For the past eight years, CEM has presented profiles of the Great Women of Gaming Award winners. This year is no different, as we bring you 10 outstanding professional women who embody the term “Great Women of Gaming.” They were selected for their perseverance, drive, commitment and mentorship, and we are delighted to tell you their stories.
The awards are broken down into two categories: Proven Leaders and Rising Stars. To qualify as a Proven Leader, candidates must have worked in the gaming industry for a minimum of 10 years and have been in their current position for at least one year. They must also work for a gaming industry company, hold a position of director or higher and have demonstrated exceptional achievement in at least three of the following areas: 1) ability to go above and beyond job responsibilities; 2) commitment to company and co-workers; 3) contributions to the industry as a whole; 4) commitment to mentoring; and 5) strong overall life balance.
To qualify as a Rising Star, candidates must have worked in the gaming industry for a minimum of three years and have been in their current position for at least one year. They must also work for a gaming industry company and hold a position of manager or higher, having demonstrated exceptional achievement in at least three of the following areas: 1) ability to go above and beyond job responsibilities; 2) commitment toT company and co-workers; 3) contributions to the industry as a whole; 4) commitment to mentoring; and 5) strong overall life balance.
The judging committee, which is composed of former Great Women of Gaming and other industry leaders, had the difficult task of evaluating a record number of nominees for this year’s awards. The judges included: Staci Alonso, Chief Marketing Officer, IGT; Diana Bennett, Chief Executive Officer, Paragon Gaming; Dona Cassese, Vice President of Advertising and Communications, Aristocrat Americas; Tracy Cohen, Director of Europe, Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, and Marketing Manager, TCSJOHNHUXLEY; Sheila Morago, Executive Director, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association; Courtney Muller, Senior Vice President, Reed Exhibitions; Debi Nutton, Senior Vice President of Casino Operations, Bellagio Resort and Casino; and Judy Patterson, Senior Vice President and Executive Director, American Gaming Association.
On the following pages, we bring you the 2012 Great Women of Gaming. We invite you to indulge in their backgrounds, journeys and how they came to where they are today. They’re all inspiring women, and we’re proud and honored to tell you their tales.
The Rainmaker Group
“By working hard and working together, we can succeed in a most spectacular way.” This phrase is not just Tammy Farley’s motto; it fully encompasses her outlook on business and life. Farley is the president and co-founder of The Rainmaker Group, and has been impacting the gaming industry since she co-founded the company in 1998.
Rainmaker is now an industry-leading provider of revenue management and profit optimization systems in the gaming/hospitality and multi-family housing industries. But according to Farley, that’s not where Rainmaker got its start. “Our focus was initially on the airline industry,” she said. “But we faced some major challenges around 9/11, and in 2002 we got into the gaming and hospitality industry. That really taught me that you can’t get so comfortable with one industry or with one customer, because you never know what will happen!”
Before Farley started Rainmaker with her business partner, she was the executive vice president of sales at BCA in Atlanta, a revenue management company serving the airline industry. She also spent several years after college in a sales role, selling business telephone systems. Farley is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Now at Rainmaker, Farley has impressed her colleagues and customers, as recommendation letters for her nomination poured in.
“Tammy is an exceptional individual, both professionally and personally,” said Bruce Barfield, CEO and co-founder of The Rainmaker Group. “She is deeply committed to our business, our customers and our employees, as well as supporting and helping to advance the industries we serve (gaming/hospitality and multi-family housing). While she shares responsibility with me in both industries, she has a greater strength and presence in gaming.”
Chris Friday, CIO and senior vice president at Mohegan Sun, echoed Barfield’s praise for Farley’s commitment to customers. “At Mohegan Sun, we made the decision to go with Rainmaker for our profit optimization system,” Friday said. “We successfully implemented the company’s GuestREV solution on time and on budget, and I give a lot of credit to Tammy and her staff for how smoothly the implementation was orchestrated. Driving incremental revenue for customers is the fundamental purpose behind all her company’s products.”
Rainmaker’s GuestREV solution enables gaming hotels and other hospitality companies to manage demand so each room yields the highest possible combined room and gaming revenues per guest. In May 2012, Farley and her team developed and launched GroupREV, a pricing software that provides a scientific modeling and elasticity-based approach to solving many of the challenges associated with group pricing.
“With much credit to Tammy, our solutions in the gaming industry now serve almost 130 properties worldwide and is the industry standard revenue management application for gaming properties,” Barfield said. “She listens closely to customers’ needs and works hard to develop our team so we can create quality solutions that provide quantifiable value for our customers. Her commitment is fierce and she has helped me build this company around providing exceptional service and results.”
Besides being extremely committed to her customers and employees, Farley makes a point to volunteer in her community on a regular basis. She is a board member for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Georgia, and is a member of the National Charity League (NCL), which is one of the nations’ most distinctive mother-daughter non-profit organizations.
Farley participates in NCL events with her 18-year-old daughter, Grace. She says that aside from the success of Rainmaker, raising her daughter has been one of her proudest accomplishments. “You never know how raising a daughter is going to turn out,” Farley said with a laugh. “Just knowing that I’ve raised a capable, confident, independent young woman is a great feeling. I’m getting ready to send her off to New York to go to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Since she was 7 years old, she’s known that she wants to go into fashion, and the fact that she’s now doing it is the coolest thing.”
