By now you may have heard the rumor that Kathleen McLaughlin has moved to Oklahoma. Well, it’s true, and she’s been fielding a lot of questions about it. “There’s not an executive that I’ve been around that hasn’t pulled me to the side and, ‘Seriously? Did you relocate to Oklahoma?!’ I just want to send the message out to the universe: Oklahoma is amazing,” McLaughlin says. And although it’s not Las Vegas, Oklahoma is where McLaughlin is finding the next exciting challenge in her life.
McLaughlin is the newly named COO of Gaming Capital Group. She works at the headquarters office in Newcastle, Okla., where she says every day is a new adventure. Her job duties include overseeing the gaming, marketing and operations portions of the company, and she is working closely with CEO Rolen Miller in effort to focus on maximizing the revenue per square foot at existing customer locations. McLaughlin explains: “My role in this is very gaming specific in that we have a team of seasoned gaming management operators who do everything from recommending slot mix performance analysis to CAD drawings, tech support, etc.—very much like an operator. The difference is that we are a partner, and our goal is to select the most profitable product and make the best possible recommendations to help our customers increase revenue.”
One reason McLaughlin made the big move to the Sooner State is because she believes in what Gaming Capital Group is doing. She sees the company’s customer relationships as collaborative partnerships and values and credits the high level of trust involved in those partnerships. “If our customers make money, then we are successful. We are partnering with them, and they’re very savvy operators. We’re adding a layer or level of resource which provides them additional tools to help maximize revenue per square foot within their operation,” McLaughlin says.
Gaming Capital Group was founded in 2005 by experienced gaming industry executives, and it currently has about 80 employees at locations across the United States. The company provides flexible financing solutions that give properties, such Indian gaming operations, the funding to build a casino, hotel, or food and beverage area. McLaughlin explains, “We create structures, formats and financing that really give them an increased opportunity for immediate positive cash flow.”
Gaming Capital Group can take projects from concept to completion, doing market assessments, project development, design, construction coordination, equipment installation, management and more. “We are a full-service, holistic partner. There’s not a part of this business we won’t touch if there’s an interest, a need and a desire to collaborate,” McLaughlin explains.
McLaughlin is joining company leaders in their goals to add resources and improve customer service. “Our complete focus is to continue to innovate and lead the market and make sure that we provide the highest level of resources and capabilities for our customers,” she says.
Gaming Capital Group has experienced explosive growth under the leadership of Miller, Matthew Weber and Ward Chilton. Now McLaughlin is working to improve on the foundation they’ve created, taking a step back to see if things can be done differently or more efficiently. “We’re really looking at processes and culture and doing the work that needs to be done so that we can continue to grow at an explosive rate,” she notes.
McLaughlin says she knows how personally invested the leaders are at Gaming Capital Group, and that inspires her to do the same. “I feel very fortunate that I’m the person they brought in to continue to grow the business,” she says. “It is pretty amazing and inspiring, with all of those years of experience, that I am their chief operating officer.”
McLaughlin’s work experiences until this point have put many tools in her toolbox that will definitely be needed in her new position. McLaughlin worked as the corporate director of marketing at WMS for three years. She also spent eight years with Harrah’s Entertainment as corporate vice president of slot development marketing and operations. Most recently, she worked on global marketing for Las Vegas Sands Corp.
There have also been a handful of people McLaughlin has worked with in the past who’ve taught her the skills or life lessons that she’ll use in her new role. In addition to her ex-husband, Gary Harris, McLaughlin says the first person who opened her eyes to the possibility of what she could accomplish was Kevin DeSanctis, who, among many other legendary accomplishments, opened The Mirage for Steve Wynn. McLaughlin recalls, “You wouldn’t know me from a hole in the ground, but I created a [service] program for The Mirage … and he created a job for me from that program.”
McLaughlin says her next significant mentor was Kevin Verner, who is now the director of the board for Bally Technologies. He brought her onto the WMS team when he was the COO. “He saw something in me and taught me the most of any of my mentors about managing people,” McLaughlin recalls.
McLaughlin is proud of the innovation and creative work she did while on Verner’s team, which played a role in the growth at WMS. “We took a company that was $8 million annually, and by the time I left, they were $80 million annually,” she says.
McLaughlin also looks up to Brad Stone and Bill Weidner, who she worked for at Las Vegas Sands. McLaughlin says: “Brad Stone is a really charismatic and passionate guy about creating unparalleled entertainment experiences and complexes. He and Bill have incredible vision.”
McLaughlin says she didn’t want to let Stone or Weidner down, and that kept her working hard as they opened eight properties in short order in Macau. She recalls: “I knew that those guys brought me there for a reason. They trusted me to succeed and that was all I needed. We took risks and did some things that no one had ever attempted or done before. It’s all because they gave me the freedom to fail, and we didn’t.”
Even with her diverse background, McLaughlin is discovering something new and different in Oklahoma. “This is much more about the relationship and delivering upon what you agreed to provide,” she says. “It’s about meeting our customers’ expectations, and in all cases, exceeding them. We do a careful job of making sure we deliver what we promise, because this is a market with a lot of integrity and the different tribes have a lot of pride and incredible integrity. We’re truly honored to be working with them, so we make sure we respect those relationships.”
The COO position is a perfect match for McLaughlin’s skills, but she took the job because of the people. She explains: “I came here and went through the interview process and sat with the company leaders, and then I went through meeting every single person in the company and spending an amount of time with them. When I left to go back to Las Vegas, I just kept feeling like I wish that I didn’t have to leave.”
She is also thrilled about the opportunity to continue learning about business and the gaming industry. “If I weren’t learning I’d have to take up another career,” McLaughlin says. “That’s what I love about gaming—it’s constantly evolving.”