Episode Description

The Casino business is full of different opportunities. This is why youget to experiment with many fields and work your way through the ranks. Youhave to prove your work if you want to succeed in the business. You need tohave leadership qualities like empathy and forgiveness. These are the things Dominic Orozco has done to get to where he is right now. Dominic is the ChiefStrategic Marketing Officer of Gila River Hotels& Casinos. He has worked in the Casino businessfor a very long time and has been promoted for his hard work. Learn how to dowhat you love with your host, Scott Harkey, and his guest Dominic Orozco. Learnhow to do everything with pride and empathy today! 

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Episode Transcript

I'm pumped because we got Dominic Orozco in the house. He’s the CSMO at Gila River Hotels & Casinos. What is CSMO?

It's unique. I take pride in it because it’s different. It's not common but I hold a lot of value to it. It’s Chief Strategic Marketing Officer. It was important to the casino that I'm at, which is Gila River, to put marketing as a strategic role in all of it. We lead with marketing and follow with operations, etc.

All of the strategies fall in marketing. I like that. It’s not just pretty pictures. Back in the day, people said, “Do the creative.” It's a strategic initiative, which you're involved in.

You need the vision of what your business is going to be, what you're going to sell, what your product is, and what your message is and your brand. Everything else will follow suit.

Let's jump into that. I want to go to your background because there are a lot of people that read the blog. For me, I love knowing how somebody got to where they are in their career. It's always interesting. You have a lot of that. I like the street hustlers, “I would get this. I did that.” I interviewed Ray Anderson. He's a street hustler. When you go to Stanford and Harvard, you're going to be a badass.

He's all charisma.

He's amazing. Guys like you and I, we're not the Stanford guys. I want to get into that. Let's get into some of the strategic initiatives you're doing. It's a freaking crazy time to be in the casino business. I know you're working on some insane.

It's always been a great time. In general, it’s a positive industry. What's cool about this is that my whole methodology or my reason for going into the casino business was because I need to get my foot in and there are many different channels. If I go into healthcare, I'm stuck in healthcare. If I go into HR, I'm stuck in HR. If I go into a risk company, I'm stuck at risk. That category is there. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I know what I want to do now. Back then, I'm like, “This place has many different channels that I could fall into.” I started as a cage cashier at the age of 21 years old. The questions that I had to go through to get the job were ten questions and it was like, “A green chip is $25, a red chip that's $10, and a white one, which is $1, can you add five of those things and come out with a number?” I'm like, “I got this.”

You're in New Mexico and you started as a cage cashier.

I was born and raised in New Mexico. I went to thirteen different schools through high school.


The family moved around. I come from a single-parent family household. It was my mom raising me. My father was non-existent. Unfortunately, that typical story is still existing. It needs to be broken. If men are reading this, you know what I mean. Take care of your families. Lead your families.

Not having a male figure in the household is detrimental. There are studies on it.

There are scars that happen. I've bounced from parochial school, Catholic school, Christian school, and public school.

I want to hear how that shaped you. Do you meet people? Are you more personal? Having to go through that, what do you think were some of the outcomes of that?

It’s exactly what you said it was. I can be anywhere with anybody and make it work because I had to be in thirteen different environments. I was able to be fluid in the way I was able to read people's personalities.

I like how you say, “Here's the benefit from going to thirteen different high schools.” A lot of people would be like, “I couldn't make it because I was in thirteen different high schools. I had no chance.”

You would not change your life and neither would I. It is what it is.

The scars and everything are all part of the purpose and the journey, for sure.

I did the thirteen different schools’ things. It helps me out in marketing, learning people and personalities. There are probably only four people that I don't like and don't like me in the entire world. That's a later episode. I go to the schools and I don't know what I want to do. In the meantime, my mom is working for an advertising agency. You don’t know this. I’m telling this story for the first time.

Don't get into things that will set yourself up for failure.

I can't believe this. I don't know that. We've had many stories.

I’m going to try to stay online and make sure there's a full story behind this. You talk about not knowing what you want to do and you go to multiple different schools. My mom is in an ad agency. At the age of eight years old, I started comprehending what's going on. She works at an ad agency called Competitive Edge. It was in New Mexico. Competitive Edge owned a multitude of other things. They did what normal companies do and they buy up other ventures. You do it yourself with your partners. If you see a PR firm, you buy it. They had the same methodology.

They had the Matter Films, which was their Sunrise Studios across the street. They had this legal Oldsmobile, a car company. They have this client. Back then, it was cut and paste. They would draw something on a backlit board, take a snapshot, and see what was right. Cut, paste, and take another snapshot. It was reel to reel. Now, we take it for our benefit. It's like, “I need a spot to get to a radio station. I'm going to send an email.” I remember rushing to the airplane on FedEx to catch the flight overnight so that you can put your reel to reel shipment for that spot to get aired.

What did your mom do with the ad agency?

