Then & Now: Casino career comes full circle for Erickson - Talk Business & Politics

Friday 4th December 2020

Editor's Note: The following story appeared in the Nov. 23 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. "Then & Now" is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal's Forty Under 40 class.

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Britta Erickson has helped casinos develop their brand for more than a decade.

In February, the Las Vegas native joined Choctaw Casinos & Resorts as regional director of marketing. Erickson, 44, oversees about 20 employees and is responsible for Choctaw Casino & Resort - Pocola (Okla.) and casinos in Oklahoma travel plazas in Heavener, Poteau, Pocola and Stigler.

She has worked for casinos since at least 2008, which was when she joined Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa, Okla. When the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named her to the Forty Under 40 class in 2012, she was director of marketing for Cherokee Casino & Hotel in West Siloam Springs, Okla.

In January 2013, she accepted a broader marketing role for Cherokee Casino, working with marketing managers at outlying properties on planning and development, and bridging the relationship between the properties and the corporate marketing structure.

"I oversaw the rewards program and worked with creative services in the agency as a liaison between the properties and the science of getting the creative materials done," she said.

In January 2015, she moved to Michigan to work as director of marketing for Odawa Casino Resort. The casino's footprint was similar to Cherokee Casino in West Siloam Springs. However, the market was seasonal. Odawa Casino Resort was looking to build a satellite casino in Mackinaw City. She managed the marketing for the existing casino and planned for the new casino, which opened about the time she left her position there.

In April 2016, she joined Tioga Downs Racing & Entertainment in Nichols, N.Y., as vice president of marketing. She was in that role for more than a year and was recruited to prepare for a Las Vegas-style casino and hotel opening.

The day after she left the position, she took her dog for a walk, stepped into a pothole and broke her foot. She spent six months recovering from that, following three foot surgeries.

She moved to the Tulsa area to be closer to her family and enrolled in a teacher training program developed by Tulsa Public Schools. The six-week summer program allowed her to teach in the district.

"It was something that I had always thought that I would do as the next chapter in my life, and since I wasn't in a position to be able to work in a normal situation for quite a while, I decided that that was something I would work on," she said.

She completed the training program in the summer of 2019 and was a first-grade teacher at Disney Elementary School before she was recruited to work for Choctaw Casinos & Resorts.

"While teaching was always something I thought would be great, it turns out that we are not all cut out to be teachers," she said. "For me, while it was certainly rewarding, and while I have the utmost respect for the people who can go in and do that every day, it was just not for me."

She worked at the casino for six weeks before it closed in mid-March to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. She learned about the organization, marketing plans and her colleagues before transitioning to work from home.

"We joked over the summer while we were closed that I'm the most amazing marketing director: When I came in, we closed the place down, canceled all our promotions and went a completely different direction," she joked.

While working from home, she focused on writing reopening plans for the casino, including how to reopen safely, occupancy limitations and to encourage social distancing. She balanced promotions with business operations while being sensitive to guests who won't be coming to the casino amid the pandemic. Choctaw Casinos reopened on June 1.

"We are letting people know that we're open ... and if you want to come out and have a good time, we are here for you whenever you feel like you're ready to come out and do that," she said.

Erickson, who resides in Fort Smith and Bixby, Okla., serves on the Corporate Leadership Council for the Walton Arts Center and Walmart AMP. She enjoys playing golf and traveling.

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