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The CIO’s role in managing Global multi-billion dollar integrated casino resorts

How do you describe the role of CIO in gaming organizations.      

The role of CIO is no different from any other Business executive, it is  24 x7, it does not matter where you are physically , whether you are in Vegas, Macau or in Timbuktu ,on the premise or off the premise, the same goals as the CEO , namely driving the top line, improving the bottom line,  optimization of slots/tables , managing  customer experience, Leveraging the technology towards creating business value, ensuring 24 x 7 operations & customer service,  and strategic collaboration with all the stakeholders .

This is a leadership  role, which  is outcome driven based on the metrics I had mentioned. Setting up and running the operations is given, that can be done any trained person by adhering to standards and procedures. I always believe that  “Leaders are paid to create the future” , not for running the status quo.

How do you describe your first 90 days in the role as CIO.

The first 90 days is where you understand the company’s vision , mission and guiding principles. meeting with the executive committee and understand the business priorities , goals (long term and immediate goals) , we have to act with a sense of urgency. At the end of 90 days, I typically present the first strategic plan.

When I actually took over I found out ,we just had 90 days to comply with SOX , this organization  had  40 different legal entities with multiple intercompany transaction and multi-currency operations working in silos (independent systems), that is a major challenge to integrate them for compliance as well as financial reporting (i.e.) closing of books. My first priority was to work with the CFO to get an integrated Financials to comply with SOX as well as making life easy for closing books.


Receiving the Enterprise Architecture Award - Sep 2013 @ the Architecture world, jury headed by Father of Enterprise Architecture - John Zachman

You joined the Gaming Industry in the early 90s, prior to that has been a management consultant, explain your transition to IT and Gaming industry.

My involvement with Hospitality industry started way back in 1981 during my CPA internship, had the opportunity to visit diverse range of firms in various industrial sectors including Hospitality and Horse racing. In 1988 , I had the opportunity to teach 4 GL languages for corporations through an educational institution, the same time, I was trained to implement MRP (Manufacturing Resources Planning ) Packages , I have done couple of implementations of a UK based package for multi nationals during that time.

I had the first opportunity to do management consulting for ITT Sheraton (resort & casino) as management consultant in the early 90’s , a huge resort & casino in an island in Netherlands Antilles,  later joined there as IT manager , not only responsible for IT, had written casino accounting manuals, cage manuals, Table games programming as well as ran the slot department until we hired the slot manager for the  casino there.  We operated this casino under New Jersey gaming regulations , that was instrumental in getting  the first gaming license for ITT Sheraton to open a casino in the mainland United States.

From that point, I had opened and ran more than 16 casinos ranging from Land based, cruising river boat , cruise liners running Bally systems … all the way to opening and running multi billion dollar integrated resorts in Asia.

Recently  in 2006   had the opportunity to setup offshore development center in India in multiple locations for Bally Technology developing electronic games and casino management systems from scratch as the only domain expert to begin with  in that region managing 300+ developers to expanding that to multiple locations with more than 1000+ developers , responsible for games & software development, technical services, L2 & L3technical support , Project implementation to  technical documentation across the globe. It was totally a new experience , very different from running casino operations.

Describe your latest assignment working as SVP, CIO for Melco Crown Entertainment for the past 7 years.

It is different based on  many aspects,  it was a greenfield , run by a young and dynamic leader Lawrence Ho (CEO) , I was reporting to him as a member of executive committee. We  had done many wonderful things first time in the gaming industry as well as in the IT world, recognized with 6 international awards from the most reputed organizations.

We had the right formula for success – wonderful IT team  with whom I interact very closely, they are dear to my heart,  like a family, supported by  great leadership at the corporate , excellent vendors (e.g.) Cisco, Microsoft, EMC, Infosys, IBM who had the right skillset to make this project a huge success.

I had worked 8 years for ITT Sheraton/Caesars , 5.5 years at Wyndham and almost 7 years here, each one is unique. At ITT, I was a member of the  pioneering Executive team  to get the first gaming license to operate in United States.  At Wyndham , we did many things for the first time in the Hospitality Industry ,  Wyndham by Request program was the best CRM custom developed by us,  won many awards and later became a Harvard business school case study.