She was a trafficker. I would run around. We would clean the buildings. Talk about a single-parent family, she would work and then she would clean the same building where she works afterward to have two sources of income.

What's your mom's name?

Donna. I took her last name. Her last name is Orozco. She’s been married since then. I learned etiquette and everything from her on the work side of it. In the agency side, I saw how that was all working. You guys have a crazy job in the agency world.

Even when I was talking to Ray too, it's weird how things you learn set yourself up for later. It could be twenty years later.

I never would have thought of that.

I wouldn't either.

There are bumps along the way in life when you take jobs. You take the job and you're like, “What am I doing here?” Now I'm like, “Now, I see and understand why I did it.” I've done manual labor. I’ve done landscaping. I've probably done everything under the sun. To get where I'm at, I value what I do every day. When I put on the suit or whatever I'm wearing, I value that because there was a time when I was putting on jeans and boots and going to work in the sun. I get it. I see people are doing that. I value what they do.

Long story, I go to a high school and I'm like, “I have no idea what I'm going to do.” You follow the educational platform as everybody knows. I met my wife in the story. I met her in a small town about an hour out of Albuquerque, where I was born and raised. I met my wife and she was nothing of what I was at that age. I was a knucklehead, to be honest. Everybody at that age is probably a knucklehead in terms of sorts. I was searching for qualification as a man that didn't have a father figure. I was searching for qualifications for whatever it was. I go down the route and meet my wife and she is perfectly put together.

She's awesome.

She does not drink. She’s perfect. I'm like, “There's something about this that I love and enjoy. I'm going to lock her in.”

You need that balance. How old were you?

I was twenty years old at that time. I've only been single for 5 or 6 months since I was fourteen years old. I'm a running partner kind of guy. I hate to be alone.

Who knows? It works out for you.

I was single six months prior to meeting her. I met her and we ended up having my daughter within three months of being together. She was planned.

You knew. You met her and it was like, “Boom.”

I lock her in. In three months, we're having a kid. We get married after and start this family. We decided where we’re going to start this family, where we’re going to live, where we’re going to reside. We have a new kid. My mom and stepfather own a recording studio in New Mexico. They recorded people like Snoop Dogg and Outkast. I'm like, “I don't know what I want to do.” I'm like, “They're busy with their business.” They still have it to this day. Her parents were retired. He was a retired Army veteran that was in 82nd Airborne. He taught boxing in the military. Her mom was a retired judge in the prison system. You could imagine what I was going into. I’m like, “I am not polished clean. I understand why she is.”

She wanted the bad boy.

That's not me anymore. That's been taken away. We started a family there. At the age, getting back to my career, I'm like, “I'm going to put in for a casino here. I'm 21.” It was the only industry in that area. There were 13,000 people in that area of Grants, New Mexico at that time. I'm like, “You either had prisons or you had the casinos.” I'm like, “I'm going to go to the casino business and I'm going to go that route.” I’m 21 years old, I put an application in, and they told you the questions. It’s easy. They ask you for a background check to get your gaming badge. I'm like, “This is not good.” You go back ten years.

Casino Business: There is a ton of opportunity in the casino business. There are so many different channels that you could just get your foot in and learn.

I went through that process, too when I started working with you guys. I had to go back ten years. A guy called me and he was like, “You are a wild high school college kid.” I was like, “Yes, I was.”

Were you happy about that?

I was not happy. I was scared at first. I was like, “Did I screw this up?” The casino background is insane.

I go to get this and I'm freaking out. I’m like, “I'm 21 years old. That's only back to eleven. That's in the prime of me being crazy. Maybe I'll go back to the places I was living in, the jurisdictions, and get a printout of my criminal history.” It’s what it is. I got these printouts. I had this warrant that was sitting there and a ticket for speeding that I never paid because I didn’t have money back then. They're like, “You got a warrant for your arrest.” A crazy story. I go in there to get my print out and the lady was like, “Our printer is jammed. Can you sit back and wait on the couch? I'm going to get this fixed.” She played me like a fool. I'm sitting on the couch and a cop walks around the corner and he's like, “Dominic Orozco.” I'm like, “Yes?” He's like, “You got a warrant for your arrest. You're going to jail.” I'm trying to get a job to clean myself up and get a better career.

You're in an interview trying to get a casino job.

I’m getting my reports for criminal history to apply for a gaming badge and I get arrested. I get out. Everything is good. I started working for the casino as a cage cashier.

You paid your deal, you came back, and they still gave you a job.

I wasn't a bad person in general. Just little misdemeanors here and there. I’m being a young teenage kid. I wasn't a felon. What came out of it is they’re like, “As long as you're truthful and honest with us, we can accept that. You’re not money laundering.” It’s the key thing to games. I started working as a cage cashier. Six months in, I'm going to move on. I need more money. I was making $8 an hour. I'm like, “I need something better. I'm going to move and go work for a landscape company.” I was going to put in my resignation leave and they said, “We have a supervisor position. Do you want it?” I said, “What does it pay?” “They said $11.” I said, “I'm in.” I take that. I keep moving up in the system, fourteen years working for the same casino company in New Mexico. I worked as a cage cashier, cage supervisor, marketing players club supervisor, marketing manager, marketing director, assistant general manager role, and I got to a point where I was capped out. Nothing on the higher level was moving.

