With nearly 25 years in the gaming industry, all of it within Tribal gaming establishments, Brian Decorah brings a wealth of experience to his new role at the west coast’s largest resort/casino. Decorah, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, will serve as as general manager of Pechanga Resort Casino in Southern California. Decorah is the first Native person to hold this position at Pechanga Resort Casino.
Decorah most recently served as CEO of Snoqualmie Casino near Seattle, Washington. He has also served as the top executive at four casino resorts in the Great Lakes Region — as President & CEO of FireKeepers Casino and Hotel, General Manager of North Star Mohican Casino Resort, and Executive Manager of Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg and Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg Nekoosa. In all, he’s had management oversight within 14 award-winning gaming operations, including Pechanga Resort Casino.
Decorah looks forward to working with a team and a property at Pechanga he describes as “a leader in Indian Country with an inspiring level of sophistication and a commitment to excellence.”
Decorah first visited Pechanga Resort Casino in 2007 and returned again after the spring 2018 $300-million-dollar expansion, which added approximately 750 additional employment positions.
“A lot of us in the industry have watched Pechanga’s phenomenal growth from the outside. It has truly been inspiring to see Pechanga continually set and raise the bar for the industry,” he said. “One of the things that most impressed me and made me want to be part of this team is that Tribal leadership has managed to not only maintain, but strengthen the family-feel of the operation. As operations continue to expand, they can lose the intimate feeling of inclusiveness that comes with a close-knit business. Pechanga hasn’t lost that. They’ve enhanced it, which gets me most excited about being part of this team.”
“We are excited to have Brian join Pechanga Resort Casino,” said Jared Munoa, President of the Pechanga Development Corporation Board of Directors, which oversees the Pechanga Resort Casino. “He had the right experience, perspective and set of ideas that will help us to continue providing the best overall experience for our guests.”
The casino world came calling for Decorah at the age of 20. His father worked in surveillance at the Tribal casino that back then was called Rainbow Casino. Today, it’s Ho-Chunk Nekoosa, one of the six Ho-Chunk properties and located about 130 miles west of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Decorah’s biological father helped him get his foot in the casino’s employment door as a security guard working the graveyard shift.
“I was really grateful for the opportunity. It gave me the chance to begin in an entry level position and work my way forward. Throughout my career, I’ve had incredible opportunities to be taught and absorb the casino business while working in positions across the operation, and at almost every level of responsibility. I think that experience helps me relate to the team, and make more informed decisions that benefit the operation, while taking the team into heavy consideration.”
He spent more than two years on the front line in the security department. During that time, he amassed a collection of guest feedback so when he was called to attend casino meetings in place of an absent supervisor, suggestions for improvements came free-flowing. More time in these meetings elapsed and soon he was offered a marketing manager position. He credits the growth of tribal gaming in the 1990s as helping propel his career forward, though he continued taking on new and different opportunities within the industry. Director of Entertainment, Director of Compliance and more are all titles under his curriculum vitae.
Decorah’s rise up the ranks of Tribal gaming came full circle back to Ho-Chunk Nekoosa when he was offered the role of general manager, 15 years after starting out there as an overnight security guard.
“The initial feeling of starting as a general manager is one of excitement and reserved anxiousness,” said Decorah. He recalled feeling that way at the Wisconsin casino and beginning at Pechanga Resort Casino. “You want to be able to make a good fit with the team in place, and to make smart and impactful decisions. It’s great to be a part of the synergies created by people who want to work together to make their teams stronger and enhance the overall culture. And, I really believe in making connections for yourself and the team because all of our hard work goes into sustaining a people – by helping the Tribes to achieve self-sufficiency and to build clinics, schools, wellness programs, language and cultural preservation programs, and that list goes on. It’s beyond satisfying.”
Outside of his executive duties, he enjoys traveling with his 11-year-old son, as well as finding time to help coach his baseball and basketball teams. He stays active through working out and golf. He admits he didn’t have much in the way of luxuries growing up. Decorah says he looks for ways to give back to his community whenever he can, which recently included an idea made viral by friend and former Seattle Seahawk, Richard Sherman. Decorah paid off the student lunch bills before Christmas for all the kids on the free and reduced lunch program at the school he attended in Necedah, Wisconsin. He also supports cancer fundraisers and charitable causes that assist gold star families from the special operations community in the military.