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Tribal Lifeline

Roman Carrillo, General Manager, Paiute Palace Casino

Tribal Lifeline

Roman Carrillo is a man of passion and chooses to work for a big cause: tribal gaming for the tribes. Currently, he is the general manager for Paiute Palace Casino in Bishop, California.

“The funds generated from the casino go towards funding government operations,” Carrillo says of the tribal casino. “The government operations then provide much-needed services to the tribal shareholders—thus, the better an operation performs, the more the tribe can do to help improve the social and economic welfare of its people.”

In addition, Carrillo loves the entertainment industry. He believes people work hard for what they earn, and as an operator, it is his job to make sure the guest experience is fun and rewarding.

“We build value for our guests and we build value for our team members,” says Carrillo. “People are the center of why we exist, and if we build that experience for our guests and team members correctly, we put smiles on everyone’s faces—and that is an awesome experience.”

Building a winning organization is what Carrillo loves to do. “The best hospitality businesses succeed by training and developing their teams,” he says.

His right hand in any business is his human resources manager and/or director. Says Carrillo, “Training is vital to our success. There is nothing more rewarding than to watch everything come together and see the financial performance improve.”

Carrillo loves the gaming industry because it is grounded in data and numbers. “As an analytical person, I enjoy being able to review data and gain an understanding of consumer and gaming trends,” he says.

Carrillo’s greatest challenge is separating work from his home life. “Being a GM, I find it difficult at times to disconnect from the business,” he says. He thanks his wife for teaching him balance, and goes on to say she has helped him to achieve greatness in his career.

Carrillo is lucky to have two influential people that helped him develop into the manager he is today. At the time he was just entering the industry and working in the accounting department at Sho Ka Wah Casino, Don Trimble was hired to run the tribe’s gaming facility. “He taught me all about the ins and outs of casino operations,” Carrillo says, “and gave me pointers on how to successfully manage a casino property. He helped me understand that people come to a casino to enjoy themselves and be entertained. It’s up to the management to shape a strategy to achieve that goal.”

John O’Neil was the general manager at Sho Ka Wah Casino at the time Carrillo transitioned into the marketing department. Says Carrillo, “John taught me that you get what you inspect, not what you expect.”  To Carrillo, this meant being out on the casino floor and making sure that the environment was inviting for the guests. He learned to make certain that the team understands the casino in regard to promotions, special events, food and entertainment offers.

“John understood that marketing flowed throughout the organization, and he taught me how to build the rewarding experience,” Carrillo says. “Together, John and Don taught me that in order to run a successful operation you need to focus on the people, the team needs to be at the center of everything we do, and lastly if you take the time to equip, develop and reward a team, you will build their satisfaction.

“The team in turn will then go above and beyond for the guest.”

Carrillo’s advice to emerging leaders in the industry is to start by setting a goal of where they want to ascend in their career, and once that is in mind, seek to learn everything you can about the position and the operations as a whole.

He says, “Try to learn everything you can about the metrics in gaming. I worked in marketing, finance and audit to build my skills and to learn about operations, metrics and best practices.

“Seek out mentors. Find the best people in gaming in the position you seek. Reach out to them and ask them for time to pick their brain. Setting yourself up for success is up to you. Take the initiative to develop yourself for success, and the journey along your career path will lead to success. It has for me.”

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