Melissa Blau has played an important part in the online gambling industry since its inception in the mid-90’s. She is a mentor, role model and icon for a number of men and women working in this space, and for good reason.
Blau earned graduate degrees from Wharton and Harvard Business School, two of the most prestigious and competitive universities in the United States. While studying at Harvard, Blau took part in the first internet business class along with the founder of Yahoo!. As part of the requirements for the class, she wrote a business plan for taking a casino online, a plan so good that her professor asked her to present it to the class.
After business school, Blau worked in the banking industry and digital media until she made her entree into the online gambling industry as CFO for St. Minver, a company that was managing Gala’s online gambling site the time. When Gala merged with Coral, Melissa stepped down as CFO of St. Minver to advise on the merger deal and get back into banking. Blau’s professional experience inside and outside the online gambling industry really opened things up for her.
“Its this combination of having both operating expertise and this broader banking consulting perspective, so its about having both of those experiences”, says Blau. “So one gives me a lot of depth and the other gives me a lot of breadth”.
More recently, equipped with her rich experience, Blau identified a lucrative opportunity for herself in consulting with American gambling companies looking to get into the online space such as Bally’s and Hard Rock in addition to a number of Native American tribes.
Blau also writes for a number of trade magazines and presents at just about every major gambling conference around the globe each year. These responsibilities may not pay the bills directly, but the exposure, education and new clients she receives from them is worth the effort.
After spending some time with Blau it becomes quite clear that success in the online gambling industry does not happen overnight and it involves quite a bit of sacrifice. Blau is traveling a good portion of the year and has to keep on top of the industry’s trends, innovations and interests that are all constantly changing. In her words, “Its hard, but its worth it”.
The benefit is that you as an online gambling industry professional can constantly change your path as well.
“[The online gambling industry] is not like other industries where you are put in the box and you stay in that box- you’re an affiliate manager, you stay there. Well, yes, you’re an affiliate manager today, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do marketing or some other sector, because this industry is so fast growing, and we’re all learning together”, says Blau.