Jordan Whitten, director of slot analytics for MGM Resorts International, was unsure what career path he was going to take after earning his MBA from Mississippi State in 2011. Having returned home to Memphis in the midst of the recovery from the Great Recession, Whitten applied everywhere, submitting over 200 job applications and going to many interviews that went nowhere.
Whitten took a break from job applications, moving to Washington, D.C. to intern for a Mississippi senator. After returning to Memphis with as much direction as he had before D.C., Whitten looked three hours south to Greenville, Mississippi, where Harlow’s Casino Resort was searching for a manager trainee, thus beginning his career in gaming. Today, Whitten calls himself “lucky” to be given a chance in the industry, one that he has loved ever since.
Previously, Whitten had never considered the casino industry, as he had only been in a casino once in his life. However, he saw the opportunity as a new option and took it with an open mind. At Harlow’s, Whitten did everything possible to learn the operation.
As it was a smaller property, he offered to help out wherever he could, committing significant time and asking questions. He states, “At my first property, I constantly volunteered to work marketing events and to stay late sitting in on meetings to learn. I have continued this across multiple jobs to help get exposure to new people as well as be in positions to ask questions and learn new things.”
Whitten, throughout his career, credits his ability to ask questions, absorb every detail, and put in extra time as traits that have helped differentiate and advance him.
Whitten’s experience in slot analytics at Harlow’s jump-started his love for slots, but he craved living somewhere new. Whitten moved to Reno, taking a job in the slot technical department, where he learned about the machines that he, as he puts it, “is obsessed with.”
His stay in Reno was short-lived, as he took a position running the slot department for the Jacobs Entertainment casinos in Colorado, where he met one of his most important mentors, Ara Telian. From Telian, Whitten learned how to “be a little more laid back and a little less stressed… and let things come to you in how you interact with other people.”
Adopting these traits, combined with his already existing ability to absorb new information, Whitten continued to prosper in the industry.
After his stint in Colorado, Whitten joined VizExplorer, a slot, marketing and player development business intelligence firm, working with slot and marketing analytics, a move he credits as having the largest impact on his career.
To this point, he had exposure to a few smaller operations and did not have a large network of people that he could lean on. Whitten says his time at VizExplorer “allowed me to travel all over the world meeting casino operators of all shapes and sizes. I leveraged these meetings to learn all kinds of new theories around successful gaming operations as well as build a network of individuals that I could bounce ideas off of down the line.”
Whitten has carried these new perspectives and ideas with him as he has continued to grow within the industry.
Whitten eventually found his way back to Las Vegas, joining MGM Resorts International as the director of slot analytics, where he oversees the analytics team and works with all 15 domestic MGM properties. He is an advocate for the company’s mentorship program, which he has actively participated in since joining.
Whitten encourages those in the program to put in extra time and ask a lot of questions, as he has. He points out, “You get paid for doing what you are supposed to do, (but) you get promoted by doing more.”
From his experience, he urges young professionals to get involved, gain exposure to the operations, and take on new challenges. These tips led to Whitten’s discovery of his love for slots and his advancement through his career, and he emboldens others to do the same.