How long from cashier to assistant general manager?

Fourteen years. I gave that company fourteen years. It’s a great company. I wouldn't change anything. It doesn't seem like a long time. There was such a thing as getting into things that you're setting yourself up for failure. There is a misconception among young professionals. Even us, at our age we're in now, we're going to conquer the world. We’re going to take over.

We're frustrated when we're not. Even still now, I’m like, “Why am I not conquering the world?”

You’ve still got 25 years at least. Look at what you’ve accomplished.

At 26, it was worse because there was nothing. You would feel that. Did it feel like you were working your ass off?

It did but I could do it back then. I could work twelve-hour shifts, no questions asked.

You’re working 60 hours a week.

I’m trying to prove my worth. I’m trying to move up the ranks.

Why were you getting promotions?

You have to outrun the bear. You had outrun the person. I looked at the folks around me and I'm like, “I got to be better than you and they're going to promote me.” Back to the casino business, there are tons of opportunities. There's always attrition happening in casino businesses. There are always openings. I keep playing for it.

That is true in the workforce. You don't size people up in a negative way but you go, “I'm going to outwork you.”

All strategy falls into marketing.

Until you run the full department. At that time, I was in the department area. A few things, I learned how a frontline employee feels. I learned what they go through. I learned the sticking points in the organization that I was working for in gaming primarily. I learned what people were looking for in elevation and when they're going to advance when you're mature enough. There's such a thing as maturity as it comes to you. You can get a degree and you can do that all day long as you want, which I did later on. It doesn't mean anything. The paper is great. There's value in the work ethic that goes into getting it.

If you pass that test, that’s cool.

On-the-job training is priceless.

I don't know if I've seen any other industries the way I've seen in the casino industry. I agree with you. I've worked in 50 different industries. I've done car dealers, plumbers, and personal injury attorneys. I've done the weirdest things you could ever imagine. I probably handled their advertising in some industry. In the casino business, it is a fun business of good people that are authentic, real, and honest. The other interesting thing about the industry is almost everybody I've talked to has a somewhat similar story to you. Ken and Councilman Redbird, the same thing. Is that a thing where people work their way up and have handled every job in the casino?

Typically. What you'll find is some of the most esteemed leaders have been your frontline employees years ago. It's normal and natural. I value it the most.

You have empathy for every single job. They're going to be like, “You don't like doing this? I did this.”

When I'm in my office and EVS, Environmental Services, comes to get the trash and stuff, I don't allow them to dump my trash. I dump my trash. I know what they've gone through. I did that as a teenager. My mom owned a business. I'm like, “I don't want you to feel like you're degrading because you're not.” If you have the drive and want, that EVS person will potentially be something big.

Would it be fair to say that because you have empathy for every role, you know how to lead at the organization that you're at?


It’s part of the success.

People want to know that they're valued and they’re heard. What I don't have empathy for are people that are lazy and don't want to do the work. The ones who want to collect the check. In sports, you're on a team. You got to put everything for that team. If not, don't be on the team.

That's why you have the respect that you have in the industry. You have both sides of the coin. It’s like, “Don't screw around. I've had that job. I see laziness because I've been there. The hard workers, I have your back. I know there are going to be failures. I'm here to help you succeed.” To me, that’s true leadership.

I would drive an hour to my job because it was an hour away from where I lived during this time. My shift was 1 day, 2 swings, 2 graves. That was my week. When people come off, they go, “I'm tired.” I'm not buying it. I’m like, “We can do it. You can do it.” It’s encouragement. I respect them in general for what they're doing because I know they're on a path and a journey to get somewhere.

You and I are on the cusp. We could both be either Millennials or we can be Gen X. Millennials are smart. For the most part, Millennials work hard. Some of the same attributes that I can relate to, I see in them in terms of wanting to succeed, get promoted, and work hard. I don't necessarily think it's a generational thing. You hear all the time, “Millennials are lazy.” I don't agree with that. I'm curious about your thoughts. Do people partly have a point when they say that maybe? I didn't know that I was going to go down this rabbit hole. It came up.

I have two perspectives. One, as parents, we want our kids to have a better life than we had. Every generation is always trying to make it easier in a sense. There is a sense of somewhat of a complacency a little bit because they have it a little bit easier.

We had it way easier than Boomers.

We wouldn't have it any other way. We enjoyed that and we appreciate it. Millennials are the mindset of work smarter and not harder. We think there's value in showing you that I work 60 hours a week and I got sweat coming down my forehead. You then value that.

That's a fair point. In some cases, they are right. I've seen that they work way smarter.

