Sega Sammy Creation’s Dominic Laubach tells IAG about his journey from the rolling hills and green expanses of America’s San Juaquin Valley to the bright lights of Macau’s casinos.
Ben Blaschke: Thanks for speaking with us Dominic. Can you tell us about your background – where you were born and grew up?
Dominic Laubach: I was born in San Francisco, California and grew up about 100 miles east in the middle of the San Juaquin Valley. It could have been a million miles away from San Francisco in that the San Juaquin Valley is mostly rural farm and dairy country with small towns scattered along the highways.
My parents managed a bar and restaurant, so you could say I have been in the customer service industry my whole life, since it was a family affair for us all to chip-in, washing dishes and waiting tables.
I went to high school in the small town of Gustine, California. While a student I took as many theater and drama classes as I could get. I took lead roles in our fantastic school play productions which are still my fondest memories of those times.
BB: How did you become involved in the gaming industry?
DL: After graduating high school, I moved to Las Vegas and in my late teens worked as a Midway Game Operator at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. The Midway on the mezzanine at Circus Circus was (and still is) filled with carnival games such as tossing softballs into milk cans, throwing darts at balloons and ski-ball. Helping kids win these difficult games was fun and sometimes we gave out a few stuffed animals even if they didn’t earn the win.
My first gaming job was as a Slot Floorman at the Sundance Hotel and Casino. It was later sold and re-named Fitzgerald’s and is now The D. It’s located on Fremont and 3rd street in Downtown Las Vegas. Back then all the slot machines were electromechanical and worked with real coins, and you could actually drive down Fremont street. Fremont street is now “The Freemont Street Experience” and has a canopy with many fun activities on the now legendary famous street.
BB: When and why did you come to Macau?
DL: In 2007 I was Director of Slot Operations for the Tropicana Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip. I had previously worked for Mike Tomasello who was at the time Corporate VP of Slots for the Venetian. He needed a management team to open The Venetian Macao; soon to be the largest casino in the world. Who would turn down an opportunity like that, and a front seat to the biggest gaming boom the world has ever seen? Like many expats we never expected to be in Macau that long, a few years perhaps? But Macau is great, and the people are wonderful, so I have stayed almost 13 years now!
BB: What was your first year in Macau like? Was it a culture shock?
DL: Let’s just say it was a bit crazy back then. The town has sure been tamed certainly from an expat perspective. I like to say it was kind of like an old wild-west boom town. The bars and nightclubs were full, and the nights were long. The most surprising thing that I never expected was the local Macau people. They are very much like the people I grew up with; family orientated with quiet, conservative ways, almost a throw-back to the culture of mid-century USA. It was refreshing!
What I enjoy most is taking advantage of Macau’s location and visiting all the wonderful surrounding Southeast Asian countries with their diverse people, architecture, cultures and customs.
BB: How did you come to be working with Sega Sammy?
DL: Finding myself looking for work about a year ago, I decided to diversify and broaden my experience in the industry. I was pretty much a one trick pony working in slot operations for my entire gaming career. Wanting to stay in Macau, I reached out to Sega Sammy Creation because they were a well-grounded, growing slot manufacturing company that I had my eye on while working as Assistant Vice President of Electronic Games for Galaxy Entertainment at The StarWorld Hotel and Casino.
I figured they could use the experience and perspective of a well-seasoned slot operations executive in their growing company. Turns out they saw it the same way. I was not disappointed as Sega Sammy Creation has a fantastic team of dedicated professionals.
BB: What do you enjoy most about your job and the industry as a whole?
DL: Since I know just about everyone in the Electronic Games segment of the gaming industry in Asia, introducing myself was not necessary! I like the travel (although the veteran salespersons of electronic games in Asia will tell you that’s the most grinding).
The best part of the job is Sega Sammy Creation is based in Yokohama, Japan! Visiting Japan and working for such a professional Japanese business culture is inspirational and makes my job infinitely more enjoyable and satisfying. It helps that we have been very successful with our products like our Genesis Slant Stand-alone Baccarat.
BB: What does a typical working day in the life of Dominic Laubach look like?
DL: Well as with most of us in the industry before the coronavirus crisis, we would normally be on the road about half the time meeting with clients in various Asian countries, attending and manning trade shows and conferences. When I am not traveling, the days are mostly spent like any other job: emails, reports, scheduling travel and attending videoconferences and live meetings, along with lunches or coffees with Macau clients mostly in the afternoons.
BB: What do you like to do to relax when you are not working?
DL: Travel as much as I can, again taking advantage of Macao’s central Asian location. Since I have always been a big movie fan, watching old favorites from my vast collection and going to see new one every Friday night after dinner at the Galaxy Cinemas with my lovely wife Elle.
BB: What is your favorite place to dine in Macau?
DL: I have three favorite restaurants in Macau: North at Venetian, North at Sands Cotai Central, and Fernando’s at Hac-sa Beach in Coloane. North is in there twice because it deserves it, with its great Northern Chinese dishes and great value. Fernando’s, because it is the most closely prepared Portuguese food to the way my Portuguese/American mother cooks!
BB: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
DL: Still working in the gaming business in Macau, the US or maybe Japan? Sega Sammy is well positioned like no other entertainment company to take advantage of its long-standing, well-respected brand and translate that to manufacturing and operational successes in the soon-to-be gaming industry in Japan. I do like the sales part of the industry, hopefully it will like me too!
BB: As an expat, what do you miss most about the US?
DL: Macau is such an urban environment it’s choices for outdoor actives are few. In the US I was used to jet skiing on Lake Mead, camping in Utah, 4-wheeling and target shooting in the desert, along with frequent road trips around the great Southwest United States.
I have had a restored classic 1967 Chevrolet Camaro for over 30 years, so I sure do miss driving that. Maybe soon they will allow residents of Macau to easily access the roads in China and Hong Kong … wouldn’t that be a road trip adventure!