Woman exec at Wynn Resorts seeks to increase ranks of women in gaming

Gaming is now a mainstream business with casinos operating nationwide, compared to just Nevada and Atlantic City some 25 years ago.

And the business has seen widespread change — multimillion-dollar investments in new resorts, nightclubs and restaurants, along with new technology in slots and more versions of popular table games.

The industry even boasts a greater diversity among its workforce.

But it’s still lacking more women in executive positions within the industry. How the casino industry changes that is a question Debra Nutton tried to answer Wednesday.

Nutton, executive vice president of casino operations at Wynn Resorts Ltd., said increasing the ranks of women in executive positions is crucial, but it also “depends on if it is the right person” for the job.

Nutton’s gaming career began as the first female craps dealer at the old Silver City casino on the Strip following her graduation in 1979 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“I wanted to be a craps dealer,” Nutton told some 140 attendees during a keynote luncheon speech at the Raving’s Cutting Edge Table Games Conference at Paris Las Vegas. “Those days, craps dealers kept all their tips. I auditioned for the job and got it.”

She said casino bosses actually told her “bending over the game would ruin your ovaries.” Nutton, who earned a nursing degree from UNLV, dismissed their concerns to become a successful craps dealer.

After six months, she moved on to Bingo Palace, now Palace Station, and then to the Flamingo, before heading to the Sands where at age 25 she was promoted to boss of the dice pit.

Nutton said for two years she didn’t take her break in the Sands employee break room because of the adversarial relationship she had with some of her male co-workers.

Instead she took her breaks in the women’s bathroom.

She said her male colleagues at the Sands called her that “(expletive) broad.”

“All I wanted to do is work at The Mirage,” Nutton said “They hired 27 pit managers; I was the only female. That started my 24 years with MGM until I was hired seven months ago to join Wynn.”

She spent 12 years at MGM Grand followed by a stop at Bellagio. Nutton noted that women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, yet fill only 14.3 percent of the executive positions in Fortune 500 companies.

She said female workers will make up 51 percent of the workforce by 2018.

“I love the time I spend with women I work with,” she said. “It’s not true that there isn’t enough room for more than one woman at a time. There is definite room for improvement here. The dis­parity grows as you move up.”

Nutton urged women to begin networking and socializing with each other. She cited the American Gaming Association Global Gaming Women organization’s efforts in nurturing female leaders in the gaming industry.

“We have to trust that they can do the job,” Nutton said. “The number of women (entering the industry) continues to grow. Mentoring is crucial. There is always someone who did it before you.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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