Fourteen years, I'm ready to move on. I know I have to move outside the company. I remember a boss telling me, “Sometimes to grow, you have to leave the company.” At that time, I thought that was disrespectful. At the time, I'm going, “That's disrespectful.” I'm then like, “Why doesn't he want me here?” I took it as that. He has enlightened me though. Now that I know, I understand what he said. He was spot on because he experienced it. He knows that for people to leave states, leave industries, and move around is probably the hardest thing you'll do in a career. It shakes your core.

Growth happens, for sure. In industries, it's hard to move up. You got to do something else. Sometimes the most obvious internal person for the job doesn't get it.

I get that.

He was spot on with that.

I put my applications and fillers out. I get a bite to go to an advertising agency. I respect you guys 100%.

You have empathy for the ad agency. That's why it makes you such a good client.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

It’s hard.

It’s tough.

You came and worked for Riester. You moved to Phoenix.

I worked for Tim Riester. He’s a fantastic guy.

Casino Business: If you turn away from your struggles and don't address them, you're creating a manhole for yourself. You can jump over the hole and leave it, or you can cover that hole.

He's an incredible guy. I have nothing but great things to say about him. He's an amazing business person.

I learned a lot in the short time that I was with him, seeing how we treated everything that was there.

He's a professional. I've met with him multiple times. Every time I sit down, I’m like, “That's freaking smart.”

My only regret about the whole thing is that I didn't leave that department or that place the right way. I probably did it the wrong way. We all have minor bumps. I left in a short stint. He put a lot of equity and value in me. I came in and it wasn't for me. Talking about immaturity, maybe I wasn't mature at the time and go, “I didn't see how to approach this differently.” What happened is I ended up going, “I'm going to go back to what I know, which is operations.” At the time, I didn't know if I loved the agency or not. I saw it from the outside, it looked valuable. I was like, “This is great.”

We screw around all day and make the ad campaign.

These guys will wear polo shirts, khakis, and Vans. They look fantastic. There's glitz and glamour to it. I value that. It is on the opposite side of taking orders and trying to navigate personalities again and going, “I want to take the order of what you're telling me to do but this is the right way to do it and educate and make sure that they take it in a respectful manner.”

You handled the Choctaw account in Oklahoma. It was a huge account. How many casinos? Was it eleven or something?

Yes. It's something massive. They have five major ones. It spreads all the way from Northeast Oklahoma all the way to the bottom of the Southwest of Oklahoma.

I remember Atlanta and I was like, “This is huge.”

I used to drive that from Pocola, Oklahoma all the way to Durant, Oklahoma. It’s a four-hour drive. You hit the road. I learned a lot. When I thought about doing it, I remember the question going, “I don't know if you're an agency person.” I don't know what that meant at that time. I know what that means now. Not him. It’s one of my coworkers. I didn't see the value. He trusted me and trusted what I was going to do. There was a little dysfunction in the terms that we didn't know where I sat and fit with all the things.

I felt like I brought some value in some sense. The method of the madness is I wanted to learn the backside of it as well. I wanted to know the agency. I knew I was going to be in marketing someway somehow. I didn't know how much I loved the casino at the time and so I left it and I go, “I love casinos and operations.” In the meantime, I am learning 100% about branding and how all this all ticks, which comes full circle to the job that I'm in now. I know how OH Partners works. I know their struggles. I know where they bottleneck. I can appreciate it.

You can see it.

I couldn’t understand why it is, the capture of hours and all these things that come with it.

It’s hard.

It is what it is. I learned that side of it. It's helped me in what I do now. The community that I work for now is huge.

They brought you over from research to do what in Gila?

I had a colleague that I worked with in New Mexico. He was our corporate controller at the time and he happened to be a VP of Marketing for Gila River. He called me up and said, “We’ve got some issues.” I can see from the outside looking in that they had branding confusion. I could recognize it. I'm going, “These guys have resources. They have dominance and everything they need to be a powerhouse. If they could align it, nobody is going to touch them.”

He calls me and he's like, “We have some issues. Can you come in?” I'm like, “I would love to. You called me at the right time.” He goes, “We want you to be the director of marketing for Vee Quiva Hotel and Casino.” I said, “Sounds good.” I go and I take a drive out to Vee Quiva. It was an hour away from where I live. I drive out there, I go into my orientation to get hired. In that same orientation, they go, “You're going to do the full thing. You're doing the full corporate director. You're taking all three properties.”

The person you met said, “It’s not just this job but you're going to take it all.”

I met the CEO, Kenneth Manuel. He liked what I was doing. We've stayed hand-in-hand. I share his vision. It's been great ever since.

In Casinos, some of the most esteemed leaders were your frontline employees 25 years ago.

I don't know why I keep going back to this but I keep understanding how people grow. For marketing people, KPIs come up. They’re for growth ticks. It’s somewhat job titles as you go up the food chain and seeing how you did that. If you had to pick a few things out that stick out that’s like, “I want to say this and this,” some big reasons for going from a cashier to CMO of one of the biggest regional casinos in the country, do you have any that stick out to you?

