Everything has been Arizona sunshine and lucky sevens for Casino del Sol’s Kimberly Van Amburg, who has hit the jackpot as the newly-announced Chief Executive Officer of the Pascua Yaqui tribe’s gaming enterprise.
Named interim CEO in July, the tribal council showed their confidence in her abilities by removing the interim part of her title in December. “I’ve worked for the tribe and in the casino for seven years now,” Van Amburg told ICTMN, “And I like to think I know tribal objectives and what they want me to accomplish.”
Initially hired as the tribe’s Assistant Attorney General for Gaming, she quickly moved from tribal employee to casino employee with operational departments reporting to her. “Over the years, as each transition took place, I was given a bit more responsibility and when the opportunity to move up came this summer, I took it. I knew the people, knew what we do well, and what we still need to work on, and it’s been a pretty smooth transition.” As CEO, Van Amburg will be responsible for leading the entire casino team operation and for spearheading a variety of strategic initiatives.
Her rise to the top has been both smooth and impressive. No one seems to know the exact number, but amongst the hundreds of Indian-owned casinos throughout the U.S., there are only a small handful of females who have risen to lead those enterprises.
Former CEO Wendell Long, who earlier built the strong base for this gaming and entertainment entity, said: “Kim is the perfect fit for Sol Casinos, adding great strength to the team. She’s a smart woman who knows the business, and her legal training will be an asset in solving the complex challenges of running a major casino. She’ll definitely take things to the next level.”
How does she plan to do that, short- and long-term? Working with some 1,200 employees, nearly 60 percent of which are tribal hires, she says her marching orders are, “Go forth and make dollars to stabilize the operation.”
The short-term goal is to establish employee confidence in light of a number of recent personnel changes. “I need to get things back where they need to be, getting some fundamentals back on track. My focus has been on making sure we have the right team members in the positions we need in key departments. I’m getting the feeling we’re building a really strong team to get this property to where it deserves to be.”
Not that it hasn’t already been lauded as a Forbes 4-Star and a AAA 4-Diamond facility, there’s room to make things not necessarily bigger, but better, by firming the foundation for future growth. “I want to increase the monetary distribution to the tribe every year and develop tribal members to be in a position to fill top positions of responsibility, even grooming a tribal employee to eventually fill my shoes.”
Nationally, Indian gaming revenue grew by about 3 percent last year, and Van Amburg says, “Casino del Sol was in line with that trend.”
“If you look at our property overall, the amenities are many. If you take all we have to offer, it’s like being at a gorgeous property in Las Vegas -- but lo-and-behold, you’re in the southern Arizona desert.”