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 on how best to achieve such a goal, is there question of: how much do you know about your 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.

The latest person to jump into the Pathways hotseat was Sarah Blackburn, Director at GameOn, who took us back to her cabin crew days, “blagging” her way into a job and believing one giant igaming firm was “going nowhere”.

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?

Sarah Blackburn: When I left school, I didn’t want to go to university because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I started an office job, but then quickly decided that wasn’t for me and a job application to be cabin crew for the local airline came up. So I went for that. And at the time it was a very prestigious job.

I secured that job and became the youngest cabin crew member that they hired and did that for three years, which I absolutely loved.

I wanted to get into marketing and I thought it was going to be very Mad Men style. Going back to the Isle of Man, the marketing jobs were very much in insurance, life insurance and banking. I applied for so many jobs, but because I’d gone straight from school to cabin crew, I think there might have been an assumption with many that why would they take me on.

I just needed them to give me a break. Somebody did, and then I then quickly realised it was nothing like Mad Men and it was dead boring.

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

Luckily for me a PR agency that was very established on the Isle of Man was looking for a junior. I blagged my way into the job, promising them that I knew even what a press release was, which I didn’t know at the time, really.

I then got the guy who was training me and my previous job to quickly give me a four week lesson on how to write content and then joined the PR agency, which I did for five years, and I absolutely loved it. 

Then the gaming industry arrived with quite a big bang on the island. There was a marketing role going for a big company that was headquartered there and it just offered a whole new world for someone from the Isle of Man to travel, to see the world, to meet really new, exciting people, very as we know, very entrepreneurial, very innovative people.

That’s kind of how I then launched myself into gaming.

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

I moved to London and I started working for a company called Evolution Gaming. At the time, they were working out of the broom cupboard on Wigmore Street in London. There were about four or five of us and it was at such early stages. I was going out to Riga to show the live game studios to operators who couldn’t quite get their head around this live casino but thought there was something in it

I was helping with marketing, but I was also helping with licence applications and there was no guarantee that they were even going to be able to pay us each month because it was early days. 

So I quickly decided that this company was going nowhere and decided to get out of it, which now, in hindsight, I might bitterly regret because I could have worked for shares. 

I left and I put my CV out and Rob Dowling and Bruce Gamble approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in setting up a PR agency because they saw a gap in the market. So I put a business plan together and through multiple conversations GameOn was born.

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

I feel like I’ve grown up with the industry. I started young when it was young and we’ve matured together. Going back to the heavy days when I first joined, you know, it was brilliant funand the parties were wild and it was awesome.

It just seemed to be a bit more carefree and a bit more relaxed, but that’s what it was at the time. The industry has matured and it has become more serious and more professional and that’s all fantastic and as it should. 

You couldn’t pay me enough money to air some of the stories from 20 years ago.

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

What are they doing with their businesses to make sure that they are offsetting their carbon emissions for when the law comes in and in seven years time and then again in nine, 10 years time when they’ve got to be 100 per cent carbon neutral. That’s quite a big talking point for us at the minute.

So that’s what I would ask: what are you doing, and also, are you doing it or is it just something that you say you’re doing because it’s great PR?