How do you describe your leadership style

At the high level , it is participative , it is basically empowering your team through  delegation (providing authority commensurate with responsibility) , I got the highest score in the entire organization on the leadership index  at ITT Sheraton/Caesars  known as  ESE – Employee Satisfaction Index , this is the metric, they rate  a leader overall.  Also very recently went through a 360 degree leadership evaluation in 2012 by a third party, won the Premier 100 Global IT leadership award for that.

No CIO can be an expert in all areas of operations and all technology platforms, we should be willing and open for ideas and suggestions from any of our team members especially the so called Gen “Y”s and digital natives.

What would you like to tell the aspiring CIOs

  • CIO is a leadership role – “ Leaders are paid to create the future  not to run the status quo”  As I said earlier, running the operations is given.
  •  “ Information Technology is an integral part of Business – there is no such thing as IT aligning with business”
  • Hire people with right attitude , the skills we can always train them, next thing is  create a sense of belonging,  they will never leave  you , this is very important. Be passionate in what you do.
  • Next to people, I would rate Process and Data. You need to institutionalize a defined process across the organization and when it comes to complex data – transforming both structured and unstructured data more accessible and intelligible is critical to the organization.

Having worked in many locations across the globe starting from Caribbean to recently in Macau, can you list some of the challenges you had faced

  • In Macau, getting the right skillset  was tough, so education & training of the team is critical, it is a continuous process
  • Legacy mindset -    “Don’t fix it until it breaks” mindset among the team members, this is a challenge in many organizations.  It is not the legacy system alone, it is the legacy mindset which prevents progress.
  • Infrastructure – In Indiana when we opened a casino,  the pre-opening office was in a small town , we had to build even the public infrastructure like roads, laying fiber optic across the town and  gifted to the city when we left
  • Communications backbone (Leased lines):  In Macau, there was  one service provider, therefore  if this line breaks, there is no option for the business to run/ no contingency plan.. With the result we cannot put any of our stuff in cloud, that is a huge risk, if the primary service provider fails, there is no fallback.
  • Shadow IT – Many departments run parallel IT, by directly dealing with vendors, so long they collaborate and build their systems together  in ensuring single version of the truth by integrating that into a holistic architecture, we are good, otherwise it is a disaster.
  • Lack of clearly defined requirements & business process while selecting major systems , huge issue across the globe, choosing the product,  because we always used this in previous organization or all our competitors are using it without proof of concepts.

What is your view on gaming industry & innovation

We have made significant progress from where were when I entered the gaming industry 25 years ago, I knew of casinos using Lotus spreadsheet to input the manual slot meter readings way back in 1992. We have come a long way from stepper machines to electronically simulated reels, to now server downloadable games, Hopper to cashless gaming, simple player cards to smart cards (which will almost carry every bit of consumer behavior – gaming and non gaming), Manual tables to LT Games. Facial recognition is another breakthrough for us.

In the world of technology, Mobile apps is taking the world by storm. Anything you need, an app is there and many are even free. Deliver an engaging customer experience across tablet & smart phones . .. I was recently the key note speaker at the International Casino Conference (ICC)  at London, had the opportunity to discuss mobility with more than 30 leading operators on the current developments in this arena, they discussed the content delivery, social, distribution and payments as well as  the challenges on multi platform iOS and HTML5  technology.

Tell me something you do outside of work.

I have written and staged many comedy plays in Dallas, acted in lead roles for a theater group as well as directed plays including many children’s plays.

Recently I have taken up Ontology & Indian philosophy as my passion and had completed a seven day lecture in Dallas in May 2014 and a lecture in London in Feb 2014, I continue to study and improve on my presentations , that is my passion and goal outside of work.

 How do you manage to keep abreast of rapidly changing technology world..

I have been  a member of  CIO executive council , which was started in 2004 with hundreds of world’s top CIOs, this provides peer to peer exchange of ideas completely in a non competitive , non threatening environment on various technology as well as ,I read and contribute to Gartner Research, very useful..

 “I do read Casino Life for upgrading my Gaming industry knowledge ”