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Staying on Top

Tom O’Brien, President, Americas & EMEA, Aristocrat Gaming

Staying on Top

Tom O’Brien was elevated from general manager to president of the Americas & EMEA for Aristocrat Gaming nearly two years ago for good reason. He possessed a wealth of experience not only on the supplier side—at Scientific Games, IGT, Interblock and a former three-year stint at Aristocrat as director of sales under then-CEO Gavin Isaacs—but on the operator side, having begun his career on the slot floors of Atlantic City.

<img class=” wp-image-31418 alignleft” src=”” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ />O’Brien, what’s more, had always demonstrated a great ability to communicate with his peers in the industry. He’s an easy guy to like, which helped him immensely in a career dominated by sales positions (he was vice president of sales for the U.S. at Interblock, and senior vice president of sales at Scientific Games).

“I spent a lot of years on the commercial sales side, and it taught me a lot about the business,” O’Brien says. “I don’t know how many people in this position have been in commercial sales, so I’m really proud of that. It’s helped me to better understand the overall company’s position, and how we go to the market with our customers. What will they want? What won’t they want? What do they like price-wise?”

Of course, it helps to know your business, and O’Brien has seen it from a perspective few have enjoyed. He was a waiter at Harrah’s Atlantic City when, at age 18, his brother, a Harrah’s slot tech, talked him into accepting an invitation to learn how to service and repair slot machines. He studied and earned a degree in slot electronics, and went to work as a slot tech at Harrah’s in the early 1980s.

He was promoted to a progression of higher positions, and when the Trump Taj Mahal opened in 1990, he was a day-one shift manager.

After 11 years on the operations side, he moved to the supply side as general manager of Universal Distributing. In less than three years, he moved to Paltronics as director of sales, then on to Aristocrat, IGT, Interblock, Scientific Games, and finally, as the pandemic took hold in March 2020, back to Aristocrat.

In his two years as president for the Americas and EMEA, O’Brien has had a successful run as Aristocrat has continued to dominate the worldwide slot market. He is quick, though, to defer any credit for Aristocrat’s success to the company’s game designers, who make up a design &amp; development team that is the envy of the industry.

“When I started as president and people asked me how I was going to keep this business running, I said, ‘Don’t screw it up!’” O’Brien laughs. “Our employees are great. Our motto is ‘Our Employees, Our Customers, Our Business.’ Focus on your employees and you can get the work done you want to get done.

“And we all work together. We have Matt Primmer (chief product officer-gaming), who heads our D&amp;D division. He does a fabulous job. And our commercial strategy folks work with that group as well.”

Of course, it helps that Aristocrat’s D&amp;D talent includes game design legends. “I have the pleasure of getting to catch up with our talented designers in meetings and seeing the products coming out,” says O’Brien. “Our design &amp; development team is second to none. That’s the fun part of this.”

For 2024, O’Brien says his main goal is to “continue to drive this giant ship. It’s a lot of hard work, but I totally enjoy what I do. And I love the employees. So, my plan is to keep prioritizing our employees first, then to keep taking the business to new heights.

“I’m the luckiest person in the world to have this team.”

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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