Farley’s ability to balance work and home life is a talent that is recognized by her peers in the industry. “Balance is not easy,” said Colleen Birch, vice president of revenue optimization at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. “Tammy makes it look easy. Her ability to balance a career, motherhood and participate with organizations like HSMAI (where she is a member of their Revenue Management Advisory Board) or the Atlanta Make-A-Wish chapter is admirable. During the time I’ve known Tammy, I’m proud to have witnessed her wearing each of these ‘hats,’ committing to each with the same level of intensity.”
John Wallace, managing director of gaming/hospitality at Rainmaker, offers this example of Farley’s ability to multi-task and dedicate herself to multiple aspects: “Tammy traveled to Denver to meet with customers and prospects, and after arriving home late on a Thursday night, the next morning she helped her daughter decorate for her high school’s prom, hosted an after-hours prom party at her house Saturday night, and cooked breakfast for 16 teenagers on Sunday morning,” he said. “This is just one of many examples of her incredible ability to balance both work and personal commitments.”
Not only does she manage to balance those duties efficiently, she does it with a smile.” Whether it’s volunteering for a good cause or going from meeting to meeting all day, Tammy has a way of making it all enjoyable, exciting and fun—for herself and others around her,” Barfield said. “She exudes the belief that working together and laughing together is paramount, no matter what.” JM
Vice President of Sales
A gaming industry veteran, Randi Ingram is known for her commitment to her work, the enthusiasm she brings to everything she does and her very professional demeanor. Bill Fishman, director of slot operations at Palace Casino Resort, has known Ingram for a number of years and shared his exceptionally high opinion of her: “I have known Randi for close to 20 years and during that time I have watched her mature into one of the slot industry’s most knowledgeable and experienced VPs of sales. She is a consummate professional who is always up for a challenge.” Everyone who knows Ingram, or has been lucky enough to work with her, would agree.
One of Ingram’s defining characteristics is that she always enjoys a challenge. In fact, she thinks that challenges, and even stressful situations, keep her motivated. “I don’t know if I enjoy stress, but I’m not afraid of it I guess,” she said with a laugh. “I think I like the challenge of always finding an easier, better and faster way.” And it’s no wonder why. “My dad is a Marine, so I’ve learned to just persevere through everything; that’s my motto,” said Ingram. Her father’s strength and willingness to tackle any obstacle has as always stuck with her, and he is her biggest inspiration. “Out of all the mentors or the people who have taught me the most, my dad is definitely the one who has helped me become who I am,” she shared.
From a young age, Ingram’s parents taught their family the importance of facing challenges, big or small. One of the ways they accomplished this was by encouraging their children to try anything at least once, and in their household there was ample opportunity for this approach to be tested. In all her years growing up, Ingram’s family hosted exchange students. “Over the years we have had 17 exchange students stay with us, either for six months or a whole year,” she said. “They were from everywhere. And they would always want us to learn about their country, so a lot of them would cook. My parents had this rule that we had to try everything at the table and couldn’t ask what it was until dinner was over. If we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to finish it, but we at least had to try it.” Some meals were more memorable than others. “My brother, who always had all kinds of reptile pets, got this new turtle,” Ingram said. “One night we had soup—it was really, really, good—and after dinner we found out the new turtle was in the soup.”
Ingram treasures her diverse upbringing, and credits her parents for her ability to tackle anything—a trait that has helped her advance in the gaming industry. “I’ve been able to work with different markets in the gaming industry and I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t stay in one market or one territory, “she said. “I was willing to move and take on new challenges.”
She is also thankful for the many mentors she has had, acknowledging that they have helped her grow. “I have learned a lot from the men and women who have mentored me along the way, and I think it’s important that all of us in the industry continue to mentor and challenge the next generation coming up,” Ingram shared.
Those who have worked with her respect that she takes her own advice and guides newcomers to the industry. Jay Duarte, vice president of slot operations at Thunder Valley Casino Resort, shared: “I’ve seen Randi use her extensive professional expertise and personal intuition when working with and mentoring the individuals in the team(s) she has working for her. And I’ve watched those individuals find subsequent success in this industry over the years. Those successes can be directly attributed to the guidance and direction they received from her.”
It was in 1986 that Ingram first entered the gaming industry. After attending University of Nevada, Las Vegas, she answered an ad looking for an accounting clerk at Universal (today known as Aruze Gaming). Her career progressed and she has held notable positions at well-known companies through the years.
Prior to her position at Multimedia Games, Ingram was vice president of game development and slot product strategy at Harrah’s Entertainment and stood as a senior account executive with IGT from 1993 to 2005.
Having been in the gaming industry for 27 years, Ingram has a lot of knowledge to impart. Her expertise is well-known and her counsel is always trusted. “The bottom line is that we trust Randi,” said Buddy Frank, vice president of slot operations at Pechanga Resort and Casino. “We trust her to recommend product that will work, to recommend strategies that will make us more money and to spot trends ahead of others. Most importantly, we trust that every time we see her she’ll have a warm smile, a sincere greeting and an abundance of enthusiasm. If Randi isn’t exuberantly talking about slot machines, gaming technology, her peers and/or her competitors, then call a medic because something is seriously wrong.”
For those who work with Ingram, it was no surprise that this remarkable woman won a Great Women of Gaming award. Mick Roemer, senior vice president of sales for Multimedia Games, fully endorsed Ingram’s nomination, saying: “The commitment Randi has made to not just Multimedia Games, but to the relationships she holds within the gaming community, makes her a remarkable woman in this industry and within our company.”