Stay in the course. Stay disciplined is one thing. Don't think that it's going to be instant and come to you right away. When you get into a company or enterprise, look at the top and see if there's value there. See if you like what's there and invest the time and slowly make your way to climb that ladder. It'll come. Stay in the industry. Pick an industry you love and stay in it. One thing I say is your name is on everything. Make sure you do everything with pride. If you put your name in an autograph on your picture, everybody would go, “That's a great and brilliant picture. We see value in that guy or lady.”

You're a little bit old school, put your name on everything and work hard. You got a little old-school vibe.

I'm an old soul, for sure. I'm glad you pointed that out. Inside, I feel young. I still have the old traditional values. My uncle had a good part of that. He raised me a little bit for a couple of years and stayed a part of my life. He's the one that shifted my mentality to be more disciplined and structured. Raise your family, be a good person, and help your community, those things. The old-fashioned, the handshake.

Strong, firm, and you look them in the eye handshake. I teach my kids that.

If we meet somebody, I'm watching how they're acting, so they're set up for the future. I would say keep those values. As a Millennial or whatever it is, there is quality in those values. It may seem antiquated and obsolete but when you shake somebody's hand with firmness and you look in their eye, you know what it creates and you know what happens. They believe what you're saying and you're confident in what you're doing. Confidence carries huge merit and huge weight for everybody. Are you confident about what you're selling?

Sometimes you’d be like, “Be confident.” “What do you mean?” That's earned. You got to go through some crap to get that confidence. You don't wake up and be like, “I'm confident.” There are processes, meditations, working out, and things you can get your body and mind ready for confidence. It's earned. I look at you and you’re well dressed, got the title, and good dad. You look like you have it put together.

I don't look like I have it put together. I've reached out to you before too. It’s like, “I'm struggling.” You looked at me with so much empathy, like, “I got you. I understand that.” With your church, I know you mentor a lot of kids. It’s the same thing. There have been times in my life I haven't got that put together. Is there something around that? What is it that makes you tick that allows this confidence, excelling, career, and as a person? You have demons like everybody. How do you battle both of those?

I don't hide the demons. You know me, I'm an open book. The first thing is to try not to be the perfect person to everybody on the outside. You crumble inside. You’ve got to have a foundation. I've been walking in my faith in Christianity. I’m a Christian for a few years.

We always make these assumptions in our minds.

I went to a Christian school, a Catholic school, and all these things. They're trying to get me to walk in a faith-based manner and accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. What's interesting is I didn't do that until I was shaken into my core. It's funny because you look like you have everything put together. It's always a work in progress. I ask myself, “Do I have everything put together?” Back in those days, I thought the same thing. At 34 years old, when I was at the pinnacle of AGM, I thought I got everything put together. I'm good. Everybody wants me. I’m solid. When I moved out here, I realized my foundation and my true purpose weren’t complete. What happened is I started to spin. I started doing a death spiral. I was truly unsure, “Did I make the right call? Did I make the right move?” There was something telling me to go back to where I was.

Is it going back to New Mexico?


It was scaredy-cat self, was it?

Yes. It could have been.

I like the label.

I'm a scaredy-cat.

No. We all have that. It’s like, “Don't do that.”

I was nervous. I was scared. I didn't know what I was doing. Fourteen years in the same company, you're the big Merrill Street. You can do nothing wrong. As you said with confidence, you got to prove yourself. Everybody is like, “Now you got to prove it to me. You might do that over there but you don't do it over here.” I start plugging in and going, “What do I need to do?” Before I was following Christ, I remember praying that night. It was November 1st, 2015. I remember the exact date. I will tell you something more interesting about that date. On November 1st, 2015, I was laying in a hotel. I’m about to go to my new job for the first time. I remember talking to my old boss and I was like, “Are you going to take me back?” He goes, “I got to check with the CEO. I got to ask.” I said, “All right. Fourteen years, they're going to take back. No questions asked. No big deal.” At night, before you go and walk into my faith, I pray. I'm like, “God, if this is you, keep the door open where I'm supposed to be. If it's not, close the door.” That was my prayer. Don't ask me why I knew to pray but I prayed that. Do you remember when the earthquake happened in Arizona?

Casino Business: If you can take what you're passionate about and integrate it into a purpose that's bigger than you, then that helps that thing that you're passionate about.

Yes. There was a little tremor.

To me, it was big.

I grew up in Northern California.

I woke up and I'm like, “There's an earthquake in Arizona? What's going on?” I call my boss at 9:00 AM and he's like, “They don't want you back.” I'm like, “Okay.” That hurt.

That hurts me hearing that.

I'm like, “This is where I'm supposed to be.”

You're supposed to be at Gila.

At Reister. I'm like, “I'm moving forward.” We start getting plugged into the church, my wife and I, and my kid. My daughter is having struggles. She moved as well in the middle of high school.

