In a post-Steve Wynn casino industry, an emphasis on empowering women By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports October 8, 2018 at 10:13 pm In an industry long dominated by men, this is as close as I’ve ever seen to the year of the woman at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. It’s unofficial, of course. There are no banners to that effect. But the clues aren’t difficult to locate. The 18th annual gaming industry gathering at the Sands Expo and Convention Center will attract an estimated 26,000 attendees representing hundreds of companies, jurisdictions and interests. The rapid expansion of legalized sports betting following the repeal earlier this year of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is on many minds this week. But the first keynote address and panel discussion featuring the Global Gaming Women group under the headings, “Building Executive Presence” and “Confidence, Competence, Compassion – The Key Attributes of Leadership.” The packed room featured a keynote by inspirational speaker Sharon Delaney McCloud. She is an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster who who now runs a 35-person video production and marketing firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. She handles media training, presentation/public speaking coaching, workplace communication and executive presence workshops for her firm’s clients. You want a tell there’s change in the air, here’s a good one. From the panel’s advance material: “Women make up 57 percent of college graduates and earn 63 percent of master’s degrees in the United States. Yet female leadership in C-Suites, politics and elsewhere comes nowhere close. Why is that? In numerous surveys, top executives point to being perceived as leadership material as essential to being promoted into leadership positions. …” While some would write off the disparity to a lack of leadership grooming, other gaming industry observers might conclude the male-dominated industry has been slow to share the steering wheel of corporate leadership. Determine for yourself whether it’s a sign of changing times, a change of heart, or a rapid marketing response to the sexual misconduct scandal that blasted high-profile casino mogul Steve Wynn from the chairman’s office of Wynn Resorts and led to a shakeup of the company that continues today. In the wake of Wynn’s departure, his ex-wife Elaine Wynn cleaned out the company’s male-dominated executive board and balanced the gender disparity. Other big changes in the corporate culture followed, and Massachusetts gaming regulators reviewing the scandalized company’s casino license, took notice. The Wynn debacle reminded skeptics that not even the historically chauvinistic casino business is immune from changing times and the #MeToo movement. Let’s hope so. Whether the Global Gaming Women group generates a track record of grooming leaders, opening doors, and shattering glass ceilings remains to be seen. (For more information about it, go to globalgamingwomen.org.) GGW enthuses that it “supports, inspires and influences the development of women in the gaming industry.” While some companies can credibly say they’ve made substantive strides in the area of gender equality, there’s little doubt the Wynn scandal and the greater #MeToo movement have been real motivators. And it’s about time. I can almost hear the bellowing now. Some of you will say I’m overreacting, making too much of a natural maturing of a relatively young industry, even seeing things that simply aren’t there. Perhaps. But I also noticed back in June that when the American Gaming Association, the industry’s Washington, D.C. trade organization, went looking for an interim replacement for its departing CEO Geoff Freeman, it found a capable one in its highly qualified general counsel and senior vice president of industry services, Stacy Papadopoulos. That wasn’t a guarantee of change in the unofficial year of the woman, but it was a damn good sign someone was starting to pay attention. Contact John L. Smith at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.