Ingram, however, was completely taken aback and very honored. “I’ve met a lot of amazing people and made a lot of really close friends along the way, so to get this award means a lot,” she said. “It means that I’m considered by my peers to be good at what I do, so I think it’s a really high compliment.” The best part of it all is that she first found out about her award in a message on LinkedIn before her team had even had a chance to notify her. “So we know two things: one, my nomination was a well-kept secret, and two, LinkedIn is pretty effective,” she said with a chuckle.
When asked to share her secret to success with young female professionals, Ingram had this to say: “Find out what you do best and do your best with it—become active and passionate about what you like and stick with it. And find the people in the industry you admire and let them mentor you and help you make a connection to the field that you want to be in. Nobody gets anywhere just by themselves.” AA
Senior Director of Corporate Marketing and Communications
Professional and passionate. Humble and hardworking. Positive and supportive.
Those kinds of adjectives come with the territory when the subject is Laura Olson-Reyes, Bally Technologies’ senior director of corporate marketing and communications and recipient of a 2012 Great Women of Gaming “Proven Leader” award.
“I’m very, very honored that Bally nominated me and that I work for a company that sees the value a recognition like Great Women of Gaming provides,” Olson-Reyes said. “I love my job at Bally Technologies; the senior management team is very supportive of marketing and women in the workplace.”
But recognition came from beyond the ranks of Bally Technologies.
Spin Games CEO Kent Young worked closely with Olson-Reyes during her time at Aristocrat Technologies. He cited “her impeccable work ethic and her initiative to often go above and beyond” in accomplishing personal and company goals. “She is extremely intelligent and has a sort of sixth sense about what needs to be done and going about getting it done.”
SHFL entertainment CEO Gavin Isaacs, president of both Bally and Aristocrat when Olson-Reyes worked at each, was equally effusive, saying: “Having worked with her for nearly 10 years, I’ve witnessed and commended her for the well-constructed and creative out-of-the-box thinking and ideas she has presented. She has established and maintained genuine relationships with multiple media outlets across the country, enabling the companies she represents to tell their stories. Her vision and attention to detail has enhanced Bally Technologies’ reputation among industry peers, investors and business pundits.”
“Laura shows her professional strengths daily, mentors employees internally and has the creativity and ability to see beyond the moment,” Vice President of Corporate Marketing Dan Savage said. “The professionalism and passion Laura demonstrates for her work is also felt in her community. She was instrumental in forging a partnership between Bally and the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.”
Bally Chairman Richard Haddrill, who once led Powerhouse Technologies where Olson-Reyes also worked, noted she has “led her team to numerous awards” for marketing and communications excellence, including eight Pinnacle Awards, seven American Gaming Association VOICE awards, and four Bronze Quills.
“At least as important as her competence at Bally and dedication to our industry, Laura is a warm and caring person; she always wears a smile and maintains a positive and supportive attitude,” Haddrill said. “She is one of three Bally executives overseeing our employee community involvement and our charitable giving, ensuring that we are impassioned and caring members of our community.”
Casino Enterprise Management Publisher Peter Mead called Olson-Reyes “the best go-to person in the gaming industry when it comes to marketing and communications.”
“Laura is one of the most well-known and respected women in the industry, earning the praise of innumerable people,” Mead said in his recommendation. “In fact, the only person who does not gush praise about Laura is Laura herself. She remains humble and hardworking, keeping her communications efforts solely on continuing to brand Bally as one of the top names in gaming.”
Olson-Reyes has a simple explanation for her success in the industry over the last 22 years. “I work extremely hard, but I’m very passionate about what I do,” she said. “If you love what you do, work with talented teams and have supportive leadership, it keeps you motivated and energized.”
Asked about gaming leaders she admires, Olson-Reyes paused and replied, “There are so many.”
Pressed, she cited Haddrill and Isaacs for starters: “Dick and Gavin are the reasons I joined Bally Technologies. I know what great leaders they are, and I wanted to work for a company with strong leadership. I admire our current CEO, Ramesh Srinivasan, for the passion he brings to work every day.”
And she picked former Aristocrat executive Jennifer Martinez, now vice president of human resources at Konami Gaming, as well as Young and Savage. She called Martinez “an energetic, intelligent, and driven executive who spends a lot time mentoring.”
“She’s very good at what she does, but she is also very committed to her husband and three children,” Olson-Reyes said. “I’m in awe of women like Jennifer, who are raising families, working hard and adding value to their companies every day.”
“Kent Young is a brilliant, creative marketing and games guru who is able to create work environments where you are highly productive, but also have a lot of fun,” Olson-Reyes continued on to say. “And Bally’s current Vice President of Marketing Dan Savage has taught me so much. He’s very data-driven, and I’ve learned a lot from him about the importance of measuring the value that you provide and using data to drive decisions. Dan has significantly raised the bar on our marketing initiatives.”
Asked for industry career advice for women, Olson-Reyes said: “I would tell young women to not think that they are going to move up the ladder in the gaming industry just by working hard. Women need to be better at networking, supporting each other and creating our own opportunities. We need to take advantage of social situations to build stronger relationships, create connections and find advocates. At that same time, we have to be smart about what we do and say while socializing; it’s a delicate balance.”
Olson-Reyes hopes to continue growing in a marketing and communications capacity. “I still have a lot to learn,” she said. MG
Vice President, System Sales and Marketing-North America
Time and again in letters of recommendation supporting Kelly Shaw for a Great Women of Gaming Proven Leader Award, supporters cited many attributes, but one shines brightest—the Aristocrat executive’s willingness to lead, mentor, partner and give to others.