You know that better than anybody.

She's struggling, so we try to plug her in. We ended up finding our true foundation in following God. Over five years following Him. We're at a church, North Phoenix Baptist Church at Central. It’s right up the road here. The pastor is amazing. He swooped me in and I started getting plugged in faith-based organizations like Mentor Kids USA. I recognize those kids that they had something that I don't want them to see.

You asked for my drive. It's no good if you turn away from a struggle that you had or a problem and don't address it and make sure that other people don't fall in the manhole. You can jump over the hole and leave it or you can cover that hole, so nobody else falls in it. My drive is, I'm going to cover as many holes that I went through as possible so that people don't fall into them. If I'm letting people fall into holes, shame on me. I'm being a mean and evil person. I'm selfish. I'm on the board for Mentor Kids USA. It's a faith-based program that works in poverty areas of Phoenix. They partner with churches and schools and teach good academics and they teach Bible-based studies.

It’s like a mentorship program. I love Big Brothers Big Sisters.

You donated to them. Thank you for that. I appreciate that.

For me, I couldn't relate. Our purpose and what we do for work allow us to cover those holes. That analogy, I want to cry thinking about it. The platform that was provided in our careers is for a reason. It's provided to us not for us to be cool or for us to have a bunch of money. It is provided to us so we can help. I had it for a long time. I've been working with my coach. I’m getting coached by Coach William. He’s this badass ninja dude. It's like going to basketball practice every day and having someone on your ass. He texts me all day.

For a long time, I had the community things that I was doing separate from the business things. I realized the better I get myself, the better things happen for OH, the more I can do community-wise. They don't need to be separate. They can be integrated. Gila River does amazing communities. It's incredible. If you can take what you do for work that you're passionate about and integrate that into some purpose that's bigger than you and that helps something that you're passionate about like you are and I am, amazing things can happen. Our world gets better. We're all in charge of this. We're all in these positions for this.

OH is a means for you to provide community support. That's what it is at the end of the day.

My things are underprivileged kids. I was raised by my dad. I can relate to you a lot in a different way. I didn't have my mom as much as I would have wanted.

That's important, those scars that exist.

It's no one's fault. It's not my mom’s or somebody else’s fault. It happened for a reason.

My whole purpose is to cover as many manholes as I can so people don't fall into them. I want to give back to the community as much as possible. I want to have a sole purpose. When people wake up and they're solely searching for either money or something else, it's not truly fulfilling. You're never fulfilled all the way. I've been able to trust in my lead to have God first in my life and everything I do. I'm not perfect. Don't mistake that. People hear Christians and they go, “They think they're perfect.”

Let’s set the record straight. We're not perfect. We have the same struggles as everybody else's. We have grace and forgiveness. That's the difference. We are allowed to wipe off the sin and wipe off the things that we fall out and go, “I know I'm forgiven another day.” You keep moving on not carrying that burden, that struggle, and those scars. If you allow those things to become open, you have no burden.

It is hard though to accept your weaknesses because it's such an ego blow that you have areas of weakness. Get your head and your mind ready for the next day. Keep trying to get better.

Put your name on everything. Make sure you do everything with pride and values.

Somebody told me, “Ego is not my amigo.” I can’t tell you who told me that. It makes sense. As men, we struggle with ego and pride. In my walk, what's crazy is that God perfectly appointed me to this job. Gila River is okay with it. They know what I stand for and believe in. I don't overly put it out there but I've been able to do so many things inside the casino itself where you wouldn't think is walking people to Christ. Be there for people that have lost children and pray for them when they're there. I've been able to open up and pray for team members of 200 in front of them. I've been able to open up for the council. They embrace that faith. It’s a foundation for them. That's valuable to me. I'm able to do it in there. I have a good church. I'm an ordained minister. Do you know this?

You told me that.

I've married my best friend in Sedona. I'm a deacon for my church. I take that importantly. I don't want to say that I'm launching because it's not just me on its own but I'm assisting the church and becoming the face for a men's gathering, men's group, men's Bible study, and men's organization in that church. Career, non-career, families, whatever it is, we need to get men on the straight line and understand our purpose. Understand that every man in here, every single one of us, is qualified. None of us are better than each other. If we all come together and take each other's gifts that we've been given, imagine what happens.

I freaking love that. I've had to have a reality check. What’s funny is that it happened to me about the same age. At 35, I got crushed. I woke up and I'm like, “I got to make a big change.” I woke up and I’m like, “Everything that I've been doing, I'm going to throw it out. I'm going to start from scratch.” It was a reset. I was baptized years ago. You and I have talked about it.

I got to see pictures of it. It was awesome.

It was great. One of my good friends and pastor been helpful in it. A lot of times, it's a marketing thing. You need people to relate to. Our background, which is probably why I'm doing this, is there are people you can relate to and people you can't. My pastor had a sleeve tattoo and played soccer at San Diego State. We had the same birthday. I related to him and I got him. He helped me to understand the big picture. He and 50 other guys and gals have been there for me. There's a lot of men too. I’m talking to the men for a second. There's a time when I knew I needed to start being a man.

