MGM’s Tony Gladney on the rise of Las Vegas to the Super Bowl

Yahoo Sports’ Jason Fitz, a native of Las Vegas, is joined by MGM Resorts International Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - himself a former UNLV football player, San Francisco 49er and member of the Super Bowl LVIII host committee - to reflect on the city’s climb to hosting the premier sporting event in America.

Video Transcript

- Hanging out with Tony Gladney. You might remember him for his playing days here in Vegas, but also, now, you would know him from MGM Resorts International, where he is the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. And I'm excited to talk to you, brother, because I am from Vegas. I grew up in Vegas. I grew up a UNLV fan. You played at UNLV.


- And I think this shining moment of Las Vegas getting so much love. It's incredible.

TONY GLADNEY: It's incredible, Fitz. And to see what's going on here, to see the excitement of the Super Bowl, Fitz-- amazing. I mean, you and I both know, and growing up here, that the big game in town was the UNLV Running Rebels and the sports associated with that. I played football. But fathom, and to think that we would have a Super Bowl here is just amazing. It's so exciting to me, Fitz.

- I remember spending years apologizing-- when I moved around the country, apologizing for being from Vegas, because people had such a stigma. You're like, oh, I'm from Vegas. And then you'd have to tell-- you can talk about UNLV football.

You'd have to remind people that Randall Cunningham and Ickey Woods were part of it. Like, you had to go through this whole storytelling process. I think one of the cool things that's happening right now is the NFL is telling the story for Vegas for the first time at this huge level.

TONY GLADNEY: They are. And when you say that, you are so on point, because you're always explaining. People would express, hey, you know, how is it to live in Las Vegas? I know when I signed with UNLV to play football, people said, are you kidding me?

You're going to UNLV? Like, do you guys even have a good football team? But you're right-- the legitimization of not only what we're doing now, Fitz, but what has taken place-- and, to your point, that association of the greatness of this town that has been taking place and has been building up to this moment.

- Don't you see that, too, when you think about MGM and you think about what has happened in the city? Like, I grew up in an era where Fremont was actually-- Fremont was kind of it, right? And then The Strip started to blow up, and mega resorts started to blow up.

But what you see is, like, iron sharpens iron. We're talking about football-- iron sharpens iron-- in this city, because there are so many options for entertainment. There are so many options for gambling. There are so many options-- there are so many things to do. Iron sharpens iron.

Like, I don't think this is just a gambling city anymore or an entertainment city. It's a little bit of all of it, right?

TONY GLADNEY: Yeah. I mean, Fitz, when I was here at UNLV, you know, your options was maybe you check out a Paul Anka show. Maybe you go check out, like, a Show Jubilee at Bally's. Now, what's taking place, and what has taken place, and what will continue to take place where you can go to a Raiders game, you can go to a Golden Knights game, you can check out a show with Usher at Park MGM, Lady Gaga-- the offerings that you have now has really turned what we see now as what was the entertainment-- now, the entertainment and sports capital, which we feel are forming very quickly, in the world.

- I think that had to happen, too. Like, realistically, you can't be one thing in today's world anymore. You got to be everything. So you've got to hit everybody everywhere. I mean, we're doing this at Yahoo.

Like, we're not just making-- we're not just writing articles. We're also making video, and we're doing social-- like, this is the way the world works. I think when you think about what Vegas is doing right now, what you're seeing is this growth of everything to try and support everything as you build up to be-- you want to be the one-stop shop.

TONY GLADNEY: You want to be that one-stop shop. And to your point, the buildup as far as our goals, making sure that people have experiences to where they want to come back. And so that buildup is definitely in play.

But in transitioning, that buildup also comes with a responsibility. And that responsibility is companies like MGM Resorts, the largest employer in the state of Nevada, making sure that we're acting, and contributing, and participating in those communities where we operate in a responsible way. And obviously, the mothership being right here in Las Vegas in the state of Nevada, and that's why you see a company like ours making sure that with all the excitement that we're a part of right now, the Super Bowl that we're a part of, that we're taking responsibility for making these communities and this community better, and making sure that we take a responsibility to make sure that we are involving ourself in championing causes that make sure that move forward corporate responsibility or corporate social responsibility within our community.

