CRDA hosts Atlantic City Host, Spirit of Hospitality Awards

press of atlantic city
May 12, 2023

Atlantic City, NJ (May 11, 2023) – When city native Maria Christine Martin turned 50 this year, she didn’t think her year around the sun would encompass so many blessings and success.

Becoming a minister at her parish, God is Reaching Out Ministries at Pacific and Texas avenues, spending time with her five children and six grandchildren, and being nominated for the Atlantic City Host and Spirit of Hospitality Awards — after she helped save someone’s life with the assistance of a customer after a man collapsed while dining at Resorts Casino Hotel — topped off her year.

“I didn’t think turning 50 was going to be this good,” said Martin, who donned a birthday tiara Wednesday at the Host and Spirit of Hospitality Awards ceremony at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. “When they nominated me, it made me feel awesome that I was a part of saving someone’s life that day.”

The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has hosted the Host and Spirit of Hospitality Awards for 24 years, to honor casino and hospitality workers who go above and beyond their work duties, like Martin.

“Many, many, many people come together to do this event,” said Rick Santoro, director of the Special Improvement Division of the CRDA.

“It is an honor for CRDA to be able to recognize outstanding individuals within Atlantic City’s hospitality industry each year,” said CRDA Executive Director Sean Pattwell. “These are truly remarkable and inspiring people who work tirelessly each day to provide our visitors with exceptional and memorable experiences. I send my sincere congratulations to all of this year’s award winners.”

The awards aim to recognize front-line and back-of-the-house workers with 25 awards in categories like best bartender, best host/hostess, best retail sales associate, best visitor information/concierge/service personnel and more.

Additionally, presenters gave two special Atlantic City Improvement Awards to Michael Brestle of Calvi Electric Company and Thomas Sykes of SOSH Architects for their community-building work; and the Spirit of Hospitality Award to Jane Bokunewicz, director of Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism.

Pattwell said LIGHT’s launch of the International Journal of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism helped the global hospitality industry reopen in a clean, safe and healthy manner during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The host awards are very special to me because I have served for almost 10 years on the selection committee that reviews all the nominations each year,” Bokunewicz said. “I’ve had the privilege of reading hundreds of stories about Atlantic City employees serving our guests and doing amazing things each year. I am deeply moved by the kindness, caring and even heroism displayed by the hospitality professionals in Atlantic City.”

Bokunewicz shared some of those impactful nominee stories, like a server who helped a customer with Alzheimer’s disease order his favorite dish on the menu because he would often forget, someone performing the Heimlich maneuver on choking guests and a waitress recognizing a guest going into diabetic shock.

“It doesn’t take an award to let you know you’re doing a good job,” said Martin. “But it’s encouraging. It lets you know you’re receiving what you are putting out.”

Winners for the CRDA’s 24th Annual Atlantic City Host Awards and Spirit of Hospitality Award

Best Server – Fine Dining Restaurant

Digna Molina, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City

Best Server – Casual Dining Restaurant

Scarlet Labega, Ocean Casino Resort

Best Server – Banquet Catering

Gary Smith, Resorts Casino Hotel

Best Food and Beverage Support

Guillerrmo Zavala, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City

Best Bartender

Brian Weekes, Golden Nugget Atlantic City

Best Host/Hostess

Vincent Ciampi, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City

Best Visitor Information/Concierge/Service Personnel

Jaliss Bracero, Tanger Outlets Atlantic City

Best Retail Sales Associate

Mary Piccari, Caesars Atlantic City

Best Door/Bell Person

Sherman Green, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City

Best Room Service Personnel

Bengie Harri, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino/Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Best Casino Host

Jyoti Parikh

Best Food Production Personnel

German Guzman, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City

Best Heart of the House Personnel

Emilio Palomino, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City

Best Reservationist

Shanae Bunn, Marriott’s Fairway Villas

Best Security Personnel

Mariget Mercado, Golden Nugget Atlantic City

Best Casino Games Personnel

Jayesh Surti, Bally’s Atlantic City

Best Casino Support Personnel

Gustavo Escobar, Ocean Casino Resort

Best Public Area Personnel

Lemuel Rascoe, OVG 360

Best Cashier

Karen Gonzalez, Caesars Atlantic City

Best Cocktail Server

David Martinez, Resorts Casino Hotel

Best Spa Personnel

Katrina Parker, Caesars Atlantic City

Best Facilities Operations

Jack Migone, Bally’s Atlantic City

Best Sports Book/I-Gaming Personnel

Lawrence Smith, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Scholarship winners

Nousheen Ghazanfar, Atlantic City – Atlantic Cape Community College – $1,000

Tanoya Blake, Atlantic City – Stockton University – $2,000

Tyler McDonnell, Blackwood, – Stockton University – $2,500 ($2,000 + $500 Howard Bacharach Award)

Jacob Thompson, Egg Harbor City – Stockton University – $2,500

By: Selena Vazquez