25-year-old Michelle Miller Wahler is Named President & Director of Operation of Normandie Casino in Los Angeles

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Normandie Casino under new President begins remodel of casino, entertainment and dining venues set to be completed in early 2010.

"This is a family-owned and -operated business, and I want to make sure it stays that way for years to come.”

When Michelle Miller Wahler tells you the paintings in her office are done by her own hand—a dreamy cityscape behind her, a saturated collage of blues and greens on an adjacent wall—it feels just as fitting to find out the 25-year-old University of California at Santa Barbara grad is Normandie Casino’s President and Director of Operations, and, apparently, no stranger to power tools: “I built the canvases, too.”

The statuesque blonde with a direct gaze and informed passion for gaming is poised at the helm of Normandie, a 50,000-square-foot card casino with showroom and multiple eateries, 20 minutes from Downtown LA and Long Beach.

The casino has been owned and operated by her family since 1947, first by her grandfather Russ Miller, and then by her uncles Larry, Greg, Steve, and her father, Lee. Miller Wahler grew up steeped in its history and was intrigued at a young age: “My sister and I would play in the back hallways when my dad was working nights and weekends. And I loved hearing the stories about the casino,” some of which, to her mischievous delight, involved uncovering cheaters with nifty devices up their sleeves. Her excitement continues to this day: “There’s never a dull moment, there’s always something happening on the floor. We’re open 24 hours and it’s always moving.”

So, when the time came for her to get a job post college, she headed to the casino, starting in the marketing department, but becoming increasingly interested in operations. It’s unusual for a women, and one as young as Miller Wahler, to be in a leadership position in the gaming industry, but she’s unfazed and energetic about bringing a youthful perspective, energy and knowledge to the table: “The industry is looking for fresh, trend-driven ideas. There’s a younger generation of players with Internet poker and poker on ESPN becoming so popular. Technology, social media, exposing the casino to a larger market—these are the elements we need to incorporate.”

At the same time, she keeps her family legacy at the fore: “I think about how my grandfather would do things. Would he be proud of this, would he agree? This is a family-owned and -operated business, and I want to make sure it stays that way for years to come.”

Miller Wahler is no doubt carrying the Normandie torch into a new era—a remodel of the casino and entertainment and eating venues is in the works, a process she plans to lend her artistic eye to, but not her power tools.

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