When you grow up in the Las Vegas area, chances are good you’ll end up in the casino industry. Mike McKiski proves the point.
McKiski, vice president of sales at Interblock Luxury Gaming Products, played four sports in high school in Henderson and received a football scholarship to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he earned All-Conference Academic status each year. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies and creative advertising, he took a job in public relations at MGM Mirage, responsible for coordinating media activity for the company’s food and beverage outlets in Las Vegas.
“This job taught me the importance of meeting deadlines, and how to work quickly without rushing,” he says.
He moved on to Bally Technologies, where over eight years, he served as associate product manager, North American sales manager and director of sales and marketing.
“I would recommend that anyone who starts in the gaming industry on the supplier/manufacturing side, start in product management,” McKiski says. “This role really allows you to see how products are created and brought to market.”
At Las Vegas-based Interblock, McKiski oversees a team of account execs and directors who help educate customers on the growing appeal of electronic table games.
“It’s very exciting to be a part of Interblock as we grow our base around the world with casinos recognizing the ability of ETGs to attract new players,” he says.
Through the years, McKiski has learned that no one succeeds in a vacuum.
“No one gets better sitting in their comfort zone. Find mentors that will challenge you to accomplish difficult milestones,” he says.
McKiski did not reach the top of his game without his mentors along the way, like Gary Bernardi, the offensive line coach at UNLV at the time.
“He would constantly challenge you to push past the limits of what you thought you could achieve,” he says. “He had a quote: ‘Hard Work Beats Talent, When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard.’ That rings true for business as well.”
John Connelly, CEO of Interblock, worked with McKiski at Bally Technologies.
“John and I helped launch the Bally Interactive division, which brought mobile and online gaming solutions to over 100 casinos worldwide,” says McKiski. “He taught me how C-level executives and investors view businesses, and he has consistently challenged me to take a top-level approach.”
McKiski says the gaming industry will be a dominant force in the global economy.
“But I believe the nature of the games will change. In the coming years, we will see a shift that will introduce new segments of the gaming floor, like electronic table games and skill-based gaming. Additionally, touch-screen, table-top and mobile-device gaming will become more prevalent with multi-tasking players.”
He advises young people to take a chance on projects they may not understand. “Success in these projects can accelerate a career trajectory. Also, be fair to people. This industry is very small; you never know who will become your next key customer, partner or manager,” he says.