Kevin Parker is an accomplished gaming executive who has worked at seven casinos, and a gaming-technology leader who helped develop an early mobile gaming product and a product to catch cheaters.
Parker will tell you that he owes his success in gaming to a unique perspective and personality traits that enable him to focus on problems, recognize patterns, and multitask. In his words, “I put everything into everything I do.”
He also owes his gaming career to his grandmother.
Gulf War veteran
Parker is a U.S. Army Gulf War combat veteran and served as an intelligence analyst and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He’s also an associate member of the Tribal Gaming Protection Network and the National Eagle Scout Association.
“I’m native from two tribes, registered Chippewa Cree and Northern Cheyenne on my grandfather’s side. I was actually a military brat. My father was in the military and five out of six of his sons all went into the military.
“My parents are amazing and raised us with strong values. Growing up moving from one Army posting to the next taught us resilience, teamwork, acceptance, and respect for others.”
Parker was a Soviet analyst and Russian-weapons specialist. I asked him if anything in his military experience prepared him for a gaming career.
“I learned respect first and foremost; serving your country teaches you tolerance and a lot of humility. I’ve found everyone has something to contribute. The military taught me a great deal about teamwork. It drilled into me that that no individual is larger than the greater goal.”
After leaving the Army, Parker embarked on a career as a health-care worker with a college internship at three crisis centers.
“I found the more I helped people in that capacity, the more I lost myself. I couldn’t figure out how you can stay whole while you’re making someone else whole. I never figured it out. I was sitting on my porch one day and was feeling pretty bad about life.
“My grandmother was amazing. She pulled up in her truck and said she wanted to show me something. When you’re raised in a family like mine, when Grandma says something, you absolutely do it as quickly as you can. I jumped in the truck and she took me to a casino. I’d never been in a casino before. It was Lucky Eagle in Rochester, Washington. It was glamorous, with lots of lights. It looked exactly like I didn’t feel.
“She said, ‘You’re no fun and you’ve lost your spark. This is what you need to do. You need to deal.’
“I said, ‘Grandma, I don’t know the first thing about it.’
“She said ‘Well, don’t worry about it. I’ve got you signed up for a dealer’s course and a Native casino is opening up in your area.’
“I learned every single game. Then she said, ‘I think you need to try being a boss.’ And so, by goodness, I became a boss. I kept rising. Each time I got a different position, I was super tickled to tell her about it. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for Grandmom,” Parker recalled.
Parker worked at seven casinos, learning all aspects of the casino floor. He moved from casino to casino, cross-training his staffs in table games and slots.
“All the dealers and slot attendants that were part of these operations were cross-trained for both departments and were able to move into supervisors and managerial positions, because they understood the slot and table-game sides. That was unique at the time. Usually, you picked one camp and that’s where you stayed,” Parker said.
“There was one casino rehab and a total of seven casino openings. The thing about an opening is you get to learn everything. I ate that up. It bummed me out when they stopped building a lot of casinos.”
Necessity and invention
Working at Colusa Casino Resort in northern California, Parker first joined forces with John Acres.
“At that casino, I collaborated with John Acres to develop an early mobile-gaming platform, one of the first in the country. However, we were five years too early,” Parker recalled.
At the time, the Colusa casino won a protracted court case that awarded the tribe licenses for 427 additional games. If the games weren’t in use after one year, the licenses reverted back to the state.
“We could not lose those licenses for the tribe. I didn’t have a budget to support them and I didn’t have any place to put them. But I had to find a place for 427 machines. That’s a lot of machines.
“At lunch with John, we talked about how we could validate those licenses. We needed certain features and functionalities to meet the requirements. We came up with a gaming system that offered both Class II and Class III gaming on a mobile device. The device could not leave the grounds. If it did, ended up in a car, and drove over state lines, well, now you have a Johnson Act violation.
“We used what you’d now call a mesh network. Geofencing was brand new at the time and had difficulty working inside buildings. This was 2011, 2012. We found a way to keep the signal inside of the building, put applications on mobile devices, and send the gaming results back and forth.
“We had a whole cadre of folks from the California Department of Justice and the National Indian Gaming Commission who came out to see how we did this, because it was brand new.
“The Apple iPods had just come out and that’s what we used for a device. Before that, I didn’t know how we were going to do it. We loaded software and it worked. John Acres is brilliant,” Parker remarked.
From operator to designer
I asked Parker how he made the transition from casino operator to the high-tech world of casino product design beginning at Acres Gaming.
“John Acres figured out before everybody else that if you really want your products to be right, you need the viewpoint of an operator. You need someone who’s been with those products on the floor, day in and day out, working with the customers, so you can figure out how to make it better.
