“I yam what I yam and dat’s all that I yam!” —Popeye the Sailor Man
It seems I’ve held a number of identities in my life. I started out in a small farming community as Dick Schuetz’s son. That became Richard with the GTO as I navigated my upper teens. Then it was Richard the PhD candidate (a title I’ve held for more than 40 years because I often thought I was smarter than my Dissertation Committee—and let them know it). I’ve been known as Richard the Vegas Guy, Richard the Marketing Guy (from my time with Grand Casinos), and so on and so forth. I’ve even been Richard the Mayor’s Boyfriend (which changed to Mayor’s Husband, then to Mayor’s Ex-Husband) which I always found to be a somewhat fascinating way to be known and introduced.
A most interesting time in my life was when I was Richard from California. This identity arose when I was appointed as a commissioner by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Gambling Control Commission. While California had little identity as a gambling market, the reality is the state was the largest gaming state in the nation across the many gambling verticals it offered.
Other realities of California are that it has the fifth largest economy in the world (larger even than the U.K.) as measured by Gross Domestic Product. It produces roughly half of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S., has more than 200 million tourists visit annually, has a population bordering on 40 million people, and–well, you get my drift. I used to enjoy pointing out to my Nevada friends that California had more people in its colleges and universities than Nevada had people.
One group that clearly understood the importance of California were those folks who thought it might be possible to introduce iPoker to the state (and by possible extension, iGaming). These folks knew the power of liquidity in a country of state’s rights for gambling—and in that world, California is the crown jewel. Moreover, when the thought drifted out to the world that California may be in play for the delivery of certain gambling activities by way of the internet, many of these folks came swarming into the state.
All of this initially related to me because of my role as a gambling commissioner. I was something of an oddity in the regulatory machinery of the state, in that I was the only person in that environment who had any experience in actual gambling—and I had a lot. This attribute, I might add, was one I believe Governor Brown soon regretted, for I immediately found the California gambling regulatory experience to be mediocre at best and ethically challenged on a grand scale. I also was not afraid to make those points known. Moreover, I thought many card rooms in the state operated in a fashion that would not be acceptable in most regulated jurisdictions. My opinions on these matters appeared to have merit, as was demonstrated by the numerous federal raids on the card rooms of the state and the insights delivered in an investigation of a regulator gone bad, along with his merry cohorts.
Because California was contemplating expanded gambling, it came to the attention of the governor’s office that the state had no one with much of a hint about any form of gambling. As a result, I was identified as the consultant to the governor’s office on this topic, while still holding my position as commissioner. The legislature came to the same realization, that its talent pool in gambling was quite shallow, so lawmakers went to the governor’s office and asked that I be loaned to it as the iGaming consultant. The governor accommodated this request.
My gambling knowledge at this time was certainly not deep in the area of iGaming, for my life experience was all in the context of the brick-and-mortar casinos. I had made an effort to learn what I could of internet delivery systems of gambling products by traveling about here and there, and attacking what was an ever-increasing body of literature on the topic. Moreover, my acceptance of all of these consulting roles was driven by the observation of Erasmus that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
I was the consultant on the same topic to two branches of government, yielding the possibility I could not only contribute to the draft language of a gambling bill, but could also be requested to draft the veto message of the bill. As Whitman suggested: “Do I contradict myself? Very well… I contain multitudes.”
It was this reality, being identified as the iGaming consultant to both the California governor’s office and the legislature, as well as being a commissioner, that led to me becoming Richard from California. Anyone interested in the iGaming space either in the state or wanting to come into the state came to understand that all roads at one time or another led to Richard from California.
Richard from California was an incredibly popular chap. He was quite bright, funny and insightful. People wanted to buy him meals (which he would not allow), provide little trinkets (ditto, depending on how little) and the like. Because of his brilliance, he was an incredibly sought-after speaker. At one ICE conference in London, he was on four panels in two days. And when he wasn’t speaking, he was being hosted by CEOs and other executives of the biggest companies in the gaming world in private conference rooms, dining establishments and other environments.
At the nightly social events at the conferences, Richard from California was the belle of the ball. People congregated around him to introduce associates, say hi and exchange pleasantries. But all good things must come to an end. The iPoker and other new gaming efforts died a miserable death in the California legislature, and Richard from California opted to resign from the California Commission and accept a position to assist the country of Bermuda in introducing gambling.
This ushered in the era of Richard from Bermuda, a much less exciting and important version of Richard from California. There seemed to be a certain inertia from the Richard from California phase, and many people were unclear as to what opportunities may surface from being buddies with Richard from Bermuda. Through time, however, the answer to this question was, “Not much.”
Again, however, the notion that the only certainty in life is change itself surfaced, and Richard from Bermuda became Just Richard. Just Richard left Bermuda and flew back to the U.S. to live with his girlfriend.
Obviously, transitions affect how a person is treated and perceived. One of the things made abundantly clear in my career development was that I was a mediocre-looking dice dealer and became a very handsome, funny and entertaining Las Vegas casino CEO with a Ferrari Testarossa. So you see, there are a lot of variables people can use to determine the character and qualities of a person.
Many years ago, I saw an interview with Mohammad Ali—The Greatest—on the television. The interviewer was making much of the fact that polling indicated that Ali was the best-known and most highly respected personality alive in the world. In discussing this topic, Ali suggested that this was all very nice, but as he’d grown older, he understood that he could count his very close and trusted friends on one hand. He further added, and this is critical, that he felt he was blessed to have these friends.
So does Just Richard.