So to your point, it's a buildup. With that buildup comes that responsibility. And that's the one thing that we're trying to make sure at MGM Resorts, which I've been a proud member or proud executive-- that we're a part of making sure that that responsibility comes from a full-fledged-- just from a full-fledged participatory scenario.

- That's part of the opportunity, right?


- When you think about the opportunity to tell stories, which is what we're all doing about Vegas, you think about the opportunity and the raised profile, it creates an opportunity for philanthropy, right? It creates an opportunity a responsibility to give back. Like, if part of-- to be deep for a second, if we're going to sit here as a community and say, let's bring stadiums in, let's bring teams in, let's put public funding to all of these things-- if you're going to do that, then the question becomes, what's the benefit other than just cash? So philanthropy, obviously, becomes part of the focus and has to, right?

TONY GLADNEY: Absolutely. When you look at it, Fitz, and you look at the very essence of the event that we're here for, the Super Bowl, you look at what's been linked to going in, obviously, to the game, the preparation-- but you also look at the community involvement. Look at the community involvement with the NFL, I with our company and linking to the NFL and partnering on specific causes that are important, whether human trafficking, whether education.

Those are all the specific areas that I know that we've been partnering with this week to make sure that we're supporting those causes along with the NFL. So you're right. We think that we have great opportunities. Your point as far as this buildup is going to continue to grow. And we look forward to the opportunity for other sports to be able to come to the table to partner with us in this excitement.

- I mean, let's be real-- you've got the entire media hanging out at Mandalay, at Luxor, at Excalibur, at New York, New York. Like, you just go on down the line, right?

Like, you've got-- there's a lot of shine happening right now across when it comes to media outlets, when it comes to the NFL experience being here. Like, I tried to leave yesterday, and I was bombarded by a sea of people. And the NFL experience is amazing, but it's also an amazing opportunity for people to get to know--

TONY GLADNEY: It is. I mean, for-- I look at it, when I was coming to this interview, I hadn't seen Joe Montana, my old quarterback, in years. And to be able to-- in Las Vegas, to be able to have the interaction, to be in the media presence, and to be able to go ahead and interact with individuals that I played with in the past, individuals that we played against, individuals that have played in the past that are playing now-- that's special.

And so those are the kinds of opportunities that we will continue to have, I think, in this city that, to your point, makes us the entertainment and sports capital of the world.

- I mean, UNLV went to a bowl game this year, for the love of god. UNLV went to a bowl game.

TONY GLADNEY: It's been the first time. They actually came very, very close to that 11 and 2 record that when I was here with Randall and Ickey and we were playing, they actually came very close. They were one game away from breaking that record. You know, and you always pull for those UNLV teams.

Records are made to be broken, right? And so we're pulling for them. We believe that UNLV is definitely going in the right direction. Eric Harper, the athletic director, who has done a phenomenal job in making sure that UNLV is focusing on making sure that we're turning these programs into winning programs. So just very excited about the future of what we see. Who would have thought, Fitz, that UNLV would be playing in Allegiant Stadium?

- We got UNLV playing in Allegiant. We got the Raiders here. We got the Vegas Golden Knights, the Stanley Cup champions. You look at all of this, and the one thing I would say is this is the first Super Bowl. I think we can both agree this is not the last Super Bowl that's going to be in this city.

TONY GLADNEY: I would agree with you. Our hope is that, really, the tourists, the fans, the citizens see, through this Super Bowl experience, the excitement that they've known in the past, but that they also come into a new existence with that really makes the case for us to continue to have upcoming Super Bowls in the future. And that's our hope. And we believe that we're a city that is very, very capable of having those repeat performances as far as episodes like Super Bowls.

- It's incredible for you to have the history in this city and to be part of what's happening in this city-- and incredible work by you guys to do so much for the community with all of it. I appreciate you hanging out.

TONY GLADNEY: Thank you, man. It's so good hanging out with you, my Las Vegas brother.

- Let's go, man. Let's go.

TONY GLADNEY: All right.