Female Industry Leaders Weigh In on the Gender Issue

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Female casino execs and players give their two cents on gender in the gaming industry

We now know that women are gambling in larger numbers than ever before. Data shows that the gap between female and male participation in the industry is constantly shrinking. In addition to more female players, currently 25 percent of casino managers in the US are women. While that number may seem small, it was essentially zero a few decades ago.

That being said, what better way to assess the trending democratization of the gambling market than by allowing some top female figures in the industry to weigh in? This piece will introduce us to some leading executives and participants in the gaming business.

Denise Coates’ Bookmaking Empire

We all know about Bet365, one of the most popular online sportsbooks in the UK. Most of us associate it with spokesman and ever-cool actor Ray Winstone telling us all of the unique in-match bets we can make. But how many of us know that the driving force behind Bet365 is a woman?

Denise Coates founded Bet365 in a parking lot 12 years ago. She is now the head of a vast bookmaking empire taking in roughly GBP 12 billion annually, and has been called the most successful self-made businesswoman in the UK.

Coates has built a fortune in one of the gaming industry’s most male-dominated sectors. The vast majority of bettors and executives are men. This fact has not slowed her down one bit. She downplayed the importance of gender in the industry:

“I never gave it a second thought. It didn’t cross my mind. I probably had a few [meetings] at first where I had to put somebody right – but I knew my business, so it wasn’t a problem … I just wanted to get on with making my business successful. I’ve never dwelled on the fact, or thought about the fact, that I was a woman.”

She has the same attitude that successful businesswomen and gamblers have alike: “If I’m good at what I do, it doesn’t matter if I’m a man or woman.” The meritocratic principle is helping to erode the old-fashioned attitudes that have kept women (relatively) out of the gaming industry until recently.

Vegas mover-and-shaker Debra Nutton

• Roughly 25 percent of casino managers in America are women

• The driving force behind UK-bookie Bet365 is female exec Denise Coates

• Debra Nutton started at a bottom as a craps dealer and is now a leading executive at Wynn Resorts in Vegas

Across the Atlantic another woman has established herself as one of the leading executives in the industry. Wynn Resorts vice president of casino operations Debra Nutton literally started he career scraping from the bottom, and has seen first-hand the transformation that the industry has undergone over the decades.

She entered as a craps dealer at the Silver City casino on the Vegas strip in 1979. Soon after she became a pit boss at the Sands casino at the young age of 25. This was long before online and mobile casino gambling, when few women gambled and few men were comfortable working alongside a woman in a position of authority. In an interview she recalled that many of her co-workers referred to her as that “(expletive) broad.”

In a recent interview she described the unique working style which has made her so successful in the industry. Rather than attempt to emulate the powerful male personalities in the casino business, she took a different approach: “I came into this being more like a mother, so more nurturing, more hands-on… I treat the people that work for me almost as if they were my son.”

While that approach may appear to some as being out of place in a casino, it has clearly been successful for her. In one of Vegas’ truly inspiring success stories she successfully battled the industry’s culture of masculinity to become a leading executive at Wynn, one of the world’s largest casino firms.

While mentioning that women are still underrepresented in the casino business, Nutter has personally witnessed how much the gender situation has improved over the more than 30 years she has worked in Vegas. She credited the American Gaming Association’s Global Gaming Women initiative as an important promoter of female executives in the business.

Christina Lindley weighs in

Christina Lindley made gambling news last year as one of the World Poker Tour’s (WPT) “Ones to Watch.” Last year she won over $100,000 at a WPT event at the Aviation Club de France. One of the emerging female poker pros, she gave her opinion on the growing acceptance of female casino gambling:

“There are still people who view poker as some shady backdoor game that is played in smoke filled rooms, with tables full of degenerate male gamblers – especially in the US. The more housewife’s and professional personal businesswomen who do play poker, the more it’s going to get attention for being a game of skill and that hard work pays off.”

While Lindley hasn’t won a major event, she believes that the growing success of women on the poker circuit and in gambling in general will drive their acceptance in casinos. Women proving themselves as more than pretty faces will not only gain the respect of males but also potentially draw more women into the market.

The future for women & gambling?

From American poker rooms to online casinos and sportsbooks, the women covered in this piece all express optimism that the future for women in the industry looks bright. As more and more women prove that they can hang with or better their male counterparts in the boardroom and at the betting tables, gambling will be seen less and less as a male-dominated entertainment activity.

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