When GGB magazine launched its “40 Under 40” program five years ago, the aim was to recognize the young talent in the gaming industry that will set it up for future development. The program grew and eventually was coordinated with the Emerging Leaders of Gaming program that was launched by The Innovation Group (TIG) and G2E around the same time. This year the two programs combined into one, creating the “Emerging Leaders of Gaming (ELG) 40 Under 40.”
The 2018-19 class of the ELG 40 Under 40 recognizes gaming industry professionals under the age of 40 already making significant impacts on the casino gaming industry. The honorees represent a slice of today’s next-generation leaders, and ELG 40 Under 40 seeks to offer these young professionals an extra advantage in the already-competitive gaming, entertainment, leisure and hospitality industries.
“The ELG program has become the most important vehicle for recognition of young leaders in the gaming industry,” said Roger Gros, publisher of GGB magazine. “With nominations up nearly 50 percent year-over-year, the list was difficult to narrow. It’s a testament to the bright future of the industry how competitive the process has become.”
Michael Soll, president of The Innovation Group, said reaction to the program has been incredible. “Awareness of the Emerging Leaders program, now in its seventh year, continues to grow. We’re able to recognize an increasingly more diverse class of rising executives each year,” said Soll. “The Innovation Group firmly believes that new leadership can serve to invigorate an industry, and we hope this program continues to play a key role in identifying individuals with the talent and creativity to lead gaming into the future.”
The ELG 40 Under 40 winners are selected by a combined GGB and TIG advisory board from nominations solicited through an open call to the industry. Honorees celebrated during the annual ELG Cocktail Event during Global Gaming Expo (G2E) at SUSHISAMBA Las Vegas in the Palazzo Las Vegas. This year’s event was supported by Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. and the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers.
Profiles of first 10 members of the ELG 40 Under 40 appear below, and the remainder will be featured in subsequent issues through October 2019. (For a complete list of the 40 Under 40 go to end of article).
Nominations for the 2019-2020 class of the Emerging Leaders of Gaming 40 Under 40 will open in April, and the winners will be announced just prior to G2E 2019. Stay tuned to GGB magazine for details.
The Buck Stops Here
Joyce Arpin • Senior Vice President, Finance and Treasurer, Caesars Entertainment Corp.
As senior VP of finance and treasurer for Caesars Entertainment, Joyce Arpin holds some pretty important purse stings. With a 10-person team, she manages cash and debt for almost 50 properties worldwide, oversees investor relations, strategizes with financial planners and analysts, and assesses growth opportunities for one of the world’s most influential gaming companies.
The Houston native learned gaming from the outside in, starting in corporate banking for the oil and gas industry, then holding three sequential jobs in gaming divisions, at BoA, UBS and Jeffries & Company. She was especially busy during the pre-recession building boom.
“A lot of companies were borrowing to build,” she recalls. “We put in place loans to fund some of the expansions you see now on the Las Vegas Strip, like CityCenter”—and those you don’t see, like the Fontainebleau.
In 2012, Arpin moved inside—first to Station Casinos, then to Caesars, where she started in investor relations. Later, offered the treasury role, she didn’t exactly jump at the chance.
“I’d done it at Station, and I was like, ‘Treasury is so boring.’”
She’s glad she picked up the gauntlet. “I inherited a great team, but they weren’t doing corporate treasury—they were doing mundane tasks like accounting and accounts payable and really not looking at relationships.
“I took the time to show them what true corporate treasury is, and what I thought was boring on paper actually ended up being revolutionary for the team and the company. We ended up saving a lot of money on bank fees and simply changing the culture, making the team more responsive and collaborative.”
It was a lesson learned, she says: “Being open to new areas helps everyone grow—not just you, but the team you’re leading.”
In her view, successful leaders educate, then delegate. “It takes patience to build a team that you can trust and teach. Then you have to be willing to let go and stop the hand-holding.”
Arpin’s role has grown in importance since Caesars emerged from bankruptcy in late 2017.
