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Casino executive has left the building

Lui Garcea wraps up his time at Starlight to fill spot at Grand Villa

Starlight Casino patrons should be seeing a few changes at the casino this year, including the departure of executive marketing manager Lui Garcea.

Garcea moved on to the Grand Villa Casino in Burnaby on Feb. 1, but he isn't leaving Starlight short-handed - the move is really a switch-up, as Grand Villa's former executive marketing manager, Brenda Smith, is now at Starlight.

It is common in the casino gaming industry for companies to move staff from one prop-erty to another, Smith explained, which is what happened with the two Gateway Casinos and Entertainment chain properties.

"So Lui and I did a switch, and he's going to be a Villa for awhile, and I'll be at Starlight," she said.

The casino is moving ahead with other changes this year, Smith added. "We've got lots of exciting plans."

The company is looking at opening up some of the gaming areas, and turning the Salt and Pepper Café into a sit-down diner, she said.

"It'll be a great venue for people to come for really good cooked meals at a reasonable price, with lots of value," Smith said. "We're excited about getting those plans underway."

The company is looking at making the Red Bar Lounge more multi-functional, she added, and bringing in more televisions, as well. While Smith enjoyed her time at Grand Villa, she said she is excited about the move.

'It's great, it's a fabulous property," she said of Starlight.

The theme, layout and visuals of the property are very distinct, she added.

Smith will be working with community donations and initiatives in her new role at Starlight, as well.

"It's fabulous having all of those community connections across two different jurisdictions and learning about the different organizations that make up New West," she said. "It'll be exciting and interesting to learn about those organizations."

But she added the casino had a great community outreach program already, under Garcea.

Garcea is from Burnaby and helped open the Grand Villa Casino in 2008, so the move is a homecoming for him, he said.

"I've seen the Villa grow from when it was in construction phase," he said. "It's kind of a coming home aspect to working here. It's very exciting."

The Grand Villa differs from the Starlight in that it is a larger property, Garcea said, but added it is the same industry and company, so he's familiar with the job.

He plans to bring some of what worked at the Starlight to the Burnaby casino, such as dine and dance events. Other changes include adding a 12-table poker room this year, Garcea said.

Garcea also plans to be out on the floor more, listening to customers about what they like and don't like about the property, he added. He will also be in charge of community giving for the casino, as the previous executive manager of marketing, Brenda Smith, was before him.

Last Friday, the casino gave nearly $2,700 to Variety - The Children's Charity, Garcea said, which fits with his desire to keep giving at a local level. The casino also gave $2,500 to the Burnaby Firefighters' gala, he added.

"I do get quite a few folks asking for support, and wherever we can we're more than willing to do so," Garcea said.