Michael Armenta had two choices when he graduated high school: college, or the casino on the Chumash Reservation two blocks from where he grew up.
He chose both.
Armenta began as a blackjack dealer, moving up to his current position as senior marketing manager.
“This was the industry for me, and I went into a two-year management training program,” he says. “Over the next six years I worked full-time and was enrolled in online school with the University of Phoenix.”
The training program taught Armenta all aspects of the casino and resort business.
“It was a combination of the experience and the customer interaction as a dealer that molded my outlook and thought process as a casino marketer in the Native American gaming world,” he says.
Armed with an MBA, Armenta could have gone anywhere in the country, but elected to stay put. And for good reason. His father, Vincent, served as chairman of the Chumash Tribe, recently stepping down after 17 years.
“I had the opportunity to be exposed to tribal government,” he says. “Exposure to the gaming and hospitality business was a just the tip of the iceberg. Economic diversification, compact negotiations and working with other tribes were all part of this experience.”
The married father of one admits his current role is all over the place. “Digital marketing is a large focus of what I do, trying to find ways to connect to the customers, both new and existing. The most interesting aspect to me is closing the loop on a customer’s interaction with the brand, whether through website, Facebook or the casino floor, to deliver the best experience possible.”
In addition to the casino resort, Armenta’s job description includes marketing the Hotel Corque, Root 246 and Hadsten House. He also has responsibility for budgeting, strategic planning, new player acquisition, sponsorships, busing and event sales through their own ticketing.
Armenta calls his wife, Tawnee, his “biggest supporter and best critic.”
But Vincent Armenta is certainly a mentor. “He truly believes that if there is a will, there is a way. He is the person that can accomplish anything.”
He also credits General Manager Bill Peters.
“He has a great approach to any situation.”
And his own boss, Executive Director of Marketing Wayne Hurte, “a numbers-driven decision maker who has shown me that taking calculated risks is much better than staying stagnant.”
A lot of what goes on each day involves program design, implementation and review, Armenta says. The one constant is meetings. On days an entertainment event is booked, Armenta works late.
“I review the process our employees go through to sell and distribute tickets as well as interact with the customers.”
The key to the evolution of the industry is delivering what customers want, Armenta says. “Online gaming is huge, but there will always be the desire for people to enjoy a traditional brick-and-mortar casino.”
For those who might want a career in the industry, Armenta has some advice. “Don’t be afraid to evolve with the market. The ever-changing gaming industry is a fast-paced, fun environment to be a part of. But never forget that the customers and employees are the ones who keep the businesses thriving.”