Q&A with Paul Chakmak, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Boyd Gaming Corp.

29 April 2014

LAS VEGAS -- Paul Chakmak is a busy guy.

Boyd Gaming Corporation’s executive vice president and chief operating officer sits on the boards of three influencial organizations or public agencies — the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the UNLV stadium authority and the Nevada Resort Association, where he serves as vice chairman. His pre-Boyd banking experience — which focused on debt and leverage financing — comes in handy for discussions at board meetings.

Chakmak attended Claremont McKenna College, a liberal arts institution in Los Anegles, where he graduated in 1986. His daughter is a sophomore at his alma mater, while his son is a junior at the Meadows School in Las Vegas.

He moved to Las Vegas for a job with Boyd Gaming in 2004 after leaving CIBC World Markets in Los Angeles.

When the 49-year-old executive has free time, he said he likes to draw on his Italian and Armenian heritage to cook up flavorful dishes. He enjoys watching “MasterChef” on Fox, and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on Food Network featuring Guy Fieri — a UNLV graduate.

Chakmak, a Fresno, Calif., native, also enjoys hitting the golf course and watching sports, especially the Oakland Raiders.

He said he looks at the university’s pursuit of a proposed on-campus stadium of 50,000-60,000 seats as a means of improving student life and the institution, which, in turn, would help Las Vegas overall.

Which sports do you enjoy playing and watching?

Though I don’t have much time to devote to it, I enjoy playing golf on one of the many outstanding courses we have here in Las Vegas. When it comes to watching sports, it’s definitely football, college or NFL. I grew up in Fresno, so I’m a lifetime Raiders fan. I even had season tickets for the Raiders when I lived in Los Angeles.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

SC Prime at the Suncoast. That was the first design project I was involved with after I became COO, so I have an attachment there. They do an outstanding job. Great steaks and seafood, and it has a super atmosphere. The after work “social hour” has become very popular.

What drew you into the investment banking field?

Originally I had wanted to be a lawyer like my brother. But I realized when I was in college that finance was much more interesting to me. And the banks recruited heavily at Claremont McKenna, so there were a lot of opportunities available. When I graduated in 1986, the investment banking world was undergoing a major evolution. The public debt markets had just become a significant source of funding for companies around the country, including Las Vegas. This city was built on debt financing, and became what it is today because of it. It was a very interesting time to get involved in investment banking.

When you were a kid, did you think you’d go into the financial field? What kind of kid were you?

No, I originally thought I’d be a lawyer, but college led me in another direction. As a kid, I was very focused on academics. But I was also active in sports as well — football, basketball and baseball. I ended up settling on baseball in high school since my parents didn’t want me playing football at that level. But I was really better at football, and the coaches were disappointed when they heard I wouldn’t be playing.

If you could be a professional in another field, what would it be?

Honestly, probably sports management or coaching, since I love sports. But my job as COO of Boyd Gaming is kind of like being coach and manager of a team as well.

What’s your favorite thing about Las Vegas and why?

Las Vegas stacks up against any big city in the world when it comes to restaurants, entertainment and shopping. But it also has the best of Small Town USA. It’s easy to get around, and the people here are great. In Las Vegas, we have the best of both worlds.

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