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NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., along with former heavyweight champion boxer Evander Holyfield, U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, actor Adam Beach, Olympic medalist Billy Mills, golfer Alex Schulte, take part in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the 315,000-square-foot tradeshow.

NIGA Convention Provides Networking and Education for Indian Gaming Professionals

By Tasha Silverhorn
Au-Authm Action News

The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) held its 22nd Annual Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention at Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix, March 24-27. The convention brought in more than 5,000 tribal gaming industry professionals and tribal council members, who were educated about innovative products and programs for the gaming industry. Attendees participated in a variety of scheduled workshops and training sessions, learning from experts in the areas of gaming, finance and banking, tribal and federal government regulation, hospitality services, technology and environmental issues.

April Goggles, acting human resources (HR) manager of Wind River Hotel and Casino in Wyoming, said, “I have been attending a lot of the human resources workshops and networking with other HR managers, directors or representatives of human resources to see what they are doing and what’s working for their facilities that could help me in my job.”

“I’ve been [attending] a lot of the gaming regulatory classes, and they’ve been great,” said Elma Thompson, surveillance manager at Fort Hall Casino in Idaho. She also felt that networking and speaking with others in her line of work provided helpful advice and information on innovative ways of working.

On Tuesday, March 26, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community President Diane Enos was a panel speaker at the Global Gaming Women’s Breakfast, along with Libby Francisco, chief operating officer of Desert Diamond Casinos in southern Arizona; Valerie Diaz, sales manager–international and specialty markets for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa and Conference Center; and Valerie Spicer, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association. The women focused on mentorship during the discussion, with more than 60 people in attendance.

The goal of the Global Gaming Women (GGW) initiative of the American Gaming Association is “to network and support each other. We support the development and success of women in the international gaming industry through education, mentorship and networking opportunities,” said Katherine Spilde, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at San Diego State University. “Global Gaming Women brings together all women from all segments of the industry in an effort to enrich their professional and personal lives.”

Enos talked about her experience with mentorship, explaining how young women would look to her for guidance as a lawyer and learn from her to heighten their knowledge and experience.

“Being a mentor is an everyday experience; in my professional life and personal life I had mentors. You don’t have to specifically set up to be a formal mentor to have a mentor-mentee relationship,” said Enos. “When you do what you do, others are watching you all the time, especially women—they watch the women doing things at a high level in leadership and supervisory roles.”

On that same day, a ribbon-cutting ceremony opened the doors to the NIGA Tradeshow for the first time since the convention started on Sunday, March 24. NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., along with actor Adam Beach, U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Olympic medalist Billy Mills, golfer Alex Schulte, former heavyweight champion boxer Evander Holyfield and members of the NIGA board cut the ribbon on the 315,000-square-foot tradeshow floor filled with nearly 400 exhibits by businesses serving the gaming industry and Native-owned businesses.

One exhibitor was Salt River’s very own Casino Arizona, which provided attendees with information about its two locations.

“Our other purpose here is to make people aware of our brand, both Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort,” said Wayne Marcus, promotions and entertainment manager for Casino Arizona. “They can see that we have an phenomenal location that exposes both of our properties and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community itself to a larger audience, not just in gaming but to Indian country as well. I am here to focus on the latest in entertainment innovations, talent buying strategies and programming, and concert production technology, anything that relates to gaming. It’s a good environment to be in. It’s interesting to learn more about the different entertainment companies, ticketing and [other] entertainment sources, which relates to what I do.”

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