“Now we’re trying to attract long-term equity shareholders, tell the company’s story and get our shares trading,” she says. “We’re working with investment bankers to refinance our debt, raise debt to buy properties and also work with our bankers on anything equity-related, to see if there’s anything opportunistic we can do from a transaction perspective.”
Looking ahead, that could mean a berth in Japan, where Caesars will vie for one of the country’s first three integrated resort licenses; an expanded presence in the U.S. online sports betting market; and growth in bricks and mortar at home, including the $375 million Caesars Forum convention facility in Las Vegas, expected to open in 2020.
Asked what she most enjoys about her job, Arpin says, “The strategic side of the balance sheet. That goes back to my investment banking days. I enjoy coming up with new ideas that will benefit the company and then implementing them—making a difference from a financial statement perspective and being able to say, ‘I thought of that with my team.’”—Marjorie Preston
For Love of the Game
Julia Boguslawski • Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Investor Relations, AGS
Being a gambler may have given Julia Boguslawski an edge in her career. But it’s a career she never planned.
As a college student in Florida, Boguslawski was a regular at the Hard Rock Tampa. Poker was her game.
“I always loved the excitement of being on the casino floor,” she says, “but I didn’t think of gaming as a career path.”
A stint in investor relations for the hotel business led to a similar job at Shuffle Master, where Boguslawski did double duty in IR and corporate communications. She packed up and relocated to Las Vegas, where she began collecting casino player cards (at last count, she was up to 30).
Then came the roller coaster years. In 2013, SHFL was acquired by Bally. In 2014, Bally was acquired by Scientific Games. With each change, Boguslawski’s roles and responsibilities expanded. At Bally, she had to jump into global marketing. At Sci Games, she led corporate communications and also served as chief of staff. It was “madness,” she says. It was also a test of her resilience.
“Did I worry? A little bit, but I thought, wow, what fantastic new opportunities. I was totally scared and in over my head. But when you’re not sure if you’re going to sink or swim, you’re probably going to swim—and you’re going to be challenged and kept on your toes.”
In 2015, she joined AGS, shortly after David Lopez became president and CEO. “AGS was super-under-the-radar, and David turned it into something
really amazing,” says Boguslawski. “We have one of the best corporate cultures in the gaming space. We’re growing 40 percent year-over-year. Our slot products are leading the industry in game performance. He put our company on the map.”
Today, as chief marketing officer and executive VP of investor relations,
Boguslawski wears many hats and addresses many audiences—financial analysts, customers, stockholders and the media. For her, it’s all about storytelling.
“Communicating with Wall Street, there’s an expectation that you have the financial acumen,” she observes. “But they also want to know what’s going on behind the scenes. How are we investing in R&D? What are we doing to secure and deliver long-term success? It’s the same on the marketing and corporate communications side. I have to show how innovative our products are and how they create profitability on the casino floor.”
Boguslawski counts decisiveness and flexibility as essential to her job. “I worked through a lot of M&A, where there was change at every level—in management, in culture, in the size of the company. It’s really important to be comfortable with ambiguity. You have to keep marching ahead and adding value.”
Mentors including Lopez have been indispensable.
“David doesn’t sugarcoat. If I mess up, I know I’m going to hear from him. He taught me to get good at uncomfortable conversations—an important leadership trait. (Scientific Games Vice Chairman) Gavin Isaacs taught me the importance of relationship-building. There’s not a better connector in this industry.”
She admires Katie Lever, formerly of Shuffle Master, now chief legal counsel at the Drew Las Vegas. “Katie is so successful and effective without losing her femininity. I’ve always respected that.”
Boguslawski’s six-person department is “small,” she says, “but we get a lot done in a day.
“I love to be a cheerleader for AGS, promoting and talking about how awesome our products and people are. I love sharing our success stories. I’m overwhelmed every day, running 100 miles per hour. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Maulin Gandhi • President, Tangam Systems
Technology always fascinated Maulin Gandhi growing up in Kenya. He owned an early version of an Apple before such computers went mainstream.
