Living legend and national treasure Dolly Parton wrote the song “9 to 5” for the 1980 comedy by the same name. The ahead-of-its-time movie addressed the issues of fair pay and equality in the workplace. Over forty years later, perhaps it’s time for a reboot.
Women who work in casinos know little of the “9 to 5” since casinos operate 24/7. The gambling industry remains male-dominated. When comparing casino managers, nearly 60% are men, whereas 38% are women. Casinos across the country, including Live! Casino Philadelphia, are making an effort to improve gender equality in executive ranks. Live! Philadelphia opened its $700 million hotel-casino in the Stadium District in Feb. 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic and increased restrictions from the city of Philadelphia.
Three female executives at Live! spoke with Play Pennsylvania about their career paths in the casino industry, the recent historic challenges, and what it’s like to work in a 24/7 world. Of course, Ms. Parton can mine the lyrics for her next hit “24/7.”
Meet the ladies of Live! Casino Philadelphia
The women participating in the interview from Live! Casino Philadelphia are:
- Krystal Jones, SVP & CFO
- Kelley Maddox, Vice President of Sales
- Tracey Witchko, SVP of Operations (no headshot available)
How women leaders got their start at casinos
What attracted you to the casino industry?
Krystal Jones: I fell into the casino industry by chance. I was looking for a position in accounting or finance to match my love of numbers. I was specifically looking for positions in Vegas to be closer to family. Once I got into gaming, my first role was an Accounts Payable Analyst at Caesars. What kept me there was the unique opportunity of being exposed to so many types of businesses, all under one roof. It is really something you can only experience by working for a casino resort destination. This helped to shape my career trajectory.
Tracey Witchko: I got into the industry in an unconventional way. My father was a headhunter and had several offices in Philadelphia. When I was graduating from college it was important to me to find a job that I loved, but I didn’t know where to start. I went on every interview that my father arranged for me, to get more comfortable talking to people and be a more confident interviewer. One of the interviews happened to be with Sands and they ended up offering me a job. I thought I’d try it for a year, but ended up staying and have been in the industry ever since. I’m not sitting behind a desk all day. It’s unlike any other industry – being out on the floor, talking to guests, interacting with executives. I love the energy of the business, working with people, and the reward of being involved in so many different pieces of the operation.
Leading a casino through COVID restrictions
With mask and vaccine mandates, all of which have now been lifted, it’s been a time filled with many unprecedented challenges. How did you navigate through it?
Tracey Witchko: It has certainly been a challenge to open a property of this caliber during a global pandemic, but our team is resilient and made the best of every situation that came our way. We were able to quickly adapt to mandates put in place by the city. Since our property was still in development when COVID-19 first arose, we were able to design the property to better serve our guests and Team Members at the time. We installed state-of-the-art air purification systems, opened with plexi-glass dividers on the casino floor and ensured that we worked with experts across our industry to develop best-in-class health and safety plans.
Kelley Maddox: For Live!, adapting to the ever-changing world around us has never been an issue. Unlike most other facilities, Live! was designed and developed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed us to create safety protocols that are built into the venue instead of retrofitted months later. Our Event Center is a venue that has the flexibility to adapt to whatever current State, City and CDC guidelines are in place. Investing in equipment to allow groups to gather in small counts, Live! is utilizing technology to safely host events that we know people are craving and with the lift of recent mandate, we’re excited to finally see our guests and Team Members smiling faces.
Work-life balance in a 24/7 world
A casino is a 24/7 operation. How are you able to juggle work and the demands of childcare and the care of elder family members?
Krystal Jones: I ascended into my career quickly, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m constantly learning, asking questions, and analyzing the business. That takes a lot of time. Before I had children, I’d be the first one at the office and the last to leave at night, but now, I’m a mother of two children. My kids are my world and I’ve found it’s so important to find the balance between work and life. You need to learn how to shut it down for the day, focus on family, and start fresh tomorrow.
Challenges for women who work at casinos
What are some unique challenges women face in the gambling industry?
Tracey Witchko: I do think that executives, male or female, are often asked about work-life balance, but there is a certain stigma associated with female executives. Everyone has to balance work, life and family. The demands of work in any industry now are so great, and what is expected is so much greater than it was. It was tough in the very beginning of my career to walk into a room as the only woman. It still happens sometimes now but it’s important to remember who you are and that you’re there for a reason.
Krystal Jones: We live in a male-dominated society on an executive level, it’s not just the casino industry. I often feel like I, as a woman, need to work harder across the board to prove myself and worth. It’s unfortunate that a number of women in my network feel the same.
How casinos can recruit and develop more women leaders
What are some ways casinos can recruit more women and develop their careers?
Kelley Maddox: I am a big believer in networking. I’m here at Live! because of work I did in the past with Xfinity Live! I think we, as women, have a duty to be out there in the world more, making connections, and speaking about how great it is to work in this industry. Women can do anything that men can do. Here at Live! we have such a unique experience, being able to work for a resort destination that includes so much more than gaming, but hospitality, fine dining and premier entertainment. We need to open the curtain and start speaking to the younger generation about the exciting opportunities available.
Photos: Headshots from Live! Philadelphia, lead image by Katie Kohler