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Howard Stutz

Nevadan at Work: Manufacturing CEO credits mentors over 20 years

25 August 2014

LAS VEGAS -- Mike Dreitzer credits his success to the mentors he has had in 20 years as an attorney and gaming executive in Nevada.

Folks such as former Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, ex-Gaming Control Board Chairman Bill Bible, former Gov. Mike O’Callaghan and gaming executive and gaming lawyer Shannon Bybee helped Dreitzer early in his career.

So it was natural that Dreitzer had an interest when he was contacted more than a year ago by the CEO of an Australian-based slot machine developer that bears the name of a gaming industry pioneer.

Dreitzer, 42, joined Ainsworth Game Technology as president of the company’s North America Division.

Ainsworth was founded by Leonard Ainsworth, who at age 92 remains active in the business. He was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame in 1995 and was founder of Aristocrat Leisure Limited.

Ainsworth CEO Danny Gladstone moved to the U.S. for two years to get the company off the ground in North America. Dreitzer, who was chief operating officer of the BMM Test Labs, welcomed the opportunity to join the company.

“Danny did an incredible job putting a fabulous team together and developing the company’s focus,” Dreitzer said. “When you look at the leadership of this company, there is more than 100 years of combined experience in the gaming industry.”

Dreitzer said Ainsworth has 1 percent market share of casino slot machine floors in the United States. He sees that as an opportunity.

“This is very much a marathon and not a sprint,” Dreitzer said. “The culture of this company is that we’re building it over time and doing right by our customers. We know we’re a new entity in the market, and we have to work to build our business.”

Ainsworth will break ground in October on its North American headquarters on 24 acres near the 215 Beltway.

Meanwhile, the company has become the focus of Wall Street speculation in the wake of recent mergers and acquisition activity, such as GTECH Holdings’ $6.4 billion buyout of International Game Technology and the $5.1 billion purchase of Bally Technologies by Scientific Games Corp.

After three years as deputy attorney general representing Nevada gaming regulators, Dreitzer joined casino equipment developer Mikohn Gaming Corp. and spent six years with the company. He spent another six years as founder and COO of Global Gaming Group, an industry adviser and technology partner.

His two years with BMM coincided with Nevada regulators contracting out work to independent test labs.

Ainsworth is headquartered in Sydney and traded on the Australian Stock Exchange. The company develops its slot machines in Australia, but Dreitzer said some of that activity will change.

“We’re starting to grow small groups here doing studio work,” Dreitzer said. “We want to get some development off the ground on the U.S side. We recognize the importance of development as it relates to the U.S.”

Question: What is the advantage as a smaller slot machine company?

Answer: We have some involvement in the online space, but it’s a separate company. Your customers appreciate when you’re focused. They know they are going to get product from us that works.

Question: Is there room for new slot machine companies?

Answer: From our perspective, as a less than 1 percent player, there are so many markets that have never seen an Ainsworth product. So that’s a very powerful opportunity. We just opened in Mississippi, and that’s a big deal. We’re moving into Missouri and Arizona. These represent blue sky markets. Given the quality of our product, we hope folks will continue to give us a chance.

Question: How does Ainsworth compete against the larger companies?

Answer: It’s about making content in the game compelling for the player. It’s about the bottom line for customers. They want you to make games their folks want to play. Some companies have taken their eye off the ball and have gone off into other areas. Social gaming and mobile gaming are all good, but our core business is the land-based slot machine. There are some places without any Ainsworth (slot machines), and that’s opportunity.

Question: What is helping Ainsworth stand out in the market?

Answer: We have a strong team with a lot of experience. One of the things we do well is to listen to our customers. We’ll go in and talk with our customers about what they want in a product. We also listen to their feedback. We love hearing what they like but also what they dislike and what we can do better. I’ll make a report about it and give it back to our development group. I’ve been told by customers that sets us apart. We try hard and listen.

Question: What do you think when you hear and read comments from Wall Street about Ainsworth in the merger and acquisition realm?

Answer: From my perspective, it’s best to keep focus on what we do. A number of these companies have been large for so long, they face questions on how to grow organically. From our perspective, the opportunity is in front of us because we’re so new. It’s more important for us to focus on our products. There are markets that don’t know us. It’s about growing the size of our sales team, getting solid people and building an excellent foundation. We just need to keep building better games.

Question: How does an attorney end up as president of a slot machine company?

Answer: I was lucky when I moved to Nevada to have important mentors who were willing to work with me and share their experiences. When I switched over to gaming in the attorney general’s office and I started representing the Control Board and commission, it grew my interest. I went over to the manufacturing side with Mikohn, and I was doing compliance and legal work. But I ended up on the business development side and I enjoyed those activities.

Question: Why did you leave the compliance side of the gaming business?

Answer: I really enjoyed working with the lab. Nevada was going through a paradigm shift and allowing third-party labs to come in and do testing in conjunction with the state. We created an excellent team.

But at the end of the day, I missed working for a manufacturer. The lab was good experience but from a limited point of view. You’re just a vendor to the industry, as opposed to the manufacturers where you are dealing with a scope of issues. This presented a great opportunity from a growth standpoint. I saw a lot of upside here going forward.
Nevadan at Work: Manufacturing CEO credits mentors over 20 years is republished from