The necessity of building and maintaining a strong network is a familiar construct among numerous industries, and is certainly one that is not lost in the gaming community.

However, among the multitude of strategies and expert tutorials in how best to achieve such a goal, is the question of: how much do you know you network? With this in mind, CasinoBeats is aiming to take a look under the hood, if you will, and has tasked the 100 Club to help out.

First to step into the hot set in the new year is Anna McChesney, marketing manager at Continent8, who elaborates on not having anything to lose amid entry into the industry, what causes heart-break at in-person events, and asks if gambling could struggle to secure top candidates in the future?

CasinoBeats: Could you begin by talking us through any past experiences that have been gained outside of the gambling industry? Could your career have taken any different paths?

Anna McChesney: After graduating from university with a marketing degree, I worked in the education sector for a short while, before moving to the hospitality industry. There was a small element of working with the gambling industry as the hospitality company owned the local casino, but there was also the hotel, restaurant, and entertainment brands.

At this point in my early career, I knew I was passionate about marketing and communications, and that was the route I wanted to take long-term, but I hadn’t particularly focused on a specific industry. I just knew I needed to gain experience in workplaces and different environments – and maximise every opportunity I had! 

CB: What was it that eventually led you into this industry?

AM: It was just by chance. I was working for a hospitality company on the Isle of Man and I saw a job advert for a PR role at a gaming software company. At the time igaming was growing significantly on-island and it was seen as ‘the industry’ to work in; there was a real buzz with the likes of Microgaming and PokerStars growing at a rapid pace. Their employer brands were very strong, and it seemed like an exciting industry to be a part of. 

I was on jury service at the time when I saw the advert and I thought to myself “it sounds like a massive opportunity, what have I got to lose?”. I took a leap of faith, and certainly didn’t expect to be offered the job.  

It was a fantastic opening to work for a thriving, global company and with a growing team; I spent over five years at the company and gained a huge amount of experience. I look back now and think that was a game-changer for me and my career, growing in confidence, building relationships, developing new skills and practices, travelling the world to exhibitions and conferences. But I probably didn’t realise how significant it was at the time. 

I then spent a bit of time away from the industry, exploring new opportunities, including dabbling in agency life! But I really missed the fast-paced nature and creativity in the industry, and that’s why I am back here now, working for Continent 8, a specialist service provider to the igaming sector. I haven’t looked back since. 

How would you assess your progress through the industry to date? Are there any interesting anecdotes that would interest our readers, or any stand out experiences that may not have been possible without the current, or a past, role?

I think it’s fair to say I was thrown in the deep end in my first role; I was honest in the interview process that I knew very little about the industry, but I was very keen to learn and grow. I remember being told by quite a few senior members of the company at the time, that it would take 6-12 months to settle, and that was something I really struggled with. But they were right – it did take a while to learn the lingo, develop relationships and settle in. So, if you’re a newbie in the industry, stick with it, it does take time. 

I attended my first ICE London in February 2013. At the time I thought “this is crazy – look at the stands that are built only to be ripped apart 3 days later!” – my heart sank a little having been involved in the process with the marketing and events team. To be honest it still does now. But the stands are double the size today and attendance has also probably doubled too! 

One of the stand-out moments for me was ICE 2017 when the company decided we would go all out with the Microgaming Bar and rebrand it overnight to celebrate three different games. We only decided to do this late December or early January and it was a HUGE task to source the set, change artwork, etc. And there was the added complexity that we were working with branded content, so we needed to ensure all parties were happy.

On day 2 we were announcing The Phantom of the Opera online slot – and what better way to announce it than with West End opera singers taking to the bar to surprise visitors with a performance! I only managed to secure the singers (there was a very short list of approved singers we were allowed to use) two weeks before the show – and the relief I felt when I received that confirmation was enormous. I’ve never felt more nervous and excited. Thankfully it all went well and the performances throughout the day were incredible – certainly a highlight for me. 

What would you say have been the major changes during your time working in the industry? Both for the better and worse.

The industry has certainly matured over time. From a marketing point of view, you only have to look at the stands at ICE and how companies and brands represent themselves, it’s changed for the better. 

Another major change if the focus on CSR and responsible gaming; something that I’ve always been passionate about. Gaming companies with deep pockets can make a huge difference and I think it’s no longer something companies have to do to be seen to be doing the right thing, the majority of companies want to do it. 

And we’re also moving towards a more inclusive and diverse industry which is good to see – I think there’s still room for improvement, but it is moving in the right direction. 

If you could ask the 100 Club any questions, or task them with tackling any issue, what would that be?

I’ve noticed a significant shift in the next generation when it comes to recruitment and workplace culture. There’s a move towards employees wanting to see their employers be good citizens, for example societal challenges such as climate and sustainability. Is the 100 Club seeing this shift in their own companies, will the gambling industry struggle to secure top candidates in the future?

If you would like to tell your story, or be considered for the CasinoBeats 100 Club, please email us at [email protected]

Launched to give a voice to the industry on a range of key issues, the CasinoBeats 100 Club tackles the tricky questions and shares members’ views across the CasinoBeats network. Have your say by joining the 100 Club.