“When I was curious, I learned the old-fashioned way—by taking things apart, and putting them back together.”
This interest in high tech led to graduate studies in computer engineering and artificial intelligence at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, a stepping stone to his role as president of Tangam Systems.
“I got exposure to the other end of the spectrum. Information was readily available, but we had to parse through massive volumes of it to solve problems. Fundamentally, I believe it’s the combination of these learnings that has shaped me.”
Armed with a degree, Gandhi joined Tangam founder Prem Gururajan in 2004, with the goal of using video analytics to overhaul how casinos think about table games.
The early team spent the first few years developing and commercializing the breakthrough technology that would use surveillance cameras to automate data collection for table games. Despite interest from clients, and winning numerous awards at gaming shows, the product failed to make headway with enough casino operators. Sales were hampered in part by significant upfront capital costs, in part by poor market conditions created by the global financial crisis. “We discontinued the product in 2009,” Gandhi says.
But as the saying goes, you can learn more from failure than success.
“We were able to pivot into a new strategy and started research and development on a solution that would enable operators to improve table games performance using the data they already collected,” Gandhi says.
Tangam focused on algorithms that made complex data easier to utilize. “More importantly, we were able to offer our clients a minimal upfront investment model and immediate return on investment.”
This model turned out to be a win-win for Tangam and its clients. “We enabled ordinary table games managers to drive financial performance and productivity improvements by helping them make better decisions,” says Gandhi, who spends time with wife Swati, and two young children, when not in work mode.
As the product line grew over the past nine years, Gandhi’s role with the company evolved. “I consider myself lucky to have touched almost every aspect of our business.”
For casinos such as Mohegan Sun, Tangam’s flagship software TYM (Table Games Yield Management) automatically analyzes headcount, table minimums and average wagers to help align the table game mix, spreads and staffing levels to patron demand.
“The result is that our clients are able to maintain superior financial performance compared to their peers,” says Gandhi, who often relaxes with midday gym workouts.
Gandhi counts his father, Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, as his closest mentor. In addition to being a physician, the Kenya resident is also a “serial entrepreneur. He’s successfully ventured into farming, hardware, manufacturing, private schools and real estate,” Gandhi says. “His latest venture is setting up a full-service medical diagnostic center, the first of its kind in his town.”
Count Prem Gururajan as someone Gandhi also looks up to. “He’s an innovator and has an uncanny ability to see problems through a lens that most people don’t, finding unique solutions to almost every problem.”
An avid reader of autobiographies, Gandhi learned from both mentors. “They taught me to push outside of my comfort zone when it comes to critical thinking, problem solving and being persistent.”
Others interested in the gaming industry as a profession have plenty of opportunity as demand for talent outpaces the supply, globally.
“Experience in more than one field will always offer a path to find new opportunities,” advises Gandhi. “Some of the best analysts are the ones who have experience in operations as well.”
Elaine Ho, Executive Director of Regional Premium Account Management, Marina Bay Sands
Elaine Ho is a diplomat and a detective, a strategist and a psychologist, a counselor and occasionally a confessor. Ho is executive director of regional premium account management-Asia at Marina Bay Sands—in other words, a bill collector. In most cases, Ho uses tact and finesse to get past-due high-value clients to pay up.
“My boss taught me that people need to feel good about paying you,” says Ho, who’s based in Singapore and also oversees collections in Macau. “I didn’t understand it at first, but it’s so true. This may be a returning customer who’s having a down time. He may want you to understand and listen to his problems. Six months down the road, when he’s happy, he remembers you. He remembers that even though he owed you money, you didn’t treat him like a criminal.”
Born in Malaysia and educated in the U.K., Ho is a former barrister who joined MBS as part of the legal team. Five years later, at the urging of Christopher Melton, senior VP of global collections for the Las Vegas Sands Corp., she took “a giant leap of faith” to cross over to the casino side. She’s become an expert at the sensitive, cross-cultural relationship-building that’s critical to her job.
