Omer Sattar has kept every business card handed to him since 2000. At Sightline Payments’ new headquarters in Las Vegas, the company’s CEO and co-founder plans a display of those cards – a few thousand, he estimates – that he’s received from representatives of gaming, finance, furniture, and other diverse companies.
The business cards are reminders of the people he’s met, of hundreds of conversations and meetings, of deals done and unrealized, that led to the growth of the billion-dollar fintech-payments company.
“The idea here is there’s never any clear path to getting to where you’re going,” Sattar says. “You have lots of conversations and discussions and you never know what or who you’re going to learn from. It’s a circular path that anyone takes to get to where they are. And that’s what this piece of art is meant to visualize.”
Sattar is one of the gaming-industry’s most recognizable figures. Looking more like a Hollywood producer than an executive, with long hair and an ever-present scarf, Sattar attracts — and seeks out — CEOs, thought leaders, analysts, and anyone else who wants to chat about the gaming industry. At conferences and other gaming-industry events, he’s often trailed by people wanting a few minutes of his time.
“His effortless charisma, dedication, and determination all make him a wonderful friend and proficient colleague,” says GeoComply CEO Anna Sainsbury. “Indeed, as someone who has always been drawn toward enigmatic and almost contradictory figures, I’ve always loved how Omer’s outward panache and finesse are balanced out by his kindness, loyalty, and humility. What really sets Omer apart from everyone else in his professional life, however, is his clear-cut concentrated vision and commitment.”
Sattar’s path to the gaming industry started in Pakistan, where he was born. It went through Maldives (his great-grandfather was the last king of the island-nation), then on to Paris for high school and the U.S. to study at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
He first worked in banking, then was employed by a furniture company in Miami and then China.
“I can tell you a whole lot about chairs and the manufacturing of tables and different types of furniture,” Sattar says. “I used to sell marble, tiled granite, all kinds of cased goods and flooring.”
A chance encounter in China with a man who wanted to manufacture point-of-sale terminals changed his life. Sattar moved to Las Vegas in 2005, working for Global Access Cash (now Everi) on the project. At one point, Sattar was given a 150-page offering memorandum to “peruse.”
Instead, Sattar read each page, and “the more I read, the more fascinated I became,” he says.
That was Sattar’s entrée into the payments sector of gaming, which he has doggedly studied and embraced over the last 18 years. And while he admits that there are other career paths he could have taken, Sattar says he still finds challenges in the space.
“I genuinely believe passion comes from focus,” he says. “And passion comes from trying something and sticking with it. So this idea that someone tries something for six months, says they don’t like it, then does something else, to me, honestly, I can’t relate to that. It makes no sense.
“The more you do something, the better you get at it. The better you get at it, the more you learn the history and the potential future of it. … I’ve done payments for 40,000-50,000 hours in my life. I’m not saying I know everything about payments, but I know enough that when someone says something, whether it makes sense or not.”
Ed Nigro, executive chairman for GBank Financial Services, first met Sattar when Sightline Payments obtained its key service provider licenses from the Nevada Gaming Commission. Sightline was also petitioning – successfully – Nevada gaming regulators to allow the use of prepaid cards to fund wagering at the state’s casinos.
Nigro realized Sattar needed a Nevada bank to issue his proposed prepaid card for funding wagering accounts. He also knew that issuing such a debit card for wagering purposes would be a significant challenge for any bank to meet the regulatory hurdles and risks.
In negotiations, Nigro says Sattar’s best qualities shone through, notably his “tireless energy and brilliant mind that never rests and continues to keep you engaged.
“Omer, as a very good negotiator, embraces the tenet that a really good deal has something on the table for both parties,” Nigro says. “It’s the success of both that ensures the growth of each.”
There were bumps along the way. Sattar says that during the first six months he lived in Las Vegas, he indulged a bit too much in some of the city’s distractions. Funding for Sightline Payments was tight at first and at one point, he had to sell his car for $5,000 to support the company. That led to acquiring an old Mercedes from relatives in California with a driver’s-side window that didn’t close all the way and faulty air conditioning. In the brutally hot Vegas summer, he had to wear shorts while driving the car, during the winter a heavy jacket.
And there was the time Sattar spent nine hours sitting in that same ancient Mercedes car waiting for a bank executive to complete a deal after being promised it would be done at day’s end. When the executive emerged from the office, it was dark and Sattar’s approach startled the man.
But Sattar got the result he wanted; the executive went back inside the office and re-emerged with the signed deal. That type of determination has transformed not only Sightline Payments, but the entire payment industry, according to GeoComply’s Sainsbury.
“Sightline Payments, which Omer co-founded, worked hard to elevate how the emerging U.S. igaming market was perceived within the payments space, which was fundamental in laying the foundational framework in our industry to accept credit cards and process payments,” Sainsbury says. “His ability to anticipate, with incredible poise and precision, the direction of the gaming industry and the strategic implementations he and Sightline Payments ought to adapt, are truly remarkable and honestly equal to very few people I have come across in the sector.”
Sattar thinks a lot about what it means to successful. When he was 14, he believed it might mean earning $700 million, because a billion dollars seemed impossible. But over time, as he’s talked to people in various industries, examined his motivations, and thought about why he’s so driven to ensure Sightline’s success, his attitude has changed. Success isn’t so much about accumulating wealth. Nor is it about winning, which he calls binary.
Success is the result of working hard, engaging others, being curious, and improving every day.
“As a personal philosophy and even at Sightline, I tell people this, and for a lot of folks it’s controversial, but winning is actually not the goal,” Sattar says. “The goal is to be better and it’s not even a matter of being better relative to someone else. It’s a matter of being better relative to yourself. You can say I’m going to be better every single day and what that eventually leads to, in a long enough time horizon, is you should win more often than not.
“Now things can still go wrong. Lots of things can happen that are out of your control. So for me, success at Sightline looks like, hey, we’re going to be better.”