The Iowa women who’re leaders in the state’s casinos recently got together for their first ever summit. Nancy Ballenger, the Vice President and General Manager at Isle of Capri Casino in Bettendorf, says the idea for the summit came from an event held by the American Gaming Association.
The Iowa Gaming Association agreed to host one on the state level, and Ballenger says they talked a lot about mentoring women who are new in the industry and how to balance the demands of the job with other parts of their lives. She says the industry has a wide variety of options for women. “We’ve got people who cover the finance area, cover the marketing area, human resources — which are in many of our other businesses in Iowa. And certainly then there’s the gaming specific things, the table games, slots, those types of stuff,” Ballenger says.
Ballenger started in an entry level position in 1991 and worked her way up, and she says that’s how many women get into the industry. “It seems like you either really love the industry or it doesn’t really work for you,” Ballenger says. “So, it kind of gets in your blood and folks seem to kind of very quickly get on board, or it’s not going to work out for them.”
Ballenger says the casinos in Iowa are a success story in providing careers for women. “We’ve got 18 commercial casinos and five women g-m’s. Of our entire workforce in the casinos in Iowa, 52-percent are women, so we think we’ve got a pretty good story to tell,” according to Ballenger. She says many of the key positions in the casinos are held by women. “When you look at all the managers an supervisors in the gaming industry in Iowa — 44-percent of them are women,” Ballenger says. “And then when you look at directors and executives, 44-percent of them are women, so I think it’s a pretty good story to tell.”
Ballenger encourages women to think about the industry as a career option. “My advice to them is, this is a business that has tremendous rewards. Along the way there’s definitely going to be some challenges — we work holidays, we work weekends we work evenings — but it’s just exciting and like I said, the rewards are pretty high,” Ballenger says. “If that is something you’d like to take a shot at, we would love to have you come and talk to us.”
Women are also general managers at the Isle Casino Hotel in Waterloo, the Wild Rose in Emmetsburg, the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque and the Grand Falls Casino Resort in Larchwood. Ballenger says they took some surveys after the summit and will review them and determine is it’s something they want to hold again.