“Different patrons of different nationalities in different jurisdictions require different approaches. Chinese patrons, for example, will talk to you about the balance they owe, but it can be very difficult when it comes to funds transfers (from China). Then we have Japanese patrons. I learned you have to go to dinner with those patrons and not talk about the debt. And they will somehow pay some of the balance.”
She recalls one customer in financial straits who described himself to her as “a wounded dragon,” but promised he would make good when he was able. With tact and understanding, Ho was able to retain that patron’s long-term loyalty. “He thanked me for my patience,” she says.
Legal action is a last resort. “Many of these patrons are high-caliber,” says Ho. “Some are rich and famous. If you sue, the casino doesn’t look good. Most of the time if you call them, you find they overlooked the balance, or were unhappy about something—a misunderstanding with a host or a bad F&B experience.”
Ho calls the MBS legal department her university, and its executives her mentors.
“Penny Lo, vice president and deputy general counsel of MBS, is my go-to person when I feel challenged or encounter setbacks at work. I am particularly grateful to Andrew MacDonald, our chief casino officer, and Faris Alsagoff, our general counsel, who supported my transition from a legal role into a gaming role. I’m extremely lucky that I have had the privilege of working with great positive individuals at MBS.”
She especially thanks Melton for his guidance and tutelage, and for helping her master the soft touch. “He taught me this business. I believe my success is at least in part due to his sincere support and mentorship.”
Ho sums up her role as getting to know her patrons, “solving their problems, and making them happy again.
“This is not the way a bank collects money,” she says. “It’s totally unique.”—Marjorie Preston
Mick Ingersoll • Senior Manager, Education, Atrient
Mick Ingersoll began his career at Penn National Gaming, where he spent nine years immersing himself in the industry. At just 22 years old he was advised by one of his mentors—Billy Smith, who was player development manager at the time—that he should go into player development.
Heeding that advice, Ingersoll began working as a casino host, and with his strong desire to learn, he attended dealer school at night so he could better understand table games. He feels strongly that taking the initiative to expand your knowledge and comprehension of the industry not only makes you better but helps you to stand out and get noticed.
While he enjoyed working for a casino property, Ingersoll realized it limited him to engagement with only one team. This motivated his switch to the vendor side of the industry, where he joined VizExplorer as director of gaming operations and international customer success. He says that move had the biggest impact on his career, enabling him to work with hundreds of teams at once.
Ingersoll recently transitioned from his role at VizExplorer to become senior manager, education at Atrient. He also continues to conduct his own research, which has opened doors for him to host webinars, engage in public speaking and write articles. He’s taken his experience and endeavored to connect with other young professionals in his organization—to be a source of career development for them. He tries to introduce them to as many new contacts as possible to help build their networks.
Ingersoll is a firm believer in educating yourself in all aspects of the industry, regardless of your particular position. “Jump in, immerse yourself, and get exposure to everything you can. If you work in database marketing, go learn how slot machines work. If you work in slots, learn how the hotel operates,” he says. “The more you make the election to understand, the ampler your opportunities will be to grow.”
He encourages young professionals to research startups and small companies, which offer amazing opportunities to gain experience in multiple areas, and to have some autonomy. “In tech and other small organizations, you can really shape your own role and advance rapidly.”
Appropriately, then, when asked about the industry trends that are opening doors for emerging leaders, his response was an enthusiastic, “TECHNOLOGY!” He anticipates that AI will get more sophisticated and that algorithms running the industry will evolve to levels unimaginable. “They have such an advantage in understanding the future of our business… I’m jealous of their frame of reference in that regard,” he says. “Take full advantage!”
Jamie Knight • Senior Game Producer, Scientific Games
Softball and mathematics played a major role in Jamie Knight’s education, a role that brought her into the world of gaming. She parlayed her skill at softball into a full-ride scholarship to play at Illinois State University, majoring in math.
