Gaming Hall of Fame: Engineering and math skills benefited Robert Miodunski’s career

October 3, 2023 9:15 PM
Photo: Courtesy
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
October 3, 2023 9:15 PM
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports

Robert Miodunski knew what he wanted to do with his life at an early age. A very early age.

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“I wanted to be an engineer from the time I was five years old,” Miodunski says.

The St. Louis native achieved that goal and eventually gained employment as an engineer, working with semiconductors. He also ran a sign company and built houses in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

But those pursuits were table setters for Miodunski’s career in the gaming industry. Notably, he’s given considerable credit for stepping in as President and CEO of Alliance Gaming when its stock bottomed out in 1999 and ostensibly saving the company as it transformed into Bally Technologies, which was subsequently acquired by Scientific Games.

Miodunski will be inducted into the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Hall of Fame at an invitation-only ceremony at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

Miodunski also served as President of United Coin Machine (a division of Alliance Gaming), where he built a gaming route operation featuring 8,000 devices and developed the Gambler’s Bonus, a patented cardless player tracking/bonus system. After retiring from the gaming industry in 2004, he returned in 2010 to become CEO of American Gaming Systems, where he helped foster the company’s growth in Class II and Class III gaming. He also has served as board member for Golden Entertainment.

While engineering didn’t become Miodunski’s lifelong pursuit, what he learned from the vocation stood him well throughout his career.

“I think what you learn from being an engineer, coupled with an MBA degree, is the thought processes to solve problems,” he says. “You kind of take a big problem, break it down into smaller pieces, solve the smaller pieces, and the big problem gets solved. That’s kind of been my approach to everything I’ve done, not just in the engineering world, but from a management standpoint.”

When he started in gaming, Miodunski wasn’t sure what to expect. He was pleasantly surprised that another skill he honed as an engineer was useful.

“It’s all about math,” Miodunski says. “The slot machine math, probabilities, and trying to find clever ways to manipulate the formulas to create player value was just a whole world that I never dreamed existed.”

“I loved it from day one,” he adds. “The math just intrigued me. It was much deeper than I thought relative to all the different facets of developing slot machines and video poker machines. So, I migrated to it very quickly.”

When Miodunski was asked to work for Alliance Gaming by its board of directors in the fall of 1999, he found a patchwork of divisions that were profitable save one: Bally Gaming.

At the time, the company had been notified it was going to be delisted from the Nasdaq. The stock price was $1.50.

“I had the unpleasant task of having to lay off 25 percent of our workforce between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Miodunski says. “It was a devastating thing, but we had to do it to survive.”

“If we hadn’t laid off those people in late 1999 and lowered our break even, we’d have been delisted,” he adds. “When you’re delisted, you’re gone. That puts you on the pink sheets and you’re not visible at all. We wouldn’t have survived.”

Expenses throughout the company were slashed, and Miodunski focused on “re-engineering the business. Fortunately, we had those other divisions generating cash flow. If we could stop the bleeding at Bally’s, we’d be okay. And that’s exactly what happened after cutting the overhead cost and looking around at various costs that could be saved.”

Miodunski admits that the company benefited from growth in the industry, notably jurisdictional expansion, between 2000-04. He’s especially proud that the company’s stock rebounded.

“We went from literally being almost off the stock market to being the number one growth stock in 2001, 2002, and 2003 on Nasdaq,” he says. “Not just in the casino industry, but the number one growth overall for those years on Nasdaq.”

Eventually, Bally’s offered jobs to employees who were laid off – he estimates about three-quarters of them came back. And when the stock started rising again – Miodunski estimates it peaked at $135 per share — the measures that he took to save the company, however initially painful, were forgotten.

At a company Christmas party, he heard from numerous employees who had benefited from the employee stock option plan who had put kids through college because they believed in Miodunski’s vision.

“That was probably the most rewarding part of the job,” he says. “You take away the business aspects and other things that are important and rewarding, but from a personal standpoint, that was the most rewarding.”