Great Women of Gaming conference provides professionals with support, networking opportunities


Leaders honored at award ceremony

LAS VEGAS - Women in the gaming industry interested in reaching beyond their ''comfort zones'' gained support and helpful strategies at the second annual Great Women of Gaming conference.

The conference was held April 6 - 7 at the Green Valley Ranch Resort Spa and Casino in Las Vegas.

Created and hosted by Casino Enterprise Management, the CasinoFest series of operations-based training and education conferences, the conference provided opportunities for women in the gaming industry to network, learn new strategies and have fun, said Dona Cassese, president of The Marketing Group and Great Women of Gaming event manager.

''The event grew out of a series of articles that were run in the magazine three years ago,'' Cassese said. ''The magazine selected 30 females in the business to honor for their individual professional achievements and contributions to our industry. The magazine received a tremendous response from the articles. We had numerous suggestions for additional women we should consider honoring in future issues.

''A short time after, the idea for the event [Great Women of Gaming Conference] was born.''

This year's conference provided those attending with information on wealth management, mentoring, a tribal round table, retirement planning, children's college fund establishment, and a speed networking session in which attendees handed out their business cards to make connections with others in the gaming industry, Cassese said.

''What we found out last year is it's not a typical seminar. In some of these sessions, it's an open forum - very dynamic and interactive,'' she said. ''This is a special event that was created by female executives, for female executives. The conference was developed based on feedback that CEM received from women in the field, and the event was tailored to address those topics that were important to those executives polled.''

The keynote speaker was Marilyn Sherman, UpFront Presentations owner, whose lecture was titled ''Whose Comfort Zone Are You In?'' Cassese said the discussion focused on inspiring women to reach their goals and expand their success.

In addition to providing information on meeting career and financial goals, the conference offered a variety of seminars, some focusing on the importance of diversity as well as a look at the industry from the perspective of American Indian women in gaming.

One of the seminars was the Native American Roundtable that was moderated by Lynn ''Nay'' Valbuena, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Nations chair and National Indian Gaming Association executive secretary. Along with Valbuena, Elke W. Chenevey, Omaha and Merrill Lynch vice president, and Tracy Stanhoff, Potawatomi and Ad Pro president and creative director, participated in the round table to ''provide perspective for all women, and at the same time, provide an understanding of Native communities and cultures which are thriving today,'' according to CEM.

The conference included other seminars and guest speakers:

*Virginia McDowell, Isle of Capri Casino president and CEO, on ''Agent for Change.''

*Jeannie Caruso, Gaming & Leisure Magazine publisher; Claudia Winkler, GHI Solutions president; Stacy Perry, MAO Gaming founder and president; Colleen Bacchus, Deloitte & Touche partner; and Carole Carter, E-Gads! president, on ''Opportune Decisions: Success Stories.''

*Punam Mathur, MGM Mirage senior vice president of corporate diversity and community affairs; Valerie Murzl, Station Casinos corporate vice president of human resources and training; Susan Hailey, Harrah's Entertainment vice president of talent management; Jennifer Martinez Konami Gaming vice president of human resources; and Kelley Shaw, Aristocrat Technologies vice president of system sales, discussed ''Winning with Diversity!''

*Cheryl A. Constantino, The Wealth Management Group wealth planner, and Beth V. Walker, with College Funding Coaches, discussed ''How to Create Your Own Paycheck in Retirement.''

*Marilyn Winn, Bally's (Rio and Paris) president, talked to the guests about how to ''Get the Most out of Mentoring.''

*Dann Soloman, Get Fit Do it Right wellness expert, held a unique class called ''Drum Fire'' that involved using a stability ball and drum sticks to drum to different types of music.

''It's a stress release, team-building event to fun, upbeat music,'' Cassese said.

At the awards ceremony, five proven leaders as well as five rising stars who have made a positive impact on the gaming industry were honored. They were: Proven Leaders, Jean Vennemen of International Gaming Technologies; Carole Carter of EGADS; Bernadine Burnette of Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation; Virginia McDowell of Isle of Capri Casinos Inc.; and Janet Beronio of Harrah's Rincon Casino. The Rising Stars were Laurie Lasseter of WMS Gaming, Christie L. Modlin of the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Debra Nelson of MGM Mirage, Erica Frohm of 01 Insights Inc., and Brenda Boudreaux of IGT.

''All of the winners received a beautiful crystal trophy that was chosen to symbolize their professional achievements and leadership,'' Cassese said. ''Additionally, all winners will be featured in the cover story of the May issue of CEM magazine and become a member of a very coveted group of female executives.''

In addition to these awards, the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, also a sponsor of the conference, presented an honorary award in memory of the late Diane Breeding, co-founder of Shuffle Master Inc.

''Diversity is an important facet in any industry, and AGEM is proud to recognize its place in gaming,'' said AGEM president Brooke Dunn in a prepared statement. ''Through our support of the Great Women of Gaming event, we signify our commitment to the continued advancement of a diverse and thriving gaming industry.''

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Casino Service Publishing LLC is the parent company and proprietor of Casino Enterprise Management magazine.