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9.4: Journey to Success

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    Keith Pakish 

    Mr. Pakish finished high school, 18 years old, married with a child. He took opportunities wherever he could find them, whether that meant pumping gas, mopping floors, refereeing football games, or working on a farm, Mr. Pakish credits much of his success to keeping an open mind because “you never know how things are going to work out.” From Junior College to corporate VP, Mr. Pakish’s ascension is proof that there is a seat at the table for those who may not have the name-brand education that some may expect to see in the executive ranks. In hospitality and gaming, empathy for frontline employees goes a long way, and in many respects, Mr. Pakish’s humble beginnings provided advantages that seemed insignificant at the time, but would later prove to be valuable beyond measure. For example, an ethnic studies professor exposed him to life at an Indian Reservation, where he learned how success is measured differently than it is in Western culture. Family and tribal well-being takes on a different meaning than simply seeing things primarily as ‘dollars-and-cents’. Through his own hardship, and by seeing others around him struggle, Mr. Pakish is that much prouder to have found success with less than stellar cards dealt to him earlier in life. Unbeknownst to him at the time, this gave him the special ability to have compassion for frontline employees and to draw inspiration from their work ethic. Mr. Pakish attributes the success he found later in his career, including in tribal gaming, to be able to connect with his employees in ways that other executives could not, gaining trust, and making those running the operation feel comfortable sharing strategically valuable information. Often passed up for promotion, Mr. Pakish feels he did not fit the mold of a country club executive in a business suit. However, the thick skin he developed earlier in his life allowed him to stay resilient in the face of constant naysayers. By understanding discomfort as a part of the process, Mr. Pakish connected with mentors in ways that allowed him to see that some criticism was actually fair and that he was, in fact, better than he was often giving himself credit. Mr. Pakish believes that this humble spirit helped to develop the kind of professionalism and authenticity that gained respect from the dealer all the way up to the CEO.

    Current Role

    • Vice President of Table Games, American Casino & Entertainment Properties (which includes the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino)

    Previous Roles

    • Vice President of Casino Games, Viejas Enterprises and ACEP, Alpine, California
    • General Manager, Mountain View Casino, Valley Center, California
    • Casino Shift Manager, The Rio Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada


    Bachelors of Arts in Social Sciences, California State University Chico 

    Associate Degree, Hartnell Junior College 


    John Lukasik

    For Mr. Lukasik, college played a key role in his path to success. He emphasizes that students should take advantage of not just what colleges can provide in terms of classroom learning, but also, with respect to networking and job placement. For example in his HR class, the instructor had students attend a career fair to practice distributing resumes and networking. There, what started as a casual conversation with someone who happened to also be from Michigan, led to an offer to become a Table Games Supervisor. The exploratory nature of an internship role also allowed him to learn more than one aspect of a hotel-casino operation, as opposed to having one job in one area. By understanding how table games, slot analytics, and marketing, which may appear to be unrelated, can function as a cohesive system of moving parts, Mr. Lukasik developed the ability to communicate more effectively and with greater confidence with higher-ups. The nature of the academic calendar also provided time to reflect upon what he did during his internship, while crystallizing the experience using concepts learned in the classroom. For Mr. Lukasik, going through a degree program, that integrates industry exposure with formal education, played a major factor in his professional development. Aside from the fact that he felt he was learning new things, he was sooner than expected being called upon by managers, he thought were the experts, for his own insights on the business. This, for him, was an indicator that he was ready to lead and succeed at a high-level.

    Current Role

    • Sports Betting Operations Manager, IGT, Las Vegas, Nevada

    Previous Roles

    • Director of Race, Sports, and eSports, Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas, Nevada
    • Table Games Supervisor, Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
    • Gaming Analyst Intern, Union Gaming Group, Las Vegas, Nevada
    • Casino Operations Intern, Riviera Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada


    • Masters of Science in Hospitality, University of Nevada Las Vegas
    • Bachelors of Arts in Media Arts and Studies, Wayne State University


    Joseph Deep

    Mr. Deep’s success is rooted in a rich understanding of human relationships. Mr. Deep comes from a gambling family, where it was not uncommon in the community to be around underground games. He cut his teeth dealing cards to sometimes aggressive and unsavory personalities in an unregulated environment. Though often uncomfortable, he knew early on that he could be successful in the casino business. In college, he pursued a marketing degree while fulfilling a basketball scholarship where he sharpened his business acumen and kindled his competitive drive. At the direction of his father, also a gambler, Mr. Deep headed to Las Vegas to pursue his dream, only this time in a place where gambling was legal. Despite feeling qualified, Mr. Deep struggled to find steady work, often working on-call, part-time, and enduring a layoff due to company restructuring. Despite setbacks, Mr. Deep never lost his confidence, and he credits this to a tough shell developed in card rooms early on. He easily brushed off the criticism that his lack of formal experience was insufficient to work as a casino marketing executive, which was his ultimate goal. He also knew that his ability to earn the respect of people, even those who didn’t like what he said or did (i.e. dealing a bad hand to a player), would be enough to get his foot in the door. This attitude allowed Mr. Deep to take a job as an entry-level slot representative, a role he was overqualified for, as a means to eventually grab the attention of the casino host department. During his off-hours, he explored different areas of the casino, made connections, and asked questions. He knew that for the job he would eventually land, to take care of high-rollers, building strong relationships between marketing and operations is important but not always easy, as these functions don’t always see eye-to-eye. This was something his college marketing professor instilled in him. In both his work today and in his career trajectory, Mr. Deep has combined his book smarts with his street smarts to turn otherwise simple human interactions, most others would dismiss as inconsequential, into valuable business relationships and opportunities.

    Current Role

    • Resort Relationship Executive, Resorts World, Las Vegas, Nevada

    Previous Roles

    • Executive Casino, Wynn Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
    • Slot Marketing Representative, Wynn Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
    • Slot Floor Supervisor, Wynn Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
    • Player Development, Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
    • High Limit Coordinator, Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas, Nevada


    • Bachelors of Science in Marketing, Geneva College

    9.4: Journey to Success is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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