In this month’s issue we publish our annual “40 Under 40” list. This is a feature we’ve been doing for seven years every November, and recently have linked up with The Innovation Group’s Emerging Leaders of Gaming program that they launched at G2E three years ago. Since both our organizations were recognizing the excellence of young people in the industry, it only made sense for us to work together on this.
Truth be told, it’s always one of my favorite features and events of the year. And more truth, it’s a little selfish on my part. While I really enjoy the young people in the industry and am honored to recognize them, it’s something that energizes me. After 40 years in the business, it’s a delight to see people coming into the industry who are so enthusiastic and committed to success. I remember feeling that way, and I get a boost of adrenaline just being around it.
There are so many great young people in the industry. This year, we got nearly 200 nominations for the 40 Under 40 honors. It was extremely difficult to narrow down the list of amazing people who were nominated (or nominated themselves). Many of the industry’s leading companies, tribes, law firms and regulatory bodies participated, and they clearly are as thrilled about the enthusiasm of the nominees as we are.
I think back to my time under 40, which is many years ago. I didn’t even get into the industry until I was 30, chasing a rock ’n’ roll dream before that. But when I got serious about making a living, I took a job as a dealer in Atlantic City. I continued as a dealer for seven more years until I switched sides and began to report on the business. But I would never have been able to take on some of the responsibilities that our 40 have.
Granted, I didn’t have the education or really the experience to advance much further. (OK, I could have been a supervisor, but I had a big mouth, so I disqualified myself.) So I’m much better on this side of the fence, where I can understand casino operations but don’t have to implement them.
When the first Emerging Leaders reception was held by The Innovation Group three years ago, they invited the legendary John Acres to speak to the audience. What a great choice, I thought. Acres developed so many cutting-edge products and launched so many people in this business, who better to inspire these up-and-comers?
Well, as usual, John was blunt and honest. He started his talk by telling them how sorry he was for them. What?? He explained that the business today is so corporate and buttoned-up that there is little opportunity for someone with a radical idea to get it accepted, developed, licensed and operating. He said those ideas will get shot down well before they reach a respected decision-maker.
Now, John had a point. Since most of the big companies are corporate and publicly held, they really can’t take a chance to risk capital on an idea that may not bear fruit. John should know. Several of the companies he founded were bought and the innovation and creativity those companies had contained quickly fizzled away.
But if you really look closely at the innovations being developed today in our business, it’s often smaller, privately held organizations that are able to take risks, are nimble, and can turn on a dime. The runway (funding) has to be long enough, but there are plenty of companies that still value people who push the envelope.
In this issue, we profile the first 10 of the 40 (every subsequent month of GGB will add three more). When you read the stories of these young people, you’ll see that there is a lot of creativity, ambition and enthusiasm for the business.
And you know what? I’ll bet John Acres would be first in line to hire any of these talented individuals for his next groundbreaking product he’s developing to rock the industry once again.