“I believe playing softball and serving as team captain trained me to be a great team player, lead and push my teams to be the best. There is nothing more important than an effective team full of passionate people all driving towards the same goal,” she says.
After graduation, Knight landed a position as a marketing manager in California. But her online resume attracted interest from Atronic, seeking a mathematician.
“I knew very little about gaming at the time, but I worked with some of the best in the industry and learned and grew quickly,” says Knight, now senior game producer with Scientific Games. “Gaming is fascinating, and the longer I’m in it, the more I know that I chose the right career path.”
From Atronic, Knight went to Design Works Gaming, where she helped run the math and marketing department. Then it was on to Bally Technologies as a mathematician.
“After about a year in that role, I was promoted to game producer, which enabled me to blend my experience designing math models for games with my passion for creativity and marketing. It was the perfect position that drew on my range of abilities from both the technical and creative sides.”
Scientific Games acquired Bally in 2014. Knight has developed games for five years and now runs three pipelines that produced Monopoly Hot Shot, Cash Spin Deluxe, Sword of Destiny, Michael Jackson Icon, Zhen Chan and more.
“I oversee studios that include artists, animators and engineers. I work with the artist to concept a new idea. Sometimes these ideas start with an art direction and some are inspired by a game mechanic. I work closely with a mathematician to perfect the experience. Either way, the art and math need to complement each other to be successful.”
The orchestration of the process is important to ensure the player understands the game, she adds.
To get to this level, Knight had the mentorship of John Vallejo, who is the vice president of game development at Scientific Games. “He is amazing. He has taught me by example how to be a good manager and how to have a successful team that is passionate about their work and who feel appreciated.”
To Knight, Scientific Games is in a unique position to evolve and create a full entertainment experience for the player.
“We’re developing games players love, using innovations to provide an engaging experience. We will continue to innovate our product lines to provide value for the player, who ultimately decides our success,” says Knight, who coaches baseball for one of her two sons’ teams; both boys are into sports in a big way.
With her side of the industry in a growth pattern, Knight has some wisdom for new blood.
“Be fearless. Be confident in yourself. Lead by example and be kind to people. Teams do not want to follow those who bark commands, but those who appreciate their hard work and give constructive feedback. Bad news does not get better with age, and don’t be afraid to have those difficult conversations.”
The Learning Leader
Will Provance • Director of VLT Operations, Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park
Having worked in hotels, night clubs and restaurants from early on, Will Provance knew that he was a great fit for the hospitality industry. Determined to turn those beloved jobs into a long-term career, Provance packed up and moved to Las Vegas, where he worked towards his M.S. in hotel administration-gaming from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, joining their Hospitality College Mentor program.
It was through this game-changing program that he met one of his greatest career influences and the person who placed him in his first job in gaming, Brian Eby, now the executive vice president of operations at Jack Entertainment. Eby was one of many mentors to share personal experiences and a knowledge base that would shape Provance’s own leadership style.
Taking lessons from them, he tapped into his own personal values that would gain him experience and send him on the road to senior management—namely integrity, perseverance and lifelong learning. Instead of just completing immediate projects, he sought ways to add value to his positions and make long-term impacts. He knew that the key to success was simple: hire the trustworthy, and be trustworthy.
Provance makes it a point to be available to both his leadership team and his hourly team whenever needed. This trust-building initiative has offered him an invaluable chance to become a better teacher to his employees, and to provide them with a comfortable environment for raising questions. He even started a book club for property managers interested in reading about and discussing leadership, with recommendations like Steven R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and Jim Collins’ Good to Great.
Provance sees some definite trends in the gaming industry as it currently stands, observing that analytics in particular provide the largest opportunity for emerging leaders. He feels that although it’s crucial to have a strong understanding and background in operations, industry trends are pointing toward more decisions being data-based.
“Tomorrow’s leaders need to be able to understand that data, relate it to the real world, and make impactful decisions based on it,” says Provance. “If you have one without the other, you will have a harder time making the choices that will move a company forward.”
