How did you find your start in the industry and how did you arrive at your current position?
I started in the gaming industry in my late 20’s. It was actually my third career, my first was in leisure and recreation where I taught swimming, fitness and aerobics classes. My second was in hospitality management working in Hotels and Restaurants in the UK, Europe and Australia.
I was working in Sydney in Early 1995 when a Sydney newspaper had a full-page ad for croupiers for Sydney’s first (legal) casino, Sydney Harbour Casino, which I applied for and was successful.
I was promoted to higher duties dealer in the training school and was supervising gaming tables for about 6 weeks before I ever dealt cards to customers.
I then had a successful Table Games career getting promoted from Supervisor to Pit Manager.
In 2003 the Casino offered an accelerated development program and two of us were chosen in the inaugural year. Myself and an amazing lady, Kylie Jolly (Cage Manager). We had the opportunity to work across several areas of the casino. I completed projects in Marketing, Finance, F&B, Hotel, HR and Compliance. At the end of the program there were job opportunities in several areas, but I chose to head back into Gaming, telling the GM of Table Games (Paul Arbuckle) that gaming was missing an important role, ‘Game Development/Productivity Manager’. To my surprise Paul gave me a 3-month trial, which turned into a permanent role.
I gained experience writing papers for major projects, analysing game volatility, developing side bets, improving productivity and encouraging innovation. I also studied financial analysis and started my MBA at UTS.
One lesson I learned was that you are only as good as the team around you and any success experienced was only due to the outstanding team. One great achievement in that time was creating a poker pit. In 2018 it doesn’t seem like an amazing achievement, but back in 2004 is was thought to be impossible. There was no way to make poker profitable. There are too many people to mention here, but without the passion and skills of the team involved, that project would never have got off the ground.
In 2006 I was promoted to Casino Business Manager and in 2007 appointed General Manager Electronic Gaming Machines, Jupiters Casino, Gold Coast. In 2010 I moved back to The Star, Sydney as General Manager of Table Games and later as General Manager of Gaming (TG and EGM).
In 2013 I began consulting to the Gaming industry, taking a project with Sun International in South Africa/South America and conducting projects with clubs in NSW and other Casino groups. I also decided to apply my skills and experience in the not for profit sector, or the For-Purpose sector.
One organisation I have a passion for is the National Centre for Childhood Grief (NCCG) which supports children and families, who have experienced the death of a parent/s, as they learn to live with its impact on their lives. Another is Ability Options, a service provider in the disability sector, supporting people with disability to achieve their aspirations and inclusion in the community. Both organisations had amazing founders who saw a need for providing better care options that what was offered with the status quo.
During 2014 I was the proposed MD taking a Hotel group through an IPO, developing strategy, meeting with investors and although ultimately unsuccessful, it was an incredible experience.
Later in 2014, I was appointed Senior Vice President of TG for Solaire Resort and Casino, Philippines, which was a fantastic role in a stunning venue. I was also asked to lead a due diligence team on a Casino acquisition in South Korea. I shut down, planned the remodelling, set up and re-opening of the Casino.
Since around 2011 I developed an interested in the role of the boards in organisations, how the decisions were made and what drives strategy. This led me to studying at the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Governance Institute of Australia. I now hold several board roles including Ainsworth Gaming Technology, Ability Options and as of 2018, SenSen Networks (SNS).
What do you consider to be the biggest achievement of your career, so far?
I have been fortunate enough to have a variety of roles in the gaming industry since I started in 1995, so it is very hard to pin point an individual greatest achievement. Setting goals and finding the path to realise them is one of my biggest achievements.
What advice would you give your younger self, starting out in the gaming Industry?
To get a mentor early in my career. I was incredibly lucky to get an amazing mentor Catherine Day back in 2007 and consider her a wonderful friend today. Her background wasn’t in the gaming industry, but she had amazing patience, insight and really encouraged me to be the best version of myself that I could be. I have continued to work with remarkable mentors throughout my career and don’t believe I would be the person I am today without them.
What do you think is the most significant barrier for women in the industry, today? How do you think this barrier can be overcome?
I don’t believe that there is only one single significant barrier. It is more complex than that. The gaming industry is no different than politics, the finance industry and several other industries. At entry level (croupier, gaming attendant, cage cashier) there is almost a 50/50 split of males and females occupying those roles. Within middle management level, the percentage of female representation declines a little, but the real difference is at CEO and the Senior Leadership Team level.
At Board level the Australian Institute of Company Directors has a 30 per cent target for the top 200 ASX listed companies. The ASX Corporate Governance Council is updating its guidelines to 30% target for the ASX top 300 companies and it looks like the 30% target may be achieved for the top 200 this year and the top 300 next year.
Arlene Tansey (NED Aristocrat) was quoted in the Financial Review recently as saying ‘a measurable 30 per cent target “doesn’t, and shouldn’t, sound outlandish”’ of board targets.
So why not consider targets for CEO and Senior Leadership Teams within organisations, including those within the gaming industry.
According to David Rock and Heidi Grant (Harvard Business Review) Having diversity in a leadership team “is key for boosting your company’s joint intellectual potential. Creating a more diverse workplace will help to keep your team members’ biases in check and make them question their assumptions. All of this can make your teams smarter and, ultimately, make your organization more successful, whatever your goals.”
What is the best decision you’ve made professionally?
To continue to learn – either through formal study or from work colleagues/managers/friends, or new experiences. There are continual opportunities to learn a new skill or improve a way of doing something.
What are your observations about the barriers or challenges women face that are specific to the gaming industry? How do you think these can be overcome?
The challenges that women face vary at different employment levels and throughout times in their life.
One challenge within gaming is that there is still a lot of shift work, and for parents this can be very difficult to manage family schedules, schooling and caring duties. We need to encourage more men to take up flexible working arrangements to ensure it becomes a normal practice of organisations. I believe this will assist the industry in being more creative around roles and opportunities for everyone.
Another challenge is retaining great female talent in the industry. I have seen many capable women leave the industry to start new businesses, projects or head into different industries, mainly because the opportunities they seek are not available.
Advocating for talented women when great roles are come up in the industry is key. Through my career I have been fortunate to have a number of business leaders (both male and female) support and promote me. If every leader and influencer, recruiter in the gaming industry (Casinos, Clubs, Pubs, Manufacturers etc) chose a woman to campaign for, alongside their existing pool , it would increase the chances of a female getting interviewed, having their profile raised and finding the role they deserve.
Who or what inspires you and why?
I am inspired by people striving for what they believe in, no matter what challenges may be in their way. But it is also the people who open the doors for others and that seek to drive positive change that truly inspire.
I am lucky to have the opportunity to meet people from a variety of backgrounds. One of those people is Emily Dash, is a 25-year-old emerging writer, actor and speaker and a couple of years ago she wrote an amazing poem for Ability Options to celebrate the 40th Anniversary. The poem is “A tribute to the Changemakers” (worth checking out on Facebook).
Helen Clarke and Julia Gillard have been inspirational in their own right and have opened the door for future female leaders. Other strong female leaders that inspire include Gail Kelly, Ann Sherry, and Cindy Hooke.