Passing the Torch
A look back at the 25-year career of gaming industry leadership with CGA President and CEO Bill Rutsey
Canadian Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Rutsey has played a major industry role from the earliest days of casino gaming in Ontario to create a 25-year legacy of leadership and achievement that will pave the way for an enduring and prosperous future for Canada’s gaming industry. As he prepares to pass the CGA leadership torch, Rutsey recently discussed his extensive career and shared his vision for what the future holds.
When Rutsey was asked in 2005 to create and lead the CGA by Duncan Brown, then-CEO of Ontario Lottery and Gaming, he had already amassed well over a decade of both private and public sector gaming industry experience, including assisting in the creation of gaming policy and casino development in Ontario and Nova Scotia. As Practice Leader of the Coopers and Lybrand Gaming Consulting Practice in the late 80s and early 90s, he advised numerous private and public sector clients, including the Ontario government (authoring the Ontario Casino Market and Economic Impact Study – the blueprint for the Ontario casino gaming industry), Windsor Casino (Caesars Windsor), the Chippewa of Rama First Nation and the Halifax Hilton Hotel (resulting in casino-style gaming approval in Nova Scotia).
As CEO of private sector companies including Multigames Inc. and RPC Gaming Inc., Rutsey planned, developed and managed gaming businesses in Ontario, Las Vegas and internationally, and has been licensed by gaming regulators in both Nevada and Ontario. He has also been a frequent commentator on gaming issues in media and before government.
Success Runs in the Family
Despite his notable success in a wide range of industry roles, Rutsey wasn’t always focused on a career in the gaming industry. Growing up with two brothers who had chosen clear paths towards their futures (one brother, John, was a founding member of legendary Canadian rock band Rush while his other brother, Mike, became an acclaimed baseball writer), Rutsey’s first job after finishing school was writing commercials for a rock’n’roll radio station. From there he was steered to try accounting by an uncle responding to his mother’s pleas to counsel her wayward son from his 70’s hedonistic lifestyle. He soon discovered he was more suited to consulting, noting that “accountants count the beans one at a time, consultants count them by the handful.”
“I got into the gaming industry completely by accident,” Rutsey recalls. “I was running a consulting practice at Coopers and Lybrand (later PricewaterhouseCoopers) where I worked on a number of large public infrastructure projects, including with many professional sports teams on new stadium and arena projects, like SkyDome, the United Center in Chicago and GM Place in Vancouver.
“After the Bob Rae government in Ontario put out an RFP exploring the possibility of casinos, I put together a response with people from our U.S. offices who had gaming experience. And we won — a fact for which Lyle Hall will never forgive me,” Rutsey says with his easy chuckle. “He was at KPMG at the time and couldn’t believe that someone who didn’t know anything about the industry actually won the assignment.”