By Lou Filardo
This will not be an ordinary week in the life of Australian Gavin Isaacs. He will be honored as "Gaming Professional of the Year" this week and he will be overseeing his company’s booth at the gaming convention.
The booth chore will not be a walk on the beach, either. His company, Aristocrat Technologies, has a booth roughly the size of Cashman Field at the G2E. It will be big enough to display 152 games and have enough company employees scampering through it to field a baseball team.
These days, Isaacs would not pass up a chance to take a walk on the beach. Asked what he likes most about Las Vegas, he mentions the people, the climate, and so forth but when asked what he dislikes the most, he quickly responds "where’s the beach?" Like most Australians, Isaacs grew up within easy reach of the water, so landlocked Nevada requires him to do some adjusting.
Of course, adjusting is easier to do when you are the president of a company whose revenues in the first half of 2004 grew by 44 percent. His leadership role at Aristocrat earned him the "Gaming Professional of the Year Award" as bestowed by the Casino Management Association of Southern Nevada (CMASNV).
Mary Lynn Palenik, president of CMASNV, said Isaacs was picked because of his longevity in the industry and his success in leading Aristocrat Technologies to the competitive forefront of the supplier market. This is the second year the association has given the award.
Isaacs, 40, has been at Aristocrat for six years. In Australia, the home of Aristocrat’s parent’s firm, Aristocrat Leisure Limited, he earned a bachelor of commerce and law degree from the University of New South Wales and he holds a Masters of Laws from the University of Sydney.
Before joining Aristocrat, he was a partner in the Australian law firm of Phillips Fox, where he built up a successful property services business unit. At Aristocrat he came aboard as general manager of legal and compliance and as such played a major role in the company’s protracted struggle to win a Nevada gaming license, an effort that took well over a dozen years.
His company, founded in 1953, entered the North American market in 1964 and finally received its Nevada license in 2000. In early 2002 Isaacs was named managing director of Aristocrat’s European businesses, where the company says he led the growth of Aristocrat’s profits and business in that region and the opening of significant new European markets. The married father of a boy, 8, and a girl, 5, lived in Great Britain from 2002 until he moved to Nevada in 2003.
He says the company’s first product was a three-reel slot machine called the Club Man. Today, 50 years later, the company’s best selling machine is a one penny four-level progressive slot machine that can pay as much as a million dollars and, in Isaacs memory, has been hit at least twice in Las Vegas.
Nonetheless, he says Aristocrat hasn’t "penetrated the Strip the way we have the rest of the country," so Las Vegas is going to be firmly in his crosshairs for the foreseeable future.
He says he has been especially well received at reservation casinos owned by Native Americans with entire tribal councils turning out to greet him and offer him tea. At times likes that, the man from Down Under has to feel that he is on top.