Dallas Orchard tells IAG about the career journey that has led him to his new role as IGT’s Chief Operating Officer Asia-Pacific, based out of Sydney, Australia.
Ben Blaschke: Thanks for chatting with us Dallas. Can you start by telling us a bit about your background?
Dallas Orchard: I’m from Australia and I grew up in the industry. My dad, Ken Orchard, was in the industry for a long, long time, starting in Australia. He opened the New Zealand office for Aristocrat in 1988 and paved the way for the first video slots in North America for Aristocrat. My brother is also in the industry – he is the Chief Compliance Officer at IGT, so we’re working for the same company.
I swore I would never get into the industry but I did! I only joke that I was trying to avoid the industry, because when your dad and your brother are also involved, you think about trying something different. But I’m glad I took the opportunity. I wouldn’t change a thing.
BB: What changed your mind?
DO: I think living in Las Vegas, you are connected to it, even if you’re not connected to it. I was playing rugby in Las Vegas and the rugby community had a connection into the gaming industry. Of course, there are a lot of Australian expats there, so I knew everyone in the industry already very well.
I actually started in the US on the operator side in 1993 working in marketing at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which was just a phenomenal job, and I was basically recruited out of there into the manufacturer side.
BB: You spent some time working for a couple of very well-known Australian manufacturers – Ainsworth and Aristocrat – before joining IGT. What attracted you to IGT?
DO: I spent eight years with Aristocrat from 2007 to 2015 and had a fantastic career with them, but it was just my time. There was a big change at IGT about a year before I made the move, so I was very intrigued by what was going on, and when they made me a very respectful offer with a leadership role, I couldn’t say no. I can’t resist being able to implement a new infrastructure and new business strategy, and of course focus on the product. It was the right time and I was energized by the challenge.
I started off as SVP of our Global Premium Portfolio and shortly after that became our Chief Product Officer, so I was managing our entire global studio footprint and our entire global R&D spend with a team of around 800 people. I did that for five-and-a-half years in addition to managing product market management as well; then in April 2020 I was offered the role of Chief Operating Officer for Asia-Pacific and took it with both hands.
I’m a very commercially focused person. Even in my Chief Product role I managed product market management, and that’s my background, so it was great to get back to my roots and bring my wife and two children to Australia.
It was a challenge getting over here in the COVID environment, but I’m incredibly excited to be back in Australia, to have my family with me, and I’m very excited about our prospects in the Asia-Pacific region.
BB: How has the family adapted to life in Sydney?
DO: It’s been great. It took a bit of time. I think the biggest challenge so far has been the kids not understanding why Christmas is in the middle of summer, but my two daughters (Layla, 11, and Nika, eight) are Australian citizens by descent, so they’ve got their passports and Australian citizenship and my wife is on a partnership visa. It’s great to see the kids now back in school and reconnecting with friends, taking part in activities.
They’ve been very resilient. My wife is struggling a bit with the driving on the other side of the road and the crazy Sydney traffic, but we’re in a beautiful part of the world and we appreciate that very much.
BB: How did you cope with two stints in quarantine last year?
DO: Literally the day before I left Australia to return to Las Vegas, all the airports started getting shut down. I only just got back to the US in time. Then I came back to Sydney in July because I had to start the new role and meet the people and connect with the customers. The NSW market reopened in June, so there was activity again, and I needed to find a home and a school for the kids. It was a 14-day stretch by myself in a hotel room with no windows and no fresh air, and I went a little stir-crazy. The second time was much better — I was with my family. We had a two-bedroom place with a balcony and fresh air. We were still isolated, but it’s amazing what a kitchen and a balcony will do.
BB: What have the main challenges been in starting a new role without being able to travel?
DO: Just getting out to see the customers. I’m from here and I know the market, and I’ve also been coming over every August as the Chief Product Officer of IGT for the last five years to attend AGE (Australasian Gaming Expo), so I’m familiar with a lot of the customers. But not being able to get out and see them face-to-face other than in NSW has been challenging. I really want to get out there as soon as possible and understand our customers’ challenges and be able to configure the IGT portfolio to best suit their needs. I’m looking forward to getting out on the road in 2021 as much as border openings allow, and am very keen to get to Asia.
BB: No doubt the new role has kept you pretty busy but what do you do to relax away from work?
DO: There hasn’t been a lot of that of late, but under normal situations I’m a huge cricket fan, so I’ve loved getting out to see a bit of the cricket. I can’t really explain to the family what I love so much about it, but I really love Test-match cricket. I can sit there all day and watch it. I love golf too, but haven’t had much time to play it. Also, living on the northern beaches in Sydney, I’ve tried to take advantage of the beach and the outdoor living. It’s such a great part of the world.