I’m not looking for an advertiser but that’s not a truck and it's not guns. It's not how much money you have or how cool you are. I was flooded with that. That's what I thought. I thought I'd be a good athlete. I thought I had money. I thought I'd have to have a hot girl. I thought that I had all this stuff. What I realized is being a man is much different than what I've been taught it is. It's about caring for people, empathy, embracing your emotions, embracing your masculine energy, and being okay with it. It's about many other things. I've seen men now come to me and I've had numerous conversations with people who were where I was at. There are people that have helped me up and now it's my turn to do the same. It's crazy.

You nailed it. That’s spot on. That's exactly it. Don't you get that fulfillment that you get when you help somebody much more than you landing a huge client?

It's like going to the moon.

We're wired that way. We're made that way.

You start to understand what purpose is about. I was telling somebody that I'm going to get purpose tattooed on my arm so I can wake up every day and be like, “This is it. Let's go. Let’s suit up.”

It’s funny because you gravitate towards somebody with tattoos. If I saw you on the street and you had tattoos and bands, I'm going to connect with that guy because we're one of the same. That's for everybody. Whether you don't have tattoos, they may gravitate towards you as well.

I agree with that. In accepting, that's okay and that's a part of you. It’s funny, you and I always think of the marketing perspective on it, too.

It's easier to follow a brand if there is a true purpose of community benefit and assisting and helping if there's a true heart. Gila River always has a giving heart. That's what I tell them. Gila has a giving heart because they do.

It’s part of their culture.

It’s amazing. I have never worked for a place like that ever.

Tribal casinos are like another country. The casino is supporting a community of people, not only in their community but even people that are outside of it. It's culture shock at first. I'm going to these meetings and there’s prayer.

That's why I go to work every day. We're serving a better bigger purpose because we are feeding, helping, and assisting 25,000 community members by our works of gaming revenue. I'm not making my pockets any smaller. Ken doesn't get any. That doesn't exist. Nobody is owning that. It's the community that owns it. They're all stakeholders. We come to work and we go, “For this time, we're busting our butts for 25,000 people so that they can get food, have resources to work, housing, medical, and protection from law enforcement. If their house catches on fire, they have a fire department.” That's what's its funding. You talk about having a purpose, that's the purpose. There's a misconception of casinos. It might happen in other jurisdictions. This one, it doesn't happen that way.

What do you think is next in terms of casino marketing? Where is it going? You got sports betting. There’s a bunch of legislation passed in Arizona. This is going to change things up. Where do you think the industry is headed?

Casino Business: Every single one of us is qualified. None of us are better than each other. If we all come together and take each other's gifts that we've been given, imagine the good that will happen.

The industry is going to explode. It's big already. Talking with outside other jurisdictions and other companies in our same industry, large companies, they say, “You guys have done phenomenal things, haven't even got all the resources, and are scratching the surface.” With this new amended compact that's coming in from the state and new sports betting coming on, this jurisdiction, the city is going to explode with more full resort-filled type casinos and gaming opportunities, which produces more revenue, more tax dollars for the state, and better living for the state. It's all trickled down.

The gaming revenue that the casinos make doesn't just benefit the Gila River community. They also benefit the state. We have to give 12% of our gaming revenue earnings back to the state of Arizona. It helps academics and education. My daughter was in school and she was like, “You're going to go to work.” I'm like, “If I don't go to work, you may not be able to read that book that's in your school.” It's funded by that. There's a huge revenue source that brings to it. It's cyclical and all full circle, which is a good thing. You're going to see better amenities and better things to be proud of as we talk about. Our casinos are our entertainment because we pride ourselves on entertainment. It's going to happen. You're going to see these things exploding and getting bigger and that's going to help the state.

In a few years, Arizona looks like what?

Arizona right now is amazing.

It’s on fire. Don’t you love this place?

I love it. I was thinking of it and I’m like, “Why don’t I want to go back?”

I wish we had surfing here.

We could make that.

We're close enough. California is coming in and is building crap. It's crazy here. The market is insane here. I'm curious, where does it head?

You're going to see some casinos explode to a 1,000 rooms resorts.

How many rooms are at Gila? You’re building a new tower.

With our expansion, we'll go to approximately 54 to 75 roughly.

You got Sheraton.

We’re close to 1,000 rooms there. As one entity itself, you can see it exploding to 1,000 room resorts.

You’ll see a Vegas-style resort.

I don't know if you’ll get full Vegas-style resorts because they have a huge influx of travelers and tourists, which we do too but it's not as long as theirs. They have a longer run at it. They have an international market. For New Mexico, California, and states that are around us, you're going to start seeing them choosing Arizona over possibly and potentially than Nevada when they make trips there. A lot of people in Arizona make trips to Nevada to get a full gaming experience. They want to see that. In the future, you're going to see that happen where you can deliver it here. You don't have to worry about driving to Vegas.

