Potawatomi Hotel & Casino continues to work toward its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that initially shut down, and has since limited, its operations over the past 18 months. The gaming and hospitality business has made a major push to hire hundreds of workers in recent months to return to full capacity. Dominic Ortiz took the helm of Potawatomi in July after nearly five years as chief financial officer of Soaring Eagle Gaming Properties and Corporate Services in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. BizTimes associate editor Lauren Anderson recently caught up with Ortiz on his plans in his new role.
How’s the COVID rebound going?
“Potawatomi is in transition. We’re struggling to attract the labor market as you see with most businesses in the city. We pushed out vaccination bonuses, we pushed out hiring bonuses. … We want to continue to move forward and reopen, put these jobs back in the city for our catering, our gaming facilities and our restaurants and our entertainment. That’s our current transition, it’s really trying to build up the employees that we need to continue that path to safely get back to fully reopened. … That’s really our key focus as we come into this fall. It may be September, but we’re already planning for MKE New Year’s Eve here at Potawatomi.”
Impact of online gaming on business
“We’re going to prepare the organization to be ready for anything that comes on our doorstep related to gaming – no matter what that might be, from a sports betting or iGaming (standpoint). I can speak from being in Michigan and working for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe that we were certainly heavily involved in iGaming and sports betting, and you’ve seen the proliferation across the United States as that begins to open up. So, what our current position is: Potawatomi will be ready for action no matter how that rolls out. Certainly, in COVID times, being able to place a bet from your home for some individuals is where they want to be, but we’re still seeing good demand for in-person entertainment and gaming.”
Any plans for the vacant land around the property?
“We don’t want to see that sitting as a parking lot forever. … I would say that I’m definitely progressive about experiential-type of entertainment and that zone is open for full discussion.
“I’m very excited with what we can build from the Potawatomi brand. My background leads to really building upon this premier destination resort. You’re going to see some exciting developments at the property here that are going to lift some eyebrows and draw the right kind of attention that we need to really show this championship town that we’re first class and we intend to do that and invest capital in this community and create jobs and build something that this city is really proud of.”