As for forward movement, Provance is a big believer in patience, citing the dangers of trying to move too fast, and pointing out the importance of taking the time to self-evaluate.
To young professionals navigating the corporate ladder, he soundly advises, “Look for every opportunity to learn. Learn about the job you have, talk to people about the job you want, and read as much as you can. The more you expose yourself to lessons and experiences beyond the day-to-day tasks, the more prepared you’ll be to attack any challenge you encounter. Always be learning.”
Joseph Radetich • President, Sysco Las Vegas
Food is an experience,” Joseph Radetich says.
So is it any wonder he ended up in the food industry after college? But the road to Sysco Las Vegas, where he serves as president, began while still in college, when Radetich worked part-time at Wegmans Food Markets in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.
After foregoing law school, Radetich Googled food wholesalers.
“Sysco was the first link and then the journey began,” he says. “I was fortunate to always have the support of my family growing up. I admired my father’s work ethic and success of starting out as an electrician and progressing his way to being vice president of sales. This was a compelling story which motivated me to achieve more.”
After college, Radetich relocated to Fairfax, Virginia with Wegmans. He later took a position with Sysco as a marketing associate in Phoenix. Hired at 22, he recognized an outstanding opportunity when he saw one.
“I needed to stay focused because I had so much to learn,” he says.
Radetich’ s career progressed through various sales positions. He moved to Illinois as a vice president of sales. A year later Radetich returned to Phoenix, where the company named him executive vice president in 2016, then later that year, president of Sysco Las Vegas, a company which works with almost every casino in Las Vegas.
“I attribute a lot of my success to the amazing people I surrounded myself with,” he says. “I had outstanding mentors who truly believed in me, for which I will be forever grateful. I have always focused on building a highly engaging and customer-centric leadership team.”
Chris Jasper, the vice president of sales, was one of those amazing people, who tapped Radetich to become district sales manager in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“Chris is an outstanding leader, humble, always focused on people and process, and is willing to make the right investments in customers and employee associates’ development. His leadership enabled me to have so much exposure to the business and our customers that I ultimately progressed multiple times under his leadership.”
The other mentor who made a large impact is his grandfather, John Mueller.
“I have never met someone more selfless to support those around him and ensure that they come first. From a young age through today, he provided real feedback and guidance that I take to heart and has always been there to coach me.”
Radetich was so caught up in moving his career forward he failed to appreciate some of the great experiences and opportunities in front of him.
“Since being in Las Vegas, I have truly dedicated 100 percent of everything I have to the present and future all within the great city I love,” says the car fanatic, who loves to drive through Red Rock Canyon or other various parts of the Southwest desert.
His advice for younger people that want to join the industry: stay focused on the customer and their experience.
“Build people around you that are people-focused,” he says. “Develop relationships and network with people that are willing to invest the time with feedback and guidance for you. It is not about racing to the highest position you can in the shortest period of time, it is about staying true to yourself and allowing yourself to develop in the role.”
Anna Sainsbury • Co-Founder and CEO, GeoComply
Seven years. That’s how long it took Anna Sainsbury to grow GeoComply from a kitchen-table enterprise to a global leader in geolocation for the gaming industry.
Sainsbury began her gaming career as commercial director of Technical Systems Testing (now owned by GLI), working on compliance with regulators, operators and vendors around the world. After five years, she struck out on her own as a consultant. That’s when she recognized the exploding need for geolocation solutions in the U.S. market. GeoComply was born.
“Until that time, most European operators had used an IP-based geolocation solution, which was enough for European regulators,” Sainsbury says. “The U.S. had very specific requirements whereby you had to have assurances that the user was in the state or district and not using tools to mask or manipulate their location.”
The company began “as a small, awkward team of myself, (CEO) David Briggs and (VP of Regulatory Affairs) Lindsay Slader,” all working from their homes. Today, GeoComply serves every North American jurisdiction, has a 70-person worldwide team, and is “growing organically” to meet growing demand.
