Originally from the East End of London, Nick Hughes now calls Hendersonville home along with his wife Roxy and a few horses too. He has worked, traveled and had incredible experiences all over the world, specializing in the management of gaming, live racing, operational management and has opened some of the most profitable and largest casinos all around the world. Nick knew from a young age the importance of having a humble heart and working hard from his family and experiences.
“I came from a loving family, very hard-working but we didn’t have a lot,” says Nick. “My dad always had great ambitions. They were definitely hard-working and they instilled that in me. I’m very open about coming from what you might call the wrong side of the tracks.”
After leaving school at the age of fifteen, Nick began his career at nineteen, starting as a trainee dealer at the Playboy Club in London. From there, he worked in the Bahamas and on cruise ships, trying his hand in the gaming business.
After about eight years building up his experience, Nick moved back to London, tried a different career path and opened a bar, settled down for a bit and got married and had two children. “That’s really all I wanted after this gallivanting around to different countries,” says Nick.
After life had settled down temporarily, out of the blue, someone Nick had worked with became the private partner with the Pritzker family who owned the Hyatt corporation at the time. The Hyatt corporation decided they wanted to venture into the gaming business and called Nick to ask if he would move to Greece briefly to open the biggest casino in Europe. He was asked to stay for six weeks, but ended up staying and soon became the president of gaming there.
“We had casinos all over the United States and as far away as Azerbaijan, Spain, the Philippines, Greece…nine or ten casinos all over the world,” he says. After six years in Greece, Nick moved to Argentina and worked closely with another Pritzker family member and managed at a senior level at various casinos there. “I was very lucky, I had a great career and it was hugely rewarding.”
While working in Argentina, Nick met Roxy, his wife and they have been married for almost fourteen years. When they both moved to the United States, Nick moved thinking life would slow down a bit. But, life did not slow down as Nick became the general manager and senior vice president of Kentucky Downs, a horse racing track and entertainment center in Franklin, Kentucky. “Is it still busy? Yes. Is it still hectic? Yes. But it needs to be,” says Nick.
Along with a group, Nick helped purchase Kentucky Downs in 2007, and has helped grow the company from about twenty employees to well over 160 today. Although there were a couple of setbacks, it never stopped him, as Kentucky Downs has flourished with some of the highest purses in the United States for horse racing and with new gaming attractions increasing each year.
“Our book is sold out within forty-eight hours when we announce our next race,” says Nick who believes it has been exciting seeing Kentucky Downs grow and the regeneration of racing in Kentucky.
When they moved to the area, they had an idea of what they wanted for a place to call home. “My wife is very much a social person and wanted to be near to the city,” says Nick. “What could be better than to be in Hendersonville. Twenty-five minutes to Kentucky and twenty-five minutes to the city.”
“We have a great and happy life here,” says Nick. “I am truly blessed.” Their life has not slowed down, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is the greatest country in the world for opportunity and acceptance,” exclaims Nick. “Still in England, my accent would denote what they think I should be. If you want to be successful, you will be successful. You need to take some time to realize what is important in life,” he says. “The simplest of people are the most gracious of people. To the other extent, it is not about how much money you have, not about your academic qualification. I’ve lived in different countries, I’ve lived with different types of people and I’ve learned it’s not all about where you came from.”
Nick has always kept his humble heart and is thankful for where his work and experiences have led him.
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