Prominent women in gaming to discuss industry

Patricia Becker holds the distinction of being the first woman to serve on the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

She’s actually the only woman to ever hold a seat on the regulatory panel.

Twenty years have passed since then-Gov. Richard Bryan elevated Becker from chief deputy attorney general in charge of the gaming division to one of three Control Board members who oversee the full-time state agency tasked with regulating Nevada’s casino industry.

So why hasn’t another woman ever been selected for the board?

“That’s probably a question best asked to the governors,” Becker said. “I don’t think there is a good reason for it.”

Becker has never been one to shy away.

As deputy attorney general, she advised the Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission on legal matters at a time when the regulators were removing the influence of organized crime from the Strip.

On behalf of the commission, Becker made the case in front of the Nevada Supreme Court that mobster Tony Spilotro belonged in the state’s Black Book of individuals not allowed to enter a casino. Her adversary representing Spilotro was then-mob attorney Oscar Goodman.

As a member of the Control Board, Becker said she was part of a “clean-up era.” The Las Vegas gaming industry was transforming from individual hotel operators (with questionable business ties) to corporate ownership.

“Things were switching,” Becker said. “Now, we’re seeing the globalization of gaming.”

Becker, along with former Las Vegas Mayor and current Caesars Entertainment Corp. executive Jan Jones and Wynn Resorts Ltd. director Elaine Wynn, will take part in the “Women in Gaming” panel discussion at 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, better known as the Mob Museum.

The event will be moderated by former Caesars executive Marybel Batjer, who is now the secretary of California Government Operations. The panel will offer its opinions on the gaming industry.

Becker has several points of view.

After serving on the Control Board, Becker held executive positions with Harrah’s Entertainment for nine years and with Aladdin Gaming for six years. She spent two years as the chief of staff to Gov. Bob Miller and five years as executive director of UNLV’s International Gaming Institute.

Becker held board positions with Cash Systems Inc., Fitzgeralds Gaming Corp. and Powerhouse Technologies. Today, she operates a gaming consulting business and serves as chairwoman of Bally Technologies’ compliance committee.

“I’ve had a lot of ‘first woman’ jobs over the years,” she said.

Becker said she is proud to have helped develop the gaming institute into a self-sufficient business unit through outside funding efforts.

Becker keeps a keen eye on the gaming industry, especially the advancement of women.

Currently, only two women are CEOs of top-tier gaming companies: Patti Hart at International Game Technology and Virginia McDowell of Isle of Capri Casinos.

“You can name the women CEOs, but you can’t name all the men at that position,” Becker said. “It’s a little bit of an aberration.”

Women have made inroads into corporate executive-level positions and as presidents of Strip resorts, but Becker said opportunities are opening up as women advance through the casino industry’s growth and expansion.

The panel discussion is part of the Mob Museum’s Courtroom Conversations Series. For ticket information, contact the Mob Museum at 702-229-2734 or visit www.themobmuseum.org.

Seating is limited, but other locations have been designated for people to watch the event via closed-circuit television, including the Mob Bar on Third Street, courtesy of Global Gaming Women, and at UNLV’s Student Union, through the UNLV Women’s Research Institute.

The event will be filmed for broadcast on VegasPBS in May.

“I was honored they invited me,” Becker said. “I think Jan, Elaine and I can make for a lively discussion.”

Jones has been with Caesars (formerly Harrah’s Entertainment) since 1999. She is executive vice president of communications and government relations. Jones was the first female mayor of Las Vegas and the first woman to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Gaming Communications by the American Gaming Association.

In addition to Wynn’s duties as a director of the casino company, she is president of the Nevada State Board of Education, a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and is a founding and current chairwoman of Communities in Schools of Nevada.

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