Nevadan at work: Executive prepares to lead Caesars into real-money online gaming
29 July 2013
By Howard Stutz
LAS VEGAS -- As an associate with global management consulting firm Bain & Co., Geoffrey Stewart grew accustomed to offering advice to high-level executives of Fortune 500 corporations.
Now, as he prepares to lead Caesars Entertainment Inc.’s launch into regulated, real-money online gaming, Stewart is adjusting to being on the receiving end.
“I’m in a role where I have to act on my own advice,” Stewart, 34, said during a break in play in the World Series of Poker at the Rio. “The great thing about this role is that I’m surrounded by guys with a deep knowledge of poker and online poker.”
Stewart is the general manager of online poker for Caesars Interactive Entertainment, the casino giant’s subsidiary that oversees the company’s social gaming business and real-money Internet gaming operations. Stewart will be in charge of the World Series of Poker-branded online poker operations in Nevada and New Jersey.
Gaming is a business he never imagined getting involved with when he joined Bain. He primarily advised companies involved in technology and consumer products.
Then, Stewart became part of the Bain team that consulted on a project for Caesars Entertainment. The activity led to a meeting with Caesars Chairman Gary Loveman and a position as the executive’s top associate and chief of staff.
During his two years with Loveman, Stewart was exposed to all areas of the company’s business, including casino operations and development. He was also able to interact with the casino operator’s top corporate executives.
The opportunity to oversee the Internet poker launch appealed to Stewart. “When you’re looking at gaming,” he said, “the expansion into online and the dynamic of the product is the most exciting thing currently happening in the industry.”
Question: What was your impression of the gaming industry before joining Caesars?
Answer: If you had asked me five years ago, I never would have imagined myself working in gaming. Once you get exposed to gaming, you realize how fascinating it really is, especially for someone with an analytical background. There are a lot of elements that involve analytical thinking, such as what players want, the right promotions to give folks, and there is a huge branding aspect. You also quickly find out how passionate a great number of consumers are toward the activity.
Question: Is it unusual for the CEO of a corporation to have a chief of staff?
Answer: During my time at Bain, I was fortunate to work with a huge number of companies and their boards. Every company has a little different take on the position. My primary duties with Gary were working with senior management to facilitate decision making and to stay on top of the agenda, making sure goals were executed. A lot was ensuring the right pieces were in place organizationally and within the company infrastructure. There were also things as simple as helping prepare Gary for public appearances.
Question: How did the chief of staff role help you learn about the company?
Answer: I had a general business background, but the position allowed me to step into other roles, such as corporate communications and investor relations. I found that a regulated industry like gaming provides opportunities for enhanced distribution. Gaming still has room to grow on a geographic front. That’s why you see Caesars in Baltimore and Ohio and introducing exciting new product lines, such as Linq.
Question: How has the Internet changed gaming?
Answer: Not only within the gaming industry as a whole and within Caesars, the changes with online and interactive gaming fall into place with the broader world when you think about it. All these goods and services we are so used to buying have a new distribution channel through the Inherent. All innovation around consumer services involves the Internet in some capacity. It’s gone in my lifetime from a fresh new idea to something that is core to every business operation.
Question: Will there be Caesars’ gaming websites in Nevada beyond the World Series of Poker?
Answer: Our philosophy is to pick one thing and do it really well. We’ll start with a WSOP brand in Nevada and execute on that while making sure it’s reflective of the brand. We want to build something that consumers will enjoy. In New Jersey, which will offer all forms of Internet gaming, you will see us move to leverage our various brand assets. But we will have a WSOP site in New Jersey.
Question: Is there a goal of converting social gaming players into real money casino customers?
Answer: From our standpoint, social gaming is a separate business. We have social gaming and we have highly regulated real money gaming. We’re going after the real money poker player. We have this massive database of Total Reward customers who are proven real money gamblers. We will look at the most attractive ways to tie in our loyalty programs with the online casino and the land-based casinos.
Question: Will casino customers become Internet gamblers?
Answer: There is room for a lot of growth. People who love gaming as an entertainment source might not be able to make it out to the casino some days. But, they can spend five minutes or so playing on a computer or mobile device. It’s a new form of distribution.
Question: Do you play poker?
Answer: I always played blackjack, but I’m playing poker more and more. I have a ways to go, but it’s an intellectually challenging game. I see myself improving.