William F. Harrah College of Hospitality Alumnus of the Year David Ross, '95 BSBA Management, ’05 MHA) is currently the CEO of Gaming Asset Management Advisers, a casino industry management and asset-consulting firm. He is also CEO of Gaming Asset Management Enterprises, an asset management holding company. Prior to that, he served as CEO and director of Affinity Gaming from 2011 to 2014. He previously served as the chief operating officer — gaming, for Herbst Gaming, a predecessor of Affinity Gaming. Ross also spent 25 years with Coast Casinos, now a division of Boyd Gaming.
Tell us about a when someone showed you unexpected kindness. How do you pay it forward?
I was not the typical student. Before I earned my degree, I entered the workforce and began a career in the gaming industry with Coast Casinos under Michael Gaughan and Frank Toti, my two mentors. Gaughan, who was Coast’s chairman and chief executive officer, had previously taught casino management at UNLV and was a founding member of the UNLV Foundation Board of Trustees. I learned so much from him, and not just about how to be successful in the gaming industry, but also how giving back is very much a part of success in this sophisticated, dynamic industry.
After receiving my bachelor’s degree from UNLV, I pursued my graduate degree, but also felt driven to give back to my alma mater. I co-taught casino management with Leo Lewis while attending graduate school. Along the way I also served on the UNLV Gaming Advisory Board, under the late Shannon Bybee.
Upon receiving my master’s in hotel administration, I again wanted to give back to UNLV. I was honored to be nominated to the UNLV Foundation Board of Trustees. I continue to serve in this role and proudly donate my time and make financial contributions to support UNLV and our students. In more than three decades in the casino industry, I have had the privilege of being the COO of Coast Casinos and later CEO of Affinity Gaming. Those companies have extended many intern opportunities to UNLV students and more importantly actively recruited and hired UNLV graduates.
From my perspective, since there are more than 100,000 UNLV alumni; if each of us can give back in some form, we ensure that UNLV continues to be a successful institution for this great community.
Gaming industry in his blood
Ross brings more than 30 years of executive-level leadership in the gaming industry, an industry in which several other family members have enjoyed prosperous careers. His father, Thomas, is a casino executive and Ross followed in his footsteps. His wife, Patricia, oversees the Michael J. Gaughan Airports Slots Concession. Recently, Ross’s daughter, Rebecca, graduated from the UNLV hospitality program and is currently working at South Point as she embarks on her own career in the industry.
Ross earned a bachelor of arts in business management and a master of arts in hotel administration from UNLV. He joined the Foundation Board of Trustees in 2013 and currently serves as second vice chairman and is also on the finance committee.