BRIGHTON — Thirty-five years ago Josiah Johns took a gamble when he added bingo tables to the combined hardware store and beauty parlor he owned and managed out of a modest red barn on Brighton Reservation.
“At the same time, high stakes bingo was already popular at Classic Casino in Hollywood and my father was toughening me for the real world,” said Marty Johns who was then in his early 20s.
Little did the younger Johns know that he would take over the operation after the tragic death of his father three years later and that on Nov. 23, 2015 he would lead the Seminole Casino Brighton’s 35th anniversary celebration as its longtime general manager.
Johns said he never expected to be in charge – ever – or that the casino would grow on his watch.
He was there in its humble beginning when he helped put the roof on the 50-foot-by-35-foot building with his own hands – but he didn’t pay much attention or even care about the business. It took a year of soul searching after his father’s passing for him to realize that the best times of his life were at his feet, thanks to his father, in his own backyard.
“I knew how the game was played, but I did not know the inner workings of casinos – the countings and the operations. So I traveled casino to casino, watched, picked up pointers from the outside looking in, brought the ideas home and started making money,” Johns said.
Once the money flowed, he was hooked and the casino began to grow.
The operation that was once manned by a staff of eight now boasts 220 employees. The building has since undergone renovations and one complete overhaul – it is now 27,000 square feet with top-tier dining at the Josiah Restaurant and Lounge.
Gaming has also evolved.
“We became so busy with bingo in the early days that people would play on top of car hoods in the parking lot. When someone would holler ‘bingo,’ someone else would have to relay the calls inside,” Johns said.
In about 1989, slots were added, making the casino a Class III operation and allowing more growth – from 20 games to 37 games. Today, the floor features 420 games that include slots, live action blackjack e-tables, a six-table poker room and high-stakes bingo action. Johns said the business profits annually.
“I always like to say, ‘We are little but loud,’” Johns said.
Johns wants the future to be even louder. When word filtered to Brighton that Gov. Rick Scott and Chairman James E. Billie signed the gaming compact that could, if ratified by the Legislature, extend, enhance and ensure the Tribe’s gaming interests through the next 20 years, Johns said he was elated.
“It’s the future. We’re looking forward to adding blackjack, roulette and craps and also building on the building. I’d been saying it for years and I’ll say it again – I’d love a hotel here. We need a hotel,” Johns said.
Chairman Billie, Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr., Seminole Gaming’s Chief Operating Officer Larry Mullin, Chief Financial Officer John Eder and Director of Training & Development David MacAlpine attended the Brighton anniversary lunch.
Annual employee appreciation awards went to slot director Roger Hering for director of the year; slot manager Margaret “Angel” Craig for manager of the year; security supervisor Jay Fuld for supervisor of the year; Wesley Spivey for team member of the year; and the Security Department for department of the year.