“John took a chance on actual operators and brought us in. I brought some of the operators. We developed products based on what we knew patrons wanted and operators needed. That’s a model that the rest of the industry picked up,” which is how Parker ended up in high-level positions in gaming technology.
Parker continued his gaming-supplier tech career as vice president of business development for Biometrica Systems, which specializes in security and surveillance software designed to identify bad actors and cheats. He was director of operations for ETG provider Interblock Gaming, responsible for the performance of Interblock products in casinos in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and South America. Currently, Parker is director of ETG for IGT, a global position.
“Electronic table game technology is actually over 25 years old and until COVID, it was a bit of a niche market. But when the pandemic hit and the live table games shut down, we could offer electronic table games and the stadium features. The ETG market exploded during COVID. We went from 1% on casino floors to over 2%. It doesn’t seem like much, but that’s 100% increase. When I started with Interblock just a few years ago, I believe the total market was 8,000 ETG. The total amount in the space now is 16,000 worldwide,” Parker said.
“ETG have a lot of benefits. They offer players a lower price point on your table games. Dealers are expensive. If you walk through a casino, you’ll see that most games are at $25 a hand or more. A lot of players are priced out, but they still want to play table games,” Parker stated.
I asked Parker about the changes in the industry he has witnessed in his 28 years in casino operations and products.
“Technology makes things so much easier. When we had coins, ticket-in ticket-out came along. TITO absolutely revolutionized the industry over a six- to nine-month period.
“Everything’s being designed in such a way to be plug and play, so we can interface more easily. That’s the biggest difference over the years and it truly enriched the player’s experience.
“I’ve gotten to work with some of the extraordinary people who created these products and made everything so much easier. Honestly, the women and men who created protocols that allowed everybody to start communicating together made the largest impact on this industry in my mind,” Parker remarked.
“The secret to my success is giving 100% attention to the people around me. There are many good products on the market, but what makes them great will be the contributions of other people. So for me, it’s absolutely understanding that I’m not the smartest guy in the building, ever. It’s about understanding that everyone is smart and everyone can contribute, then holding everyone to their standard,”
“I have the greatest teams at IGT, the best I’ve had the opportunity to work with in many years. They’re gifted and patient and very innovative. The directors of the various teams are remarkable and senior leadership is world-class,” Parker said.
Faith, grandmother, wife, and perspective
Along with his grandmother, faith, and wife, Parker credits his unique perspective for allowing him to see things differently and helping him become successful in the gaming industry.
“I have lived with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder my entire life. Unless you learn to manage it, it can create havoc in life. Time blindness, difficulty tracking conversations, impulsiveness, restlessness are all part of the package, but my wife Carolyn and daily medication are the solution. I learned early in my life that I had to be interested in everything I do or it won’t get done. I don’t see it as a weakness. It’s part of me.
“I can hyper focus for many hours at a time, which is great for my job, and I multitask with the best of them, because my attention can shift rapidly with no notice. It’s a gift,” Parker said.
Living with unique personality traits has allowed Kevin Parker to succeed in the high-tech world of innovative gaming products. His view of life allows him to understand the potential in everyone.
“I know firsthand that everyone has an opinion and they deserve to be heard. Many of the greatest moments in history and their extraordinary innovations were created by the folks you’d least expect them from,” Parker said.
Entries in the Faces of Gaming series:
- Willy Allison — From New Zealand bloke to world game-protection leader
- Tom Jingoli — From gaming enforcement agent to COO of Konami Gaming
- Tino Magnatta — Interviewing the interviewer, 3,000 and counting since COVID
- Deana and Brady Scott — Still talking shop with the owners of Raving Consulting
- Kevin Parker — “Putting everything into everything I do” (now reading)
- Laura Penney — Putting in the Work as CEO of Coeur d’Alene Casino
- Andre Carrier — Paying it forward
- Jean Scott — The original casino influencer, still frugal gambling after all these years
- Anika Howard — From Harrah’s First Interactive Employee to CEO of Wondr Nation
- Anthony Curtis — Gambling Guru, Las Vegas Expert, Customer Advocate with Street Cred
- Mark Wayman — An executive recruiter with a brand and something to say
- Melonie Johnson — From rural Louisiana to resort-casino leadership
- Brian Christopher — From actor, Uber driver, and cater waiter to slot celebrity
- Allan Solomon — From accountant and tax lawyer to pioneering casino owner
- Kenny Epstein — A Niche from Nostalgia
Tom Osiecki is a casino consultant who writes an occasional column for CDC Gaming Reports called Faces of Gaming, about interesting and engaging people in the gaming industry.
Tom Osiecki is a marketing and management consultant for Raving Consulting and can be reached for consulting engagements at 775-329-7864.
If you know of a fascinating personality in the gaming industry you would like to see profiled, please send Tom Osiecki an email at email@example.com