In a city known for its constantly evolving experiences, a transformation is under way at Palms Casino Resort. It was late last year that Palms was acquired by Station Casinos Red Rock Resorts for $312.5 million, with plans to redevelop the property announced on its first-quarter earnings call. Over the past few months, Frank Fertitta III, CEO of Station Casinos, and Lorenzo Fertitta, chairman of Fertitta Capital and director of Red Rock Resorts Inc., have assembled a new team called the Social Experience Group, which will focus on a major re-envisioning of their 20th property and beyond.
Acting as chief experience officers and senior vice presidents of Station Casinos, twin brothers Jesse and Cy Waits, who have been fixtures in the Las Vegas nightlife scene for nearly two decades, will be in charge of the Social Experience Group that will first touch Palms Casino Resort, Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock Resort.
“The team will oversee the overall atmosphere of all the social areas of the hotels and create a unique and cohesive experience, from the vibe to the sounds,” Jesse says.
Jesse’s role is marketing–focused while Cy’s role is operational. They also will bring in new concepts and venues, and interesting activations.
“It’s awesome because we [work] really well together,” Cy says, in reference to his brother. “Our strengths complement each other. Jesse is really good one-on-one with people. He has a customer-first approach and a huge heart, which makes him a very giving person. We pick [each other] up in different areas. We both try to outwork each other, which is nice. And we share a lot of the same values.”
“Cy really excels at bringing people together and creating unity in groups. He thrives in a family and team environment,” Jesse says. “He is great on the operations side and likes to put in place very specific systems and policies to ensure the vision is successful.”
Both say they love the design aspect of hospitality and are heavily inspired by their travels.
So what can we expect to see with these two leading the social experience? Jesse says Palms is up first, capitalizing on the “natural evolution” happening in Las Vegas right now, which is the shift in focus from nightclubs to the bigger hospitality picture—a globally inspired and sophisticated aesthetic that translates into every part of the resort. In terms of specifics, they are still finalizing the deals that will shape Palms’ next iteration in the coming months.
Ultimately, the Waits brothers will help to carry out the Fertittas’ vision at Palms in addition to contributing fresh ideas for Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch. It’s all brotherly love between the four executives. Although they have known each other for years and maintained a friendly relationship, this is the first time they’ve worked together. It became apparent after initial meetings that their ideas were aligned.
“When we sat down with them, we started having this conversation and [there was] chemistry,” Cy says. “We had the same [picture]. Everything we would say, they were saying the same thing. We were speaking the same language.”
“Both Frank and Lorenzo are smart, visionary, hip and trendy guys, and it is very clear that they want to bring Palms to a whole new level,” Jesse says. “They don’t want to compete with the rest of Las Vegas—they want to create a niche of their own.”
In addition to the forthcoming developments from the Waits brothers and their team, Palms recently announced the opening of Lucky Penny, a new 24-hour café, and the impending closure of Bistro Buffet to make way for a new food–hall concept. In the works, there is a seasonal restaurant called Social Table, which will occupy the Hooters space until the end of the year.
Coming from a sleepy town in Hawaii, Jesse was the first to venture to Las Vegas in 1997. He worked at Mount Charleston as a snowboard instructor and then at Planet Hollywood Restaurant in The Forum Shops at Caesars in 1998. He later took a job as a barback at House of Blues in 1999.
Cy moved to Las Vegas that same year and worked in security at House of Blues. They eventually started handing out flyers and hosting their own industry nights at HOB. Both brothers say that once they got bitten by the hospitality bug, it was impossible to turn back. They loved it and wanted to create high-energy events. Cy transitioned to a corporate role with House of Blues and moved to Chicago, Anaheim, Hollywood and Myrtle Beach. In 2002, Jesse went to The Light Group, then to Drai’s After Hours. Cy returned to Las Vegas to become the general manager of Tabu Ultra Lounge at MGM Grand.
After Wynn Las Vegas opened, followed by Encore, Cy joined Jesse as managing partner of Tryst, Drai’s, XS and Botero, where they found their greatest successes—as well as opening Drai’s in Los Angeles.
The brothers say that Tryst was the pivotal moment that changed their career trajectory and gave them a true appreciation for the full customer experience.
And now with the new look and feel of Palms on the horizon, they are reaching a turning point once again.
“We are dependent on the local community and are keenly aware of how they are treated,” Cy says. “They are our best customers. Too many people in this town are dependent on tourists only. We want to have a good mix of everyone. We are creating a sense of family here on-property. We are going to infuse [a new sense of culture] into Palms. Everyone will make you feel welcome.”
