callender has been an executive at Tropicana AC. He took over the top job at Trop in 2018.
“When Mark Giannantonio (former Trop president / current president and CEO at Resorts) hired me here in 2010, I said, ‘Mark, I’m working five years and that’s it,’” Callender said with a slight chuckle Friday morning.
After Tropicana’s former owner, Eldorado Resorts, acquired Caesars Entertainment in 2020, Callender was tasked with overseeing the company’s Eastern region.
Anthony Carano, COO and President of Caesars Entertainment, described Callender as “a true gaming trailblazer.”
“Not many of us can say we were there at the start of something and helped steer it into a powerhouse industry over a four-decades-long career. Steve’s passion for our business and its people made him a tremendous leader in both our company and the industry. Steve will be greatly missed,” Carano said Friday.
Carano and CMO Josh Jones will assume Callender’s duties leading the general managers at Tropicana, Caesars and Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, Horseshoe Baltimore and Harrah’s Philadelphia.
Next on the tee, Grandpa Steve
An avid golfer and frequent traveler, Callender said he wants to hit the links in new places.
“I want to have some time off where I can travel around the country,” he said. “I’m trying to play golf in every state.”
With six grandchildren living close by, he also wants to spend some quality time with the family. Grandpa Steve said he is looking forward to baseball games this spring.
Atlantic City is where it all started
Callender is no stranger to the Atlantic City market. His career dates back to May 26, 1978, the day Resorts International Hotel Casino opened its doors.
It was the first U.S. casino outside of Nevada and the granddaddy of Atlantic City’s East Coast gambling monopoly.
And Callender had a job from day one, working as a craps dealer.
It wasn’t long before he was moving up the corporate ladder. His career eventually included stints at Bally’s and the former Atlantic City Hilton before landing at Trop.
“I’ve been blessed and I’ve done the best I could everywhere I’ve been,” he said. “I did well for myself and, hopefully, I made every property better than I found it. That was my goal.”