His name is Larry Mullin. He may not be drummer of one of the world’s most successful rock groups (that Larry spells his surname with an “e”), but he has arguably enjoyed a career equally as exciting — and jet-setting — as his namesake.
Mullin is one of few people who can truthfully claim to have made a successful career out of gambling. Over the past 20 years, Mullin has not only witnessed the growth of Atlantic City as a gambling Mecca to rival Las Vegas, he has been a central part of it. He has run some of Atlantic City’s best-known casinos, gaining a reputation for excellence in marketing and a fierce loyalty amongst customers, many of whom take their business wherever he goes.
And his winning streak continues; in January, Mullin became President Chief of Operations at the lavish Borgata Casio complex, which opened in July 2003 at a cost of $1 billion. At Borgata, Mullin oversees the running of a 135,000 square foot casino, nine boutiques, 11 restaurants and a 2,000-room luxury hotel and Spa.
Speaking to the Irish Echo on his 44th birthday last week, he recalled a childhood that was far removed from such glamour.
Mullin grew up in a small town just outside Philadelphia. One of five children, he was a young boy when his father died.
With one income to support himself, his younger brother and three older sisters, Mullin supplemented his mother’s earnings by working in a local funeral home throughout high school.
Upon graduating from Westchester University with a B.S. degree in Business Administration, Mullin took his first gamble when he opted to pursue a decidedly livelier, but less certain, career.
“When I was in college, everyone was talking about getting into the casino business,” he recalled. “Atlantic City was fairly new at the time, it was just starting up. I decided to move there and give it a shot. I never left.”
Mullin started out earning $7 an hour at a promotions booth in the Harris Casino, but quickly began to work his way up the ladder. Within four years, he had become Marketing Executive. It was around that time Donald Trump called.
“He wanted to recruit me, the Trump company wanted me to bring my customers to them,” he said, sounding as if he is still felt in awe of the offer.
Mullin met Trump a month later, and began working for him in July 1988 (“I remember because it was the day of the Tyson-Spinks fight,” recalled Mullin). He spent 15 years there, eventually becoming Chief of Operations.
In October 2002, Mullin moved to Borgata (“My contract was ending with Trump, it seemed like the right time,” he said). But Trump left a lasting impression on him, even in a world where mingling with celebrities and public figures is an every day occurrence.
“He was one of the most remarkable people I’ve come across,” Mullin said.
“He was quite the character — very open, very down to earth — really aggressive. He kept firing all these managers while I was there. One Christmas Eve he brought me and another guy into the office. I thought he was going to fire me, instead he asked me to run the company.”
Someone else who stood out in Mullin’s memory was his namesake, U2 percussionist Larry Mullen Jr., whom he met on a trip to Ireland in 1994.
“I was with my wife, he was with their stage manager Joe O’Herlihy,” he recalled. “They were like: ‘your name’s not really Larry Mullin, show us some ID.’ I was afraid Larry would think I was some kind of nutcase following him around, but we had a good laugh about it. We got on great. He actually came over to us a few months later to watch the Wayne McCullough fight. We spent some time together, we went for dinner, it was great.”
For Mullin, a fanatical U2 fan, the meeting was a dream come true.
“I think they’re fantastic,” he said. “I’ve probably seen them seven times on this tour. I’ve seen them in New York and Las Vegas. I’ve met Bono twice, but very quickly.”
A few months back, Borgata made headlines when Guadalupe Lopez, a New Jersey resident whose daughter happens to be J-Lo, hit a $2.4 million jackpot at the Wheel of Fortune slot machine.
“I know her well, she comes in a lot,” Mullin laughed. “I’ve seen people win tens of millions of dollars here.”
For Mullin, meeting people is the best part of the job, whether they are famous or not.
“It’s a great business, its extremely busy, extremely popular,” he said.
“Everyone you meet is different. You meet celebrities, holiday makers, young people, old people, it’s a rush.”
Casino life certainly seems to have gotten into Mullin’s blood, or perhaps he’s just a glutton for punishment — for his birthday, he went on vacation for the weekend — to Las Vegas.
“Hopefully I’ll celebrate tonight with a pint or two,” he laughed.
A keen boxing fan, Mullin recalls the dates of many events throughout the interview by reference to fights that took place in Atlantic City around the same time.
He is not so keen to dwell on the downsides of gambling, though he does acknowledge its risks.
“Gambling is a form of entertainment. But, like anything, it can get out of hand,” he said. “I hate to see it. We try to get those people help. We put them in touch with counseling services. We train our people to watch out for them.”
When he’s not working, Mullin is most likely to be found spending time in his home just outside Atlantic City with his wife Trish and their daughters, 16-year-old Erin and 12-year-old Meghan. Erin’s name was chosen in tribute to Mullin’s Irish heritage. Having said that, he confessed to not knowing “a whole lot,” about his ancestors.
“My uncle did a family search and I believe we’re from Donegal,” he said.
“I’ve been there a couple of times and loved it.”