The Waits brothers have assembled a diverse team to execute this new social vision. Meet the players …
Director of Operations
As director of operations, Mugnier hinted that the reboot of Palms Casino Resort is “art, music and technology-driven.” Living by a personal philosophy of “work hard, play harder,” he is excited to create something completely different for Las Vegas. He will oversee the execution of the property’s programming and will assist with new experiences. He will work closely with the corporate team at Station Casinos to ensure a smooth development and transition.
Dedicated to seeking out the best trends, Mugnier pays close attention to hot spots around the globe in places such as New York City, Chicago, Italy and France. He recently took a trip to Europe with Cy, where they scoped dining and nightlife concepts in locations including Saint-Tropez, Monaco and Nice.
Mugnier grew up in the French Alps and relocated to Colorado in 1996, bouncing back and forth between the states and France, where he managed hotels for several years. When he moved to Las Vegas in 2001, Jesse Waits and Victor Drai were two of the first people he met. Jesse was in charge of VIP services, promotions and management at Drai’s, while Mugnier helmed the restaurant. The two collaborated to create a well-balanced nightlife experience.
After Drai’s, Mugnier opened miX by chef Alain Ducasse, where he assisted with the restaurant and lounge. Upon his departure from miX, he connected with Jesse at Wynn, and Mugnier eventually became senior executive director of XS nightclub.
Assistant Director of Operations
Martin-Wood believes in working hard and treating people fairly. Originally from Iowa, her small-town mentality is something she hasn’t lost while navigating the complex world of Las Vegas nightlife operations. “The Golden Rule builds trust and respectful relationships. In this industry, relationships can make or break a situation,” she says.
Currently focusing on Palms, Martin-Wood is maximizing operations for the new concepts and venues that will soon be announced. She also assists with meeting goals and timelines, handles day-to-day operations such as creating training materials, developing and implementing standard operating procedures and creating job descriptions for existing and future positions. She bears the weighty task of melding the Social Experience Group’s ideology and philosophies into Station Casinos’ core values.
Martin-Wood met the Waits at Wynn during the transition from La Bete to Tryst nightclub. She was hired as part of the original team to open Tryst and then transitioned to a lead cocktail server role. She moved into a management role when XS opened in 2008 and was a general manager when she left.
The Waits brothers describe Martin-Wood as their “rock” for her business acumen. Thanks to an engineering degree, she thrives on organizing, prioritizing and pushing the envelope.
Director of marketing
Cooperman moved to Las Vegas two and a half years ago to be the creative director and director of marketing at Drai’s Beachclub & Nightclub. Growing up in Los Angeles, he developed a passion for fashion, owned a clothing brand called DCMA and was involved in the AGENDA trade show. With a zeal for art, he also became affiliated with the The Seventh Letter Crew, a group known for its street art.
Cooperman first met Jesse at Drai’s After Hours a decade ago, where he facilitated introductions to talent including the cast of The Hills, Lindsay Lohan and musicians such as Machine Gun Kelly. He also has strong connections in the sports world and has introduced the Waits brothers to athletes such as Ryan Sheckler, Nyjah Huston and Chad Reed.
“Tal is living, breathing and wearing the lifestyle of our target guest,” Jesse says. Cooperman is excited to help write the next chapter of Palms, bringing his business philosophy of connecting the right people with the best brands to come up with original ideas. He also hints at some new art elements that will soon start appearing throughout the resort.
“In terms of content, video is king at the moment,” Cooperman says. “We’ve made a concerted effort to ramp up all the video production for Palms, whether that’s a Silent Savasana [promo] video or a sizzle reel for one of the restaurants. We’re working to bring celebrities and influencers to the property and are also updating our social media platforms to reflect the new direction being taken.”
Director of Entertainment
Perrings got his start in Las Vegas nightlife the way most people do—as a promotions host selling tables. He launched his career at Wynn nightlife in 2008 and developed a close relationship with Jesse.
Passionate about music, Perrings would bring Jesse ideas for up-and-coming artists. Jesse says that he initially ignored Perrings, but once he saw that Perrings was able to consistently identify emerging talent, he put him in the role of entertainment booker, securing artists for Tryst and XS. Perrings also worked closely with the team that handled Encore Beach Club. He notes that one of his most valuable tools as an entertainment booker is attending festivals.
“Music festivals are where the talent is right now,” Perrings says. “You can easily see who is going to be accelerating in the coming months by how well they are received.”
Expect to see an influx of new names at Palms, including DJ Politik, who Perrings recently brought on.