It’s just one of many attributes offered by co-workers, peers and casino clients, but it’s one of paramount importance to Shaw.
“I have always been a big believer in people, and I have always been a big believer in taking what has happened in your life and using those experiences throughout your life,” said Shaw, who is vice president of system sales and marketing-North America for Aristocrat Technologies Inc. “I had a really difficult time in college. I paid my own way and worked three different jobs to get my college degree.”
While tutoring fellow students in French, cleaning houses and working in a French pastry shop, she earned a business degree from Eastern University, a Christian liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.
Shaw credits that experience for helping get her where she is today.
“I always vowed that the day that I would ever make any real money I would figure out a way to give back, and it was when I was appointed as vice president that I woke up one night in the middle of the night and had this epiphany, ‘Hey I need to give back to my school and I need to help women and make it easier on them,’” said Shaw, who has been with Aristocrat for 15 years.
She worked with Eastern University to offer a scholarship fund in the business department to help women pursuing a degree in a business-related field.
“Maybe it’s the way I view life, but I really feel that when something happens that’s really good in your life, it’s all about living your life to give something back,” she said.
Derek Ritchie, Eastern University vice president of development, said, “What I have come to discover in my relationship with Kelly is that it is never about Kelly Shaw. It is always about helping others achieve their fullest potential.”
It’s a sentiment held by many in the gaming industry who know Shaw.
“She not only sells systems, but partners with casinos like ours in order to increase and enhance our customer service delivery creating greater success,” said Susan Harris, marketing director and senior management team member at Island Resort and Casino in Michigan. “Kelly listens, and I mean listens, to us and does not shirk from criticisms or concerns. She then truly partners with us to find solutions.”
Karen Koetz, senior director of system sales at Aristocrat, described Shaw as a strong leader and a good example to her team.
“As a part of her executive team I find myself fortunate to work with someone with such a strong work ethic, a cheerleader to our internal business unit and aggressor for improvement in our business,” she wrote. “She takes the time to work with her team members to make sure we have the tools to maintain our success in our business and industry.The industry is going through a big shift today, [and] as Aristocrat keeps up with this shift, Kelly is instrumental in leading the charge in a new business product line—the digital space.”
Aristocrat COO Seamus McGill, who nominated Shaw, called her “a passionate and proven executive” who has led her team to two successive record-breaking revenue years for the Oasis 360 systems business unit. “Throughout her career and various management positions within our organization, she has always been seen as a strong and respected leader throughout our business.”
For her part, Shaw said she is overwhelmed and humbled by the recognition. She noted she is proud of the relationships she has cultivated by continuously achieving bigger opportunities and assignments over the years, and “of having a track record behind me that is one of operating with integrity and character.”
Shaw said she mentors many women and is often asked for advice about career advancement in a male-dominated industry. “It’s about confidence and being your own advocate,” she said. “Putting your hand in the air and saying, ‘Yeah, you need to pick me to do that’ and marching into that zone of being uncomfortable, taking on new assignments and showing your value, and to not be afraid to do that or to wait for someone to ask you because no one’s going to ask you.”
On a personal level, Shaw said she is a proud of her marriage to Dave Shaw, and close relationships with her stepchildren, 20-year-old Zack and 15-year-old Molly. “I feel so proud about being involved in their lives,” she said of Zack and Molly. Shaw also gave credit to her spouse for her career achievement. “I would never have been this successful if I didn’t have Dave Shaw by my side,” she said. MG
Chief Marketing Officer
Rush Street Gaming
What was to be a summer job straight out of college turned into a rewarding, lifelong career for Suzanne Trout.
After graduating from Wells College in upstate New York, Trout took a summer job at The Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City.
“I thought the gaming industry would be a temporary stop for me between college and a marketing internship I had set up in New York. But once I was there, I loved it,” said Trout, now chief marketing officer of Rush Street Gaming, which develops and operates casinos, including Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill., Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and Sugar House Casino in Philadelphia.
“Gaming is diverse and action-packed, and to a person just out of college, I thought it was the most exciting environment I could have ever stumbled into,” said Trout, who now lives in Chicago with her two daughters.
A front desk manager job turned into a bus coordinator position, in which one of her duties was to ride the competitors’ buses. More job opportunities followed as she learned valuable gaming industry insights from the likes of Tropicana General Manager Pam Poplarski and Paul Rubeli, chairman of Aztar Corp., owners of the Tropicana.
“Paul and Pam were very gracious to me as a young woman out of college and gave me many opportunities,” she said. “They taught me a lot about how to treat people—they were generous with their time and had faith in me.”
Over a nearly 30-year career, Trout said she learned from many others, including executives such as former Harrah’s Chairman Phil Satre, Grand Casinos’ Tom Brosig, David Patent, chief operating officer of Rush Street Gaming, and countless peers and coworkers.
Trout has worked in Atlantic City, California, Las Vegas and several Midwest states. Her casino marketing expertise spans both locals and destination markets, as well as traditional, riverboat and tribal properties.
Today, the allure of the casino industry remains strong for Trout. “I still love the diversity of the industry and am passionate about marketing,” she said. “You know you have a direct impact on the business.”
Trout said she is honored to receive the Great Women of Gaming “Proven Leader” award, particularly because she was nominated by former co-workers. “When you don’t work with someone every day, you’re kind of out of sight, out of mind. To have them think of me for this award, I was very surprised and very grateful,” she said.
Trout added, “I’m proud of the number of people over the course of my career in gaming that I still talk to on a regular basis. Relationships are our most valuable assets, and I’ve worked hard to maintain those over the years.”