In the U.S., the solution “pulls in any kind of location data available, and uses more than 350 fraud checks to ensure that the data points hadn’t been tampered with,” says Sainsbury. “That way we can give the highest level of assurance that any player is within the state of the permitted licensed operator.”
Sainsbury says she wasn’t the stereotypical whiz kid growing up, and in fact gravitated more to the arts.
“By no means was I the smartest kid in class—I just really enjoyed solving problems.” A graduate of the interior design school at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, she sees many parallels between design and technology, and calls her work at GeoComply “a big puzzle that we get to solve for our clients.”
Not surprisingly, she’s busy these days. “It’s an exciting time. We’ve had dozens of launches over the past few weeks and have many more to come over the next three months. It’s going to be a big challenge rolling out a post-PASPA market responsibly with some type of consensus on what KYC rules are—not just geolocation but age, ID fraud, payments. We have a lot of work to do to make sure banks are trusting the systems and getting those payments online.”
Asked what advice she would give to up-and-coming entrepreneurs—or her younger self, for that matter—Sainsbury says, “Relax. I sometimes wanted problems to be solved before the market was ready, and that’s not necessarily within my control. You’re always going to end up somewhere, so enjoy the ride.”
On a personal note, she’s dedicated herself to the cause of child protection and how her technologies can help stop illegal child imaging on the internet.
“I’m working with police and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection on these matters,” says Sainsbury. “It means a lot to me.”
Meanwhile, as more states open for iGaming, more player portals become available and more people try to slip through those geo-fencing barriers, “we are constantly evolving,” says Sainsbury. “It keeps our team on its toes and makes sure we continually innovate. I just love a good challenge.”
True to Her Roots
Mimi Williams • Executive Director of Marketing, Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel
Mimi Williams was born in Buffalo, New York. While she moved around quite a lot growing up, she never strayed too far from the Seneca casinos, where she has enjoyed a rising career in the marketing department for more than 15 years. She even lived for a time on the Seneca Territory in her formative years.
“Going to different schools and making new friends helped in my development as a strong leader,” Williams says. “My father also raised me to be a leader. He pushed me consistently in everything I did, reminded me to always have a positive attitude as ‘attitude is altitude!’”
After graduating from the State University of New York, Fredonia, where she received a bachelor of science in business administration with a concentration in marketing, Williams joined Seneca Gaming & Entertainment as the marketing manager.
“I wasn’t there long, as I was given an opportunity to help open our first property, Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino in 2002 as the promotions manager,” she says.
The tribe now operates two additional properties: Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. Williams assisted in, hired and developed the promotions departments at all three properties. Eventually, she became director of promotions and then executive director of marketing.
“As executive director of marketing, I oversaw the promotions, bus and special events department for Seneca Niagara and Seneca Buffalo Creek for many years, which strengthened my skills, and helped me understand the differences in clientele,” she says.
In her role, Williams also handles critical corporate areas of the marketing team including corporate partnerships, bus group sales and convention sales.
A handful of mentors helped pave the way for Williams, including Vice President of Marketing Jim Wise. “Jim was so personable and passionate about his job. He really showed me how to be a true leader and never forget where you started. He wasn’t afraid to step in anywhere and help,” she says.
The late Valerie Harlan had a way to brighten a room with her laughter, her passion and her tenacity, Williams says. “No matter how hard the day or night was she always has a smile. She showed me that a smile can go a long way.”
Melissa Free, the current senior vice president of marketing, gave Williams the opportunity to branch out and into other marketing areas. “She has trust in my leadership and guidance,” she says.
A new era is on the horizon, Williams says. Seneca Niagara Resorts & Casinos is undergoing renovations to enhance what will become a True Seneca Signature Resort Destination. “The organization will create a true sense of arrival, creating that wow factor,” she says. “We want our guests to see the immediate visual impact upon arrival to the property. Adding a sense of excitement and anticipation cascades all the way through the newly renovated lobby.”
