Dubuque casino’s president/CEO to retire; board selects successor

The longtime president and CEO of Q Casino and Hotel in Dubuque will step down by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the board of directors of the Dubuque Racing Association on Tuesday selected an experienced gaming executive to succeed him.

Casino President and CEO Jesus Aviles confirmed Tuesday that he plans to retire prior to the end of 2021, ending a lengthy run with the casino.

“We’re very sad to know that (he is leaving),” said DRA Board Chairman Kevin Lynch. “I think everyone would agree Jesus has had a stellar career over his 14 years here and his 45 years in the gaming industry in total.”

The board of the DRA, which serves as the nonprofit license holder for both Dubuque casinos, unanimously authorized an employment agreement with Alex Dixon, who emerged as the leading candidate after an exhaustive search. Lynch said the casino already has a verbal agreement in place with Dixon and now will finalize the contractual language.

Dixon, a Nevada native, will relocate to Dubuque in August and shift into Aviles’ role soon thereafter.

He currently is the west region president at PureStar, a commercial laundry company that counts multiple Las Vegas hospitality businesses among its clients. Dixon also has spent 11 years as a gaming executive, holding various leadership roles for MGM and Caesars Entertainment in markets across the U.S.

Lynch said Dixon would earn an annual base salary of $450,000 per year, with a 35% bonus in his first year on the job. In subsequent years, this bonus would be performance-based. Dixon’s compensation will be comparable to what was paid to Aviles, Lynch said.

Dixon said Dubuque “wasn’t on his radar” until a recruitment firm contacted him about the job at Q Casino. He visited the city with his wife about a month ago, and the couple fell in love with the community.

“We were quite frankly blown away,” he said. “From the outside looking in, it seems like a great place to raise a family.”

Dixon and his wife have three kids, including one who is nonverbal autistic, Dixon said. He believes local schools and organizations such as Hills & Dales will offer an important support system for his family.

Looking forward, Dixon believes Q Casino has vast potential to further establish itself as a multifaceted destination that augments its gaming amenities with everything from dining to live entertainment. He said finding new uses for underutilized properties on Chaplain Schmitt Island could open new opportunities.

“I think there is an appetite from the board and, hopefully, from the community and the city to fully leverage and unleash the full potential (of the casino),” Dixon said.

Aviles stepped into his role at Q Casino — then known as Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino — at a time when its crosstown competitor, Diamond Jo Casino, was preparing to build a new facility, a development many thought could doom Q Casino. Under his leadership, Q Casino conducted major facility improvements, broke ranks with the greyhound industry, purchased the Hilton Garden Inn hotel and ramped up entertainment offerings.

“I have been in the industry 45 years,” Aviles said. “That is a long time, and I felt like the timing was right (to retire). … It has been a good run.”