Black Executives On The Rise

August 2023

Joe Watkins

Current company and role: Worldpay Gaming Solutions, President

Hometown: Originally from Las Vegas, currently lives in Warwick, Rhode Island

First job in the gaming industry: Inside sales executive for Caesars Entertainment

What do you like about working in gaming?

Gaming provides players an escape from long, hard days, a place where everyone is on the same side regardless of their background or ideology (you never see folks rooting against the shooter in a dice pit), and the player gets to be the star. They are greeted when they arrive, they are celebrated when they win, and they build lasting friendships with other patrons and staff.

We build casinos in otherwise disenfranchised areas, providing huge opportunities for jobs and further investment, and gaming operators take significant portions of GGR and support worthy causes in our communities through taxes and philanthropy.

I love that I play a part, albeit small, in all the good I have seen come from the gaming industry.

Did anything surprise you about the industry when you first started?

I was surprised at how data-driven the industry is, how incredibly smart marketers have become within gaming, how strongly operators work to protect against problem gambling, and how small changes over time lead to incredible differences in outcome.

Were you familiar with gambling before landing a job in the industry? What were your thoughts about gaming before starting to work in industry? Has your impression of the industry changed at all?

Growing up in Las Vegas, I always idolized the gaming industry. Both of my parents worked for MGM,  my father as an engineer and my mother as a retail associate. I spent my childhood hoping to one day break into the business in any meaningful way.

I also was entering adulthood at the time of the poker boom and spent much of my last few years of college in card rooms around the city. Suffice it to say, gaming runs in my blood.

My one fear when I broke into the business was: Would the shine of the industry fall away from me? Would I be less excited about what I did if I was part of it every day?

Luckily for me, my passion and resolve for gaming has only strengthened the more I have been able to see and do. I have been blessed to work in each region across the US (Las Vegas, the south, the mid-west, and the northeast). I have been fortunate to work at brick-and-mortar casino operations for large multi-nationals, small mid-west regional casinos, and have a role to play in the shift online over the last several years.

I am more excited about what I do today than I have been at any other time in my career – which is really saying something because I have always loved this business.

What major trends do you see emerging in the gaming industry over the next 5 to 10 years?

  • The shift to online will persist and grow. igaming will begin to be approved in more and more states. Operators will better leverage their online players and their brick-and-mortar assets to reward loyalty and drive greater share of wallet across all channels.
  • I believe, much like TITOs did to coins in the early 90s, cashless solutions will begin to make cash on the casino floor a thing of the past. There are too many strong operational, cost, and customer experience reasons to make the change for the industry to continue to ignore for much longer.
  • Hopefully, we as an industry, will be able to quash the illegal overseas unregulated iGaming and sportsbooks that are pervasive throughout the US and don’t have necessary protections in place for players and rob communities of the investment that they are owed.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders in the gaming industry?

Figure out whose job you want to have, who it is that you look up to most, then go on their LinkedIn, see what their career path was, and use that as a road map for your own career. Learn as much as you can about every aspect of the business. Find mentors. Pay it forward and be a mentor. Never tell yourself no for something you want – go for it as hard as you can and let someone else tell you no. Too often, folks self-elect out of opportunities rather than going for it the best they can. Find advocates and build a network of people who believe in you and are there to help.

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