Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain, slated to become the premier entertainment destination in Northern California once open in fall of 2019, announces its team of top-tier executives.
“We are excited to have a great mix of passionate industry leaders joining our Hard Rock Sacramento family,” said Mark Birtha, president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain. “Some are new to the brand and some are seasoned veterans, but most important is that we have an enthusiastic executive team with over 150 years of collective experience working together to develop and operate what will become a top gaming, entertainment and hospitality venue that provides ‘authentic experiences that rock’ in Northern California.”
Kicking off the property’s new executive team, the vice president of finance, Christopher Balaban, is a numbers savvy-guru with over 20-years of gaming experience. Balaban possesses a successful track record of delivering results and value through strategic direction and financial operations leadership. Most recently, he held VP finance positions with Affinity Gaming and Penn National Gaming in the Las Vegas and mid-west regional markets. Additionally, Balaban has held positions with Seminole Gaming in South Florida and Kerzner International in Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Balaban also led hotel and F&B operations, developing a diverse operational background. He has an MBA from Florida Atlantic University and a BS from the University of South Florida.
Joining as vice president of human resources, Ryan Flieger, has been with the Hard Rock brand since 2012, holding leadership roles at both Hard Rock Hotel San Diego and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, Flieger successfully led a five-year initiative to redefine the property’s mission and core values, while increasing team member engagement to an all-time high. Flieger also played a lead role in talent acquisition, pre-opening training and culture setting for several Hard Rock Hotel expansions. Prior to joining the Hard Rock team, he spent nearly a decade with MGM Resorts where he helped guide the company’s award-winning diversity training initiative and MGM University. During his career, he’s been credited with leading successful internal cultural transformations and greatly improving talent retention. Flieger has been honored with several recognitions for his effective training programs and facilitation, including “Best Overall Trainer,” “Young Trainer to Watch” and was included in a “40 under 40” list of influential Las Vegas professionals.
A native of Las Vegas, Anika Gaskins serves as the vice president of marketing for the new property. An industry veteran, Gaskins has more than 17 years of experience, most recently opening the $1 billion MGM Resorts Springfield casino property as the vice president of national marketing where she was responsible for all loyalty and casino marketing initiatives. She has also held VP of marketing positions with Penn National Gaming, where she developed and executed marketing strategies and led efforts to increase revenue. Prior to joining Penn National Gaming, Gaskins held various marketing positions with Caesars Entertainment on the Las Vegas Strip and Caesars Windsor in Canada. She received her bachelor’s in economics from Washington University in St. Louis and an MBA from Simmons College in Boston.
A casino executive with close to four decades of experience, the new vice president of table games, Paul Mollo, has been with the Hard Rock family since 2008, where he helped usher in the introduction of class 3 table games in Florida. He now joins the team in Sacramento, California. His management philosophy necessitates creating and maintaining a professional work culture that is built on a foundation of trust, respect, confidence and support. Mollo has worked with several gaming companies over the years to open properties, including Harrah’s, Trump Plaza and Borgata in the Atlantic City market. In addition to his table games role, he assisted HBO Productions with casino gaming aspects on “The Sopranos” and was even cast for several extra spots and one speaking role.
The vice president of IT, Matthew Morgan, brings more than 20 years of gaming industry technology experience from the Northern California, Las Vegas and Midwest markets. Morgan’s wealth of expertise in IT strategy, combined with the application of technical innovation, brings both operational efficiency and product differentiation to each property he leads at. Most recently, Morgan served as the chief information officer at The D Las Vegas, where he was responsible for two casino/hotel properties and technical operations of an 11,000-person entertainment venue. He also served as a vice president at Red Hawk Casino, PlayerSoft Technologies and Thunder Valley Casino. Morgan’s focus over the last decade has been to bring mobile products to the casino market to solve common hospitality-industry problems. In May 2019, he will graduate with an MBA from Southeast Missouri State.
Will Provance serves as the vice president of slot operations and has spent more than 20 years in the hospitality industry, working in operational and leadership roles ranging from restaurants, entertainment, hotel operations and casino gaming. Starting at Station Casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada as a corporate slot analyst, he participated in their Management Development Program and worked his way up to director of slot and ancillary gaming operations at Sunset Station. From there, he was recruited by Mark Birtha to run the VLT (Slot) Operations at Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, Ohio’s No. 1 ranked gaming facility. He was interviewed and featured as a contributor in David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research’s book “Tales from the Slot Floor: Casino Managers in Their Own Words” and was named to the Emerging Leaders of Gaming’s “40 Under 40.” Provance has a Master of Science degree in hotel administration with a focus in gaming from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, an MBA in international hotel and tourism management from Schiller International University and an executive certificate from Cornell University in customer-driven marketing.
Kaywan Samadani is the vice president of hospitality. His career began in 1990 at Caesars as a room chef at Harvey’s in his hometown of Lake Tahoe. During that time, Samadani opened two buffets, a steakhouse and a noodle bar, along with four casino bars and butler suites. He also assisted with the opening of Harrah’s Rincon (now Harrah’s Southern California) and the rebranding of the Rio in Las Vegas. In 2006, he relocated to Harrah’s St. Louis as director of F&B before being promoted to director of hospitality. Samadani also served as VP of casino services at Horseshoe Cleveland and Thistledown Racino. He moved to Cleveland in 2011, helping to open the property’s Beverage, Buffet, Culinary, Diamond Lounge and Slots operations. Most recently, Samadani served as senior director of hospitality at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, where he opened the Mystic Lake Center, a 70,000 square foot convention space. Samadani attended Cabrillo College and the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The property continues to build the employee team ahead of the fall 2019 opening and is expected to create more than 2,000 construction jobs upon its completion, with nearly 750 working at peak times on the project any given day. Upon opening, the property will employ over 1,000 full and part-time team members.
For more information, visit hardrockhotelsacramento.com.