Today, Trout is enjoying her position with Rush Street Gaming, which she called “not only a solid operator, but also an innovative, entrepreneurial company.”
“I couldn’t be in a better place right now. Rush Street Gaming is a young, aggressive, gaming developer and operator, and I’m grateful to join this company as it continues to grow.”
“Suzanne has been an invaluable asset since joining Rush Street Gaming in 2011,” said Greg Carlin, chief executive officer of Rush Street Gaming. “Among many other things, she has improved our marketing strategy and execution, negotiated key partnerships that have expanded our presence beyond our land-based casinos, and helped bring top talent to our organization.”
Ginny Shanks, chief marketing officer for Pinnacle Entertainment, noted she has known Trout since she joined Harrah’s (now Caesars) Entertainment 14 years ago as vice president of marketing at Harrah’s Las Vegas. “Probably what I admire most about Suzanne is her common sense approach to the business and her ‘tell it like it is’ communication style,” Shanks said. “These traits have allowed Suzanne to be successful during each chapter of her career. From her early days in Atlantic City to where she is now at Rush Street Gaming, she has been a cool-headed problem solver and a candid communicator.”
Shanks noted Trout “has never lost sight of the most important aspects of her life—her two daughters. She is an inspiration for all working moms, giving hope to many young women that you can, indeed, have it all.”
A single mother, Trout said her daughters, 16-year-old Emma and 15-year-old Sloan, are her first priority. “They’re bright, funny and beautiful, and I’m very proud of them. I truly treasure the relationship that I have with them.” MG
Director of Internal Communications
MGM Resorts International
Humility is not easily acquired, and while learning it poses a life-long challenge for many, to a select few this trait comes naturally. Krista Clar has managed to quickly climb the ladder of success without letting it all go to her head. Rather, she credits her team, the mentorship of others and the support of her supervisors at MGM Resorts International for her achievements.
Clar has a very strong connection to MGM that began when she was a student at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. After a great experience during an internship with the company’s community affairs department in her senior year, she decided she wanted to work there. It was fate, or just very good luck, that got Clar her start with the company. Her graduation ceremony was on a Saturday and the very next day she saw an ad for a human resources communications specialist at the Golden Nugget. The fact that Golden Nugget was an MGM property (at the time) encouraged Clar to apply, although she did not think she would get the position. “I applied, brand new to the industry without much work experience and I was fortunate because somebody took a chance on me and actually offered me the job,” she explained.
After two years with Golden Nugget, Clar saw a job posting for a benefits communications coordinator with MGM Resorts International. She had always known she wanted to get back to the company and sent in an application immediately. The rest is history. Since being hired, Clar has held numerous positions with the company, eventually earning her current position as director of internal communications in 2010. She has been instrumental in the development of an industry-leading website and communication campaign called The People Place, as well as guided MGM Resorts’ momentum, a daily electronic newsletter with a circulation of 18,000. Together, these communication platforms have earned her team multiple awards over the years, including: AGA’s Voice Awards for best employee publication and best communications campaign, HR Executive Magazine—Best HR Ideas for 2009 and APEX Grand Award in Electronic and Video Productions in 2009.
In her estimation, she’s been lucky to have a number of people put their faith in her and give her the opportunities she has had. But others are quick to point out her hard work and dedication. “Krista commands attention and respect across our company, in a dynamic business environment,” said Clark Dumont, vice president of corporate communications for MGM Resorts International. “Her knowledge, smarts and savvy, combined with her passion for excellence and her team-based focus have established her as an innovative and trusted leader.”
Clar is so passionate about her work that it has been difficult for her to find a balance between work and her life. “I started my career in 2003, fresh out of college, a young woman with my whole future ahead of me,” she shared. “I spent probably 12 hours a day at my job and I loved every minute of it.”
As her life began to change considerably, she had to learn to adapt. “I met my husband in 2008 so meeting him changed things a little bit for me,” she said. “Someone else wanted my time. And I had a baby last year. Finding the right balance between work life and family life has been a challenge for me. I’m getting there, it’s still new—my little girl is going to be eight months old next week. As a new mother, it is hard at times not being with her during the day but I know by challenging myself, I’ll be an even greater role model for her.”
Clar is excited about being able to share her success with her daughter when she grows older. “Earning a reward like this is something I will tell her about when she’s older,” she said. “It’s really important to me to show her that she can do anything she wants to.”
Eager to give credit where credit is due, Clar shared that mentors throughout her life have inspired her and helped her get to where she is today—one mentor in particular stands out. “I have had a lot of mentors at different times in my life, but I think the one that’s always been there has been my older sister,” she said. “Growing up, she was an executive in the hospitality industry and I always just looked up to her and everything about her—her success and how independent she is and has been throughout her entire career. She’s always the person that I go to for questions and support and guidance.”
Clar is also lucky to have support from MGM. The company has accommodated her needs when there have been significant changes in her life. “At one time my husband was deployed to Afghanistan and at another my mother battled breast cancer,” she shared. “My leaders at MGM have always been so supportive in helping me get through these changes so I’ve been very fortunate.”
When Clar is not in the office or at home, she pours her energy into other activities. Craig McCool, executive editor of momentum, summed up her numerous activities: “She organizes a team of walkers each year in Las Vegas’ annual Susan G. Komen fundraiser event for breast cancer research,” he said. “She has been very a very active participant in a local Toastmasters public speaking group, and even served as her club’s vice president for a time. Married to a military serviceman, Clar supports various soldier family support programs. During her husband’s deployment, she edited a monthly newsletter, The Family Informer, for families of his division, helping loved ones stay connected to their service members overseas. In short, Clar fully embraces Las Vegas and reflects the best aspects of its gaming industry.”
