November 09, 2014

Chris Korpi dies

Chris Korpi, an Indian gaming executive who had worked for several companies, died Saturday of a heart attack. He was one of the leading lights of Indian gaming and an all-around great guy, kind and generous to everyone he met.

As you may recall, I work at and attend the Global Gaming Expo and NIGA conventions every year. Here's an interview I conducted with him:

Gaming Executive Leads Trips to Indian CountryNote: Chris Korpi, head of Native American relations at VizExplorer, died November 8, 2014. We mourn the loss of one of Indian gaming's greatest advocates and one of Indian country's greatest friends.


When Chris Korpi headed off to college in Rapid City, South Dakota, he knew next to nothing about Native Americans. He couldn’t imagine it was the beginning of a lifelong commitment to America’s first people.

After graduating from the School of Mines with a degree in geological engineering, he worked as a lobbyist and consultant for local politicians. Eventually they took jobs at Sodak Gaming, a predecessor of International Gaming Technology (IGT). When they asked him to join them, he agreed.

During stints at Sodak, IGT, Aruze, and Cadillac Jack, Korpi learned the business as a sales executive dedicated to Indian country. He recently joined BIS2, a San Diego-based maker of business intelligence software, as Assistant VP—Native American Relations and Business Development.

In any job, he’s one of the strongest advocates of Indian gaming. He “gets it”—that it’s about giving tribes the means to determine their own future.

As part of his work, Korpi occasionally leads educational trips to his old stomping grounds in South Dakota. We talked about his 2012 pilgrimage, which was sponsored by Cadillac Jack, and his philosophy toward Indian gaming.
I went on the 2012 trip with him and got to see that part of Indian country for the first time. You can read my reports and see my photographs here:

South Dakota trip


Here are some of my favorite pix of Chris:

Chris at Table Rock Beach. May 22, 2014.

Chris explains the geology of the Etta Mine near Mt. Rushmore. June 24, 2012.

At the Mountain View Cemetery near Mt. Rushmore. Chris points out the rose quartz--South Dakota's state stone--on a grave. June 24, 2012.

Chris explains things to our group on the viewing platform at Terry Peak. June 27, 2012.

Chris and friends on the Crazy Horse Memorial. June 28, 2012.

Chris and Adam Beach at NIGA. May, 2014.

Victor Rocha with Chris--one of the handful of people who made what it is today. April 3, 2012.

P.S. I imagine how Chris would respond to all the praise he's getting. "Thanks, but it's not necessary. I'm not anybody important. If you want to show your appreciation, donate your time or money to a worthy cause. There are people struggling all over the world--in Africa and right here in Indian country--who need your help."

That's the kind of guy he was. RIP, Chris.

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