The finished product will leverage marketing to a whole new level, she says. “Marketing will be able to showcase the top of the line and stay competitive.”
Williams’ two younger brothers struck a competitive chord in her life. “Being the only girl, I knew I had to beat at least one of them or both in everything we did,” says the mother of three, who devotes her precious spare time to watching her children play baseball, lacrosse and soccer, and when it comes to herself, running, lifting weights or basketball.
For those interested in the industry, Williams urges them to get a college degree.
“College is where you develop true independent skills. College challenges you to prioritize, to make choices (good and bad).”
Opportunities abound for an industry she describes as exciting and adventurous.
“The environment can change from day to day, from morning to night, and that is what keeps it interesting and allows you to figure out what your true calling is,” she says.
— William Sokolic
The 2018-19 class of the “Emerging Leaders of Gaming 40 Under 40” are:
Joyce Arpin, Senior Vice President, Finance and Treasurer, Caesars Entertainment Corporation
John Baca, Director of Slot Operations, Angel of the Winds Hotel & Casino
Kyle Bender, Managing Director – Consumer, Gaming and Leisure Investment Banking, Macquarie Capital (USA) Inc.
Jason Birney, General Manager, Hollywood Casino Columbus
Julia Boguslawski, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Investor Relations, AGS
Gena Caviness, Auditor, National Indian Gaming Commission
Carlos Eduardo Coelho, Senior Associate, MdME Lawyers (Macau)
Evan Davis, Vice President and General Counsel, SugarHouse Casino
Steven Ebner, Director of Slot Operations, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
C.J. Fisher, Associate, Fox Rothschild LLP
Adam Fong, Vice President of Product Management – Casino Solutions, Everi
Maulin Gandhi, President, Tangam Systems
Serkan Gecmen, Vice President of Innovation and Applications, Affinity Gaming
Jackie Gibson, Executive Director, Office of Public Gaming, Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Rosaura Gonzalez, Vice President of Sales, NRT Technology Corp.
Geoffrey Goodman, Vice President, Business Development and Strategy, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.
Sydney Hatcher, Director of Table Games, Golden Nugget Casino Hotel
Elaine Ho, Executive Director, Regional Premium Account Management, Marina Bay Sands
Jordan Hollander, Deputy Attorney General, New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement
Mick Ingersoll, Director of Gaming Operations and International Customer Success, VizExplorer
Jennifer Kearns, Executive Director of Marketing, Maryland Live! Casino
Jamie Knight, Senior Game Producer, Scientific Games
Keith Kruczynski, Director of Game Development, Gaming Arts, LLC
Ryan Kulp, Manager of Technical Services, Ainsworth Game Technology
Wendi Long, Marketing and Player Development Manager, Indigo Sky Casino & Resort, Outpost Casino and Bordertown Casino & Arena
Tamara S. Malvin, Partner, Litigation Practice Group, Akerman LLP
Emily Marshall, IIDA, Interior Design Discipline Leader and Senior Associate, HBG Design
Bryan McVey, Director of Mechanical Engineering, Incredible Technologies
Will Provance, Director of VLT Operations, Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park
Joseph Radetich, President, Sysco Las Vegas
Tonya Roedell, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Aristocrat Technologies
Yoshua Rubinstein, Vice President, Strategy and Operations, Las Vegas Sands Corp.
Anna Sainsbury, Founder and Chairman, GeoComply
Stephen Singer, Chief Strategy Officer, The Drew Las Vegas
Adam Suliman, Vice President of Online Gaming, JACK Entertainment
Kit Szybala, Partner and Executive Director of Operations, Global Market Advisors
Dustin Thomas, Director of Compliance, National Indian Gaming Commission
Dirk Whitebreast, General Manager, Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel
Mimi Williams, Executive Director of Marketing and Sales, Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino
Edward R. Winkofsky, Shareholder (Global Gaming Practice, Corporate) Greenberg Traurig LLP