When asked to share what advice she would give her daughter, or any young woman in the gaming industry, Clar left us with these words: “There are a lot of different opportunities and careers within the gaming industry, so I think you just need to be open to them and don’t be afraid to take risks. The gaming industry is one of the most innovative industries out there right now, and so new ideas and risk takers are exactly what are needed.” AA
Marketing Manager for the Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce
With every click of her high heels and swipe of bright red lipstick, Jennifer Cross sets out to conquer each day. Making her way from shopping malls to casino properties, Cross has made an impression on coworkers, supervisors and customers.
Cross holds the position of marketing manager for the Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce at Newcastle Casino in Newcastle, Okla. She’s held that position for the last three years, but has been in marketing since she graduated from Fort Hays State University in Kansas. Cross began her marketing career in 1999 for the largest retail real estate company in North America, Simon Property Group. For the next five years she worked as the director of mall marketing for the company’s 17th-largest property—Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa, Okla.
According to Cross, she loved her time in marketing and retail. That is, until she started to hate Christmas. “When you’re in retail—especially when you work for the mall that owns all of the stores, and you oversee all of its retailers—you just reach a point where the long hours and grumpy shoppers get to be too much,” Cross said. “So I decided it was time to consider making a move.”
It was at that time—what Cross calls perfect timing—that she received a phone call from Creek Nation Bingo. She shared: “They said to me, ‘We’re building a 300,000-square-foot casino. We’re about to legalize Class III gaming in the state of Oklahoma, and we think you’d be an ideal candidate for the director of marketing. We knew that when you moved into the market that the advertising for the mall changed. We liked what we saw and we think you’d be a great fit for us.’”
Needless to say, Cross took the position, then had to face the reality of telling her family and friends about the decision she’d made. “Here I was, working for a Fortune 500 company, and I was about to go work on the river in a bingo shack,” she said. “My parents thought I was crazy, but I had to tell them how gaming was evolving in Oklahoma. This was a $196 million project that I was really excited about. It seemed like a challenge, and I was up for it.”
In 2010, Cross joined the Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce where she currently oversees the marketing efforts for the Nation’s third-largest asset, Newcastle Casino. Saying that she made an impact on those at the casino would be a drastic understatement, and praise for her efforts is continuous. “We have more than 600 employees here at Newcastle Casino and there may be no other employee here that deserves recognition more than Jenny,” said Ryan Sykes, Newcastle Casino’s general manager. “Since joining the Newcastle team more than two years ago, Jenny has led the marketing department through a multitude of changes. We have expanded our player’s club department, expanded our player analysis team, moved our communications department and employees under marketing, expanded our entertainment functions, increased headcount in promotions and successfully implemented some major changes in our direct mail efforts.”
Cross credits her accomplishments to both her hard work and to the fact that she works for a great company. “I’m working for the great Chickasaw Nation, which is just a phenomenal company to work for,” she said. “There’s never a dull moment, and they believe in hiring the best and brightest. People think I’m crazy for loving my job, but I truly do.”
Cross says that one of her greatest accomplishments has been her ability to grow both properties and employees. “The easy part, believe it or not, is growing the revenue year over year,” she said. “The challenging part is really growing your team. I say that as a leader, you’re only as good as your newest team member, and I believe that. It’s not about your weakest; it’s about your newest.”
Her colleagues and supervisors have noticed her dedication to her team, pointing out characteristics like the fact that she never asks anyone to do anything that she is not willing to do herself. “Jenny’s passion for the gaming industry is not superseded by her passion for people,” said J. Michelle Curtis, the marketing player analysis manager at Newcastle Casino. “She is a wealth of knowledge and is willing to share her knowledge and experience with others. Jenny is one of the busiest women I know, yet she makes time to mentor and help others learn the business. She looks for talented people to join her team and shows them she believes in their abilities.”
Overall, Cross’ team is beyond satisfied with her work at Newcastle Casino. She, too, is extremely happy with her accomplishments and her experiences at Newcastle, and she says she is grateful for the opportunity to once again enjoy Christmas. JM
Christy Joiner Goodman
President and CEO
“I remember when I was 14, it suddenly occurred to me that I couldn’t get everything done that I wanted to do,” Christy Joiner Goodman (née Joiner-Congleton) said. “I wanted to do math; I wanted to do economics; I wanted to read all the great novels; and on and on. There was so much to do and so much to learn! But, there is so little time. I’ve been running ever since.”
It was with this passion for learning and discovery that Joiner Goodman started Stics in 2004. “Two things really attracted me to gaming: its economics, and its vast storehouses of unharvested, raw, needing-to-be-understood data,” she said. “Both are fascinating to an econometrician (recovering nerd) like me on a personal level and valuable to boot, although most people find both repugnant.”
Considering her background in data and analytics, it is only natural for Joiner Goodman to appreciate her success in mathematical terms. “As I look back on life, I never think about its problems; everyone has them. I think about hard work. Hard work is what I would call a necessary condition for success,” she said. “In other words, you can’t have success if the necessary condition (hard work) isn’t there. But, hard work is, perhaps surprisingly, not enough by itself. To have success, you must also have luck. Luck, when added to hard work, is a sufficient condition for success. So I never forget my good fortune!”
