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Mastering the Game

Featuring: Kari Stout-Smith, General Manager of Cache Creek Casino Resort

January 3, 2024


In the bustling realm of casino management, Kari Stout-Smith shines as a guiding light. As the General Manager at Cache Creek Casino Resort, she has amassed over two decades of expertise, from her starting position as a promotions hostess to her present role. Stout-Smith’s journey exemplifies the importance of resilience, adaptability, and garnering a deep understanding of what creates a standout casino experience. With her extensive background, Kari Stout-Smith stands as a valuable mentor, offering seasoned advice to those aspiring to make their mark in the vibrant casino industry.

Laying the Foundations of a Casino Career

It all began with a newspaper ad for a promotions hostess at a casino. At the time, Kari was juggling school while pursuing modeling and acting. Entering the casino world in 1998, she found an environment ripe with opportunities for rapid learning and exposure. Kari quickly learned that flexibility and openness to diverse experiences were key pillars in establishing a solid professional foundation within the industry. Her willingness to learn and explore opportunities played a crucial role in her career progression, enabling her to adapt to various tasks and challenges within the casino sector, ultimately paving the way for her ascent to leadership positions.

Navigating New Realities

The casino industry, post-pandemic, has seen a significant shift towards remote work. However, casinos still distinguish themselves as unique destinations for in-person experiences, which Kari describes as “an escape from reality.” She emphasizes the critical role of human interaction and the need for making in-person jobs more engaging, modern, and inclusive. These changes aren't just cosmetic but are pivotal in defining the industry's future.

The Art of Talent Development

Kari's hiring philosophy is straightforward yet profound: focus on the right personality, then train for technical skills. This approach not only emphasizes soft skills like eye contact and a warm demeanor, which are invaluable in the casino setting but also underscores the importance of assessing new talent for the right chemistry. Such assessment is crucial for building a cohesive team that excels technically and enhances the guest experience through their interpersonal dynamics. 

>Once the right match is found, providing extensive training helps transform personality into proficiency. By investing heavily in training, especially in guest service and public speaking, Kari opened doors for her team to grow, network, and train others. She believes in the power of continuous learning and the need for personal development alongside professional growth.

Personal and Professional Growth 

In the male-dominated casino industry, Kari found significant support from male mentors who helped shape her career. They encouraged her to stay authentic, a principle she deeply values. Kari succinctly encapsulates this experience: "You can do it, there are going to be more sacrifices than you realize… just think about who you are and what your values are, what you’re willing and not willing to sacrifice, and as long as you do that and stay true to yourself then I think this is an amazing industry." This advice highlights the importance of self-awareness and integrity in forging a successful career.

Her mentors also prepared her for challenges, emphasizing resilience and adaptability. This blend of support and realism was crucial in Kari's rise to a position of influence in the casino industry.

Widening Perspectives

Arguably the most pivotal moment in Kari's career was her decision to leave a long-standing organization to diversify her experiences. This leap into the unknown proved to be both challenging and rewarding. She learned that no two casinos are the same, with each requiring a unique approach. Strategies that proved effective in one context sometimes required adjustment in another. She approached her role in new casinos like a tourist, immersing herself in community events to understand the market deeply. In her leadership role, she advocates for this innate curiosity. 

Additionally, she underwent “casino boot camp,” where she worked in various positions, which provided a comprehensive view of operations. In doing so she came to recognize the immense benefit of understanding her colleagues and their values. This experience cemented her belief in the necessity of interconnectedness and collaboration between marketing and operations for success. The conclusion Kari came to is “the more experience you get as a professional, the better off you are.” 

Top Tips for Mastering the Game

From Kari’s incredible journey of both personal and professional development, here are some tips for career advancement:

1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Stout-Smith credits her success to her willingness to embrace discomfort. “Don’t be afraid to put your hand up,” she advises.

2. Take the Initiative to Put Yourself Out There

Throughout her career, Kari seized opportunities to take on new responsibilities. “If it’s something you want to learn, you will gain a lot from it, and so will your employer,” she remarks. Expanding her skill set through various endeavors helped her excel, underlining her strong belief in the value of continuous learning.

3. Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Like in any aspect of life, aspiring industry professionals must ensure they master one level before moving to the next. Kari embraced patience in her career journey, focusing on gaining comprehensive knowledge to build a strong foundation for success.

Kari Stout-Smith's career is a blueprint for success in the casino industry. Her ascent from a promotions hostess to the role of General Manager encapsulates vital teachings in adaptability, continuous learning, and the significance of authenticity. Her experiences offer a rich resource for those aspiring to thrive in the casino world, emphasizing the necessity of personal development and flexibility in an industry that's constantly evolving.

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