Ego is not your amigo.

If you live in Peoria or East Mesa, it's a staycation here. Why take a flight to Vegas?

Staycations, I love them. They're huge.

It's nice to change it up. You're not on a plane. It's a pain in the ass.

You have more of your money here.

We will see a lot more of that. The travel business is changing right now. The way traditional hotels have operated is going to have to change a lot. I'm excited to see guys like you in the industry. What consumer-centric things can you do to make people's experience better?

The digital sense is probably where we're all going. COVID, if it's taught us anything, we can be reliant on digital aspects and still feel value in it. There was a sense at one time that if you didn't have a person there, you had to dialogue with somebody.

Would it be mobile gaming and the future?

I couldn't say either way. I don't know if I'm for that, to be honest with you. I don't know how I feel about that. In sports betting, you're going to have the ability to do a lot more via mobile and off-premise than what you normally would have been able to do in the past. Look at meetings, it may seem cumbersome now because you have to do Zoom and everything else but it's convenient.

It saves you a lot of freaking time.

It's nice. We're getting a little easier through this meeting process. It’s the same thing with apps. We're running promotions on our app. People can enter promotions, run promotions, play games through the app, and they don't have to step inside the casino.

What's loyalty look like in the future?

I don't know if loyalty ever existed, to be honest with you. I use this word a lot. It’s probably not politically correct. Consumers are promiscuous. In a casino, loyalty clubs are probably an oxymoron because they have every single card to every single casino. It's probably the location and accessibility.

We came up with a card. What are you talking about?

It's a great program. You have to have it. There’s value in reward systems. I'm not knocking in any way.

You're right, though.

You love convenience.

I have Southwest, American, Hilton, and Marriott. I don't know what's going on.

Where do you choose to stay?

The best place for the best price is where other people are at.

This sounds dumb when I say this but if you are the cool place and there's a line, people will stand in line not even knowing what it's for because something is good and happening. Why is everybody else coming?

That's true about loyalty. We focus on loyalty. You got to be cool and fun and the place to be That's all it is. Be yourself, especially in nowaday’s world. The cool kids are the kids that understand themselves and are funny, witty, and authentic. That's what you need to be as a brand. You need to be the cool kid in today's world and not the cool kid ten years ago.

It would be different. Look at what's thriving right now.

The restaurant scene and the bars. It’s the different, cool, authentic brick exposed spot stuff. I agree with you. We get caught up in those market analytics. We get in there and we get all weird.

It’s all we know.

I like the way it's going. We're having a renaissance in terms of marketing and brand.

Millennials are going to be huge for that.

They’re going to be a driving force for that because they command it.

Also, they can influence us as old-timers or old souls. We know the old ways. They're going to come in and go, “You can do it this way.” That's what's generations coming into the fold. If you look at their generation, Generation Z, they're going to bring a different perspective. They have more population. If I'm a business, I may lose a little bit on the top end. Look where I'm focusing, longevity.

Casino Business: Being a man is so much different than what you've been taught. It's about caring for people and having empathy. It's about embracing your emotions.

Millennials don't like the game of chance or skill. You and I have done the research. We know they hit a certain age and they become casino players.

I don’t think they have a discretionary income right now. Their priorities are different.

I do think they will become casino and entertainment customers without having games of skill at being the primary force. We've seen the research, you hit a certain age, you have some discretionary income, you want to relax, and you want to blow off some steam.

It's more communal-based gaming. That's what sports betting is going to bring you. You can watch a game, wager, and play table games. You and your boys can go take over a blackjack table and play. They're trying to get to that point now. It’s just they haven't got there quite yet.

The new products and the new way will help us in that respect.

Have God first in your life and in everything you do.

If you go with your girlfriend to a casino and you guys play, you're searching out, “Where can we sit together? Where can we be together?” It's not conducive to that right now in the sense. They’re making multi where they have two seats on one like the love seat. They’re trying to go that route. If your game is not close and there's somebody in between, it’s not the same value. If you go to a casino, you will see multiple people standing behind a player and they're usually a couple observing because they want to share that moment together. They want to be communal.

That's a great point. I love that. Thank you for coming on. I love talking. I could talk to you all day. I feel lucky, honestly, to have a client where you can have deep conversations like we've had over the years and there's that respect. Thanks for coming on. I want to encourage everybody out there to share this. We're out here hustling. It's not our full-time job but we want to provide value. If you have a comment or something you want to say, please say it. If you share it, that helps to get the message out there. What we’re trying to do is help other people in any aspect of their careers. Thanks for reading. We'll see you all next time. Thanks, Dominic.

Thank you.

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Scott Harkey

Entrepreneur & Podcaster

Scott leads a stable of marketing agencies and services offering the world's biggest brands speed, value and results. OH is an independent agency built to serve today's brands through consumer-centric marketing and strategy.