It is with the perfect combination of hard work and luck that Joiner Goodman finds success in the gaming industry. The president and CEO of Stics Inc., Joiner Goodman has used her extensive knowledge of predictive analytics to bring the company to its great success.
Prior to founding Stics in 2004, Joiner Goodman founded Stone Analytics in 1998 and served as its president and CEO, until founding Stics. She was also instrumental in creating industry-leading analytic software products for FICO and Risk-Wise. With more than 25 years of data analysis and forecasting experience, she has designed and released multiple software and analysis products.
Joiner Goodman refers to herself as “perennially curious,” because she is always eager to learn and expand her education. A former Regents Fellow at the University of California, San Diego, she completed the coursework for a Ph.D. She also has a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with specializations in economics and applied econometrics. She feels it is important to give back her education and teaches part-time at a local community college.
Eve Horne, a casino marketing research analyst at Stics, has noticed Joiner Goodman’s passion for sharing learning with the gaming industry, especially in what the company can do to improve casino operations. “As a company, we have really pushed to have more of a presence in gaming education,” Horne said. “Christy wants everyone to know about predictive analytics and the benefits it can bring to the gaming industry.”
Jeff Hook, senior vice president of marketing at Seminole Gaming, has been a customer and a friend since Joiner Goodman founded Stics in 2004. “I have seen how hard she has worked to build this company into what it is today,” he said. “Perhaps Stics is such an effective close-knit team because Stics started modestly with a vision, determination and a few analytical gurus in her garage. Or, perhaps Stics is exceptionally effective because she believes that customers deserve the truth, great value and to be listened to with respect.”
No matter which of the reasons helps Stics define its success, it’s clear that Joiner Goodman has a vision for the company, is passionate about what she does and has a contagious enthusiasm. “The team at Stics is very excited about all of the good work we can do, and all of the problems we’re going to help solve,” she said. “We’re a group of analytical nerds, econometricians and mathematicians at the time when those nerds can actually make a difference!”
Those challenges, familiar to many in the industry, are what drive Joiner Goodman to continue to create products and solutions that will help the industry. “The industry itself has two main challenges in front of it,” she said. “It’s facing increased competition from more and more casinos, and decreased discretionary spending due to the country’s general economic recession. Each property and each casino faces the challenge of getting and keeping discretionary spending from its clientele.”
“When the market is beset by increased competition and an economic downturn, products like Christy’s can make the difference between survival and success,” Hook said. “While she and her company offer the opportunity to the smaller casinos to maximize profits and compete in ways they may not previously have been able to compete, they also empower larger casinos to focus on more pressing decisions than sorting data.”
It’s Joiner Goodman’s dedication to these solutions and her attitude toward it all that make her a deserving winner of a Great Women of Gaming Award. JM
Director of Product Management
If there’s one thing that motivates Cathryn Lai, it’s a challenge. One look at her busy lifestyle and it’s easy to see that the woman can handle a lot on her plate. Besides her day-to-day duties at WMS, she raises a 2-year-old daughter, is a bass player in a rock band and actively competes and wins piano competitions—there’s nothing she can’t do.
Lai is the director of product management at WMS Gaming, but she got her start in a very different industry. After getting her undergraduate and graduate degrees in piano performance and audio technology, she took a job teaching piano at DePaul University School of Music. It was there that she decided to get her master’s degree in business, which led her to seeking a job in the business world.
Lai became an product manager for Shure Incorporated, one of the biggest microphone providers in the world. “At the time it was perfect for me, because it was a cross of my business background and my audio/music background,” she said. “I worked there for four years, then sought new experiences and came to WMS.”
Lai joined the WMS team in 2008 as principal product manager for the Lottery Portfolio. She says she came to the gaming industry because it was something she always had an interest in. “I thought slot machines were really fun, and there was a certain level of creativity behind the industry that I wanted to be a part of,” Lai said. “I thought, if I’m going to go into in a completely different industry, it might as well be something fun!”
“Cathryn has established herself as a true leader at WMS,” said Fred Gabbard, senior vice president of product development operations. “She drives a consolidation of a wide range of views and opinions across the company into a concise product strategy that makes sense for our company. She has a rare talent for listening to customer and internal experts, adding her own keen sense of business and go-to market strategy while turning it into a solid product roadmap. She is clear and concise and is able to drive actions across multiple areas of the company.”
In 2012, Lai was awarded the WMS Above and Beyond Award for outstanding performance and corporate contribution. She now holds the position of director of product management, where she manages all of WMS’ hardware and software platforms, including the newly launched Blade and Gamefield xD cabinets.
It’s her willingness to accept new challenges and responsibilities that make her the stand-out employee that she is known to be. “I started off in product management overseeing lottery products, then they asked me if I wanted to expand my role,” Lai said. “I gladly accepted the responsibility because I love those challenges.”
“Cathryn does not shy away from a challenge and is continuously willing to take on larger roles with increased levels of responsibility,” said Laurie Lasseter, senior vice president engineering and chief technology officer at WMS. “She volunteered to be acting international product manager to ensure we addressed new opportunities in Australia. She recently has taken on the product manager responsibilities for our operating system in addition to her hardware platform work.”
Outside of work, Lai challenges herself with the concept of time management, as she is known for taking on numerous random hobbies and activities. Besides her part-time profession of classical piano playing, her extra-curricular activities include riding dirt bikes, playing in a rock band and baking. “My husband makes fun of me because I never say no,” Lai said. “When things are flat, I’m not motivated!”
Lai grew up in North Carolina with her two older brothers and her parents who came to the U.S. from Hong Kong. From a young age, Lai’s parents emphasized the value of hard work.
“They really stressed making your own success,” she said. “My oldest brother got his first job out of school and started helping me pay for college. My second brother graduated from the Air Force Academy and is now a military doctor. I worked all through college and relied on scholarships. My parents raised us with good values and are proud of our accomplishments considering they came here with nothing.”
“Despite all of her activities and passions outside of work, Cathryn comes to work every day excited for a new challenge or opportunity,” says Andrew DeCanniere, product management professional at WMS. “She brings her passion for her music and daughter to work and translates it into strategic thinking and execution. The gaming industry is lucky to have Cathryn, and everyone at WMS feels even luckier that we get to work with her.” JM
Director of Client Services, Native American Market
A former youth minister, a Great Woman of Gaming and a non-Native American passionate about working with tribes—Kari McCormick is all this and more. Summing up this remarkable woman’s accomplishments and persona in just a few words is quite the challenge, because she has achieved so much and grown significantly over the course of her career. In describing the director of client services for the Native American division at Kitchell Contractors, however, Founder and Principal of Klas Robinson Matthew S. Robinson successfully captures the essence of what numerous people iterated in McCormick’s nomination for this award: “Kari exemplifies what it means to be a compassionate, effective professional in the gaming industry.”
McCormick’s arrival into the gaming industry came after she had travelled down very different career paths. A member of a five-generation Arizonan family (her family goes back generations to when Arizona was still a territory), she attended Arizona State University. After graduating with a business degree, McCormick began working at the state legislature. She soon realized that politics was not going be a long-term career for her. “That world was not a part of the core of who I am,” she said. She went in a completely different direction, attending a seminary and then going on to serve as a youth pastor for almost 16 years.
When her children began entering their teens, she decided she wanted them to experience other youth leaders and chose to re-enter the business world. Immediately, she found a job as the business development coordinator for a cost estimating/project management firm. This is where she began her professional journey working with Native American tribes and gaming. “It was my first exposure to this market of gaming and casinos,” McCormick shared. “I learned that there is this whole area working with tribes that I knew nothing about, and I became impassioned about my work. I left that firm after several years and went to work for a national architectural firm in the hope of working with tribes on designing gaming facilities. But it wasn’t until I found Kitchell Contractors, where they have a separate Native American division, with the same passion for working with tribes, helping them strengthen their economies and sovereignty, building casinos, hotels, healthcare infrastructure and other project types, that I knew, it just was an absolute right fit for me.”
McCormick is often asked if she has Native American heritage due to her total commitment to helping find solutions for tribes. That commitment to give back is reflected in her work with the many boards and organizations she is involved with throughout Indian Country. She is currently serving her second term on the National Indian Gaming Association board as an Associate Member representative and chaired the Arizona Association for Economic Development Tribal Committee for five years. In May 2012, McCormick was honored with the Economic Development Distinguished by Excellence (EDDE) Award for Economic Developer of the Year.
Her involvement with tribes goes back to when she was a child, spending many hours at the Salt River Pima Community School where her mother, who had been deeply passionate about tribal issues, was a teacher. Unfortunately, McCormick’s mother died when she was just 12 years old and never got to witness her daughter’s work, but McCormick knows her mother would have been proud of her. “I know that her spirit is with me and with everything that I do in my job, it is as if my career completes the circle of my mother’s life,” she said.
Though McCormick is pleased with where she is today, in both her career and personal life, she acknowledges that there have been challenges along the way. When she first entered the gaming industry there was a lot to learn, and quickly. And navigating the male-dominated construction industry has not always been easy. “It can be hard to gain credibility for knowing what you do know and knowing who you know,” she said. “A lot of people discount you for being female.” Sometimes, challenges were even brought on by other women. “I’ve seen a lot of unkindness within the industry from women who were discouraging of any success.”
But the positive thinker that she is, McCormick understands those attitudes have helped her grow. “Now I look back at those individuals and think they’ve probably forced me to become more educated, more knowledgeable and be intentional about mentoring young women in the industry,” she said.
Cherilyn McCabe, integrated services estimator at Kitchell, shared that McCormick takes a different approach when dealing with her own co-workers. After joining Kitchell in September 2012, “Kari was the first person to send greetings to me and make me feel welcome,” she said. “I have looked up to Kari because I, as a young lady entering into the business of the construction industry, recognize it is very tough for a woman. Kari, who has a strong and compassionate character, has overcome those obstacles and carries an important role here at Kitchell Contractors. And despite how busy she is, she always makes time to make you feel important.”
How McCormick balances her personal and professional life, and continues to be so full of vibrant energy, is a mystery. She has been faced with testing personal challenges over the years and has dealt with each as they’ve come, never losing hope or her smile. “I’ve survived cancer, nearly lost a child to a horrific car accident, and known the struggles of being a single mother,” she shared. “There are times when you think your life is full and you can’t handle any more and then you’re amazed at human resilience and your ability to keep going.”
The same approach can be taken to any changes that come. “If you find love and passion for it, it will fit in your life,” McCormick said. “You find out that there’s always more room to care or to give more of yourself.” Most recently, she has had the opportunity to include a foster child into her life, growing her family.
It is no wonder that this incredible woman was nominated for, and won, a Great Women of Gaming award. The win came as a complete surprise to McCormick, and the most overwhelming aspect of it, according to her, is that the nominations came from peers in the industry. “I think that’s what makes the awards so special, being recognized by your peers,” she said.