For nearly 10 years, Cassie Stratford has evolved right along with the company she serves, Boyd Gaming. After joining the locals gaming king as associate general counsel in 2012, Stratford worked her way into her current position as senior vice president of legal operations and compliance as Boyd Gaming grew with acquisitions including the IP in Biloxi, Peninsula Gaming, the Aliante in North Las Vegas, the Cannery on Boulder Highway and more.
This year, however, Stratford took on a different kind of responsibility when she became president and board chair of Global Gaming Women (GGW). In many ways, she is a perfect fit for the nonprofit devoted to enhancing the role and presence of women in the gaming industry.
“I’ve been involved with that organization for quite a while,” Stratford says of GGW. “Attending one of their conferences is how I first got involved. The group of people that put their energy behind getting that organization started really built out these wonderful opportunities for women in our industry.
“I think we’re really seeing the benefit of that today. If you look around the industry and see some of the up-and-coming females, I think a lot of them have been helped by that organization. And, it’s in a wonderful place financially because again, the founding board members put a lot of time and energy into getting credibility around the brand and getting support from companies in the industry.”
For the coming year, Stratford will juggle the dual roles of moving GGW forward and managing the legal aspects of Boyd Gaming’s continued growth, particularly in sports betting, where the operator is partnering with FanDuel, and online gaming, where Boyd has just revived the iconic Stardust name to brand its online casino sites.
“We’re at a pivotal place as an organization where we’re starting to see real takeoff on a lot of additional programs and offerings, and expanded reach,” Stratford says of Global Gaming Women.
“We’re building out structure just as we would do in a well-run company. We just had our first board meeting that I led as president and, and in advance of that, we had a day dedicated to strategic planning. I built out what I think need to be priorities for each committee, and presented to the board what my goals are, so that the board can hold me accountable for what I’m promising to do for the organization from a structural perspective—because I think that right now, it’s in such a wonderful place financially.
“And from a perspective of some of the things we already do really well, I want to see us mature as an organization and run really efficiently, just like all the organizations in which we work, and bring our business minds to the organization to build out that structure so that this organization can be sustainable for as long as there is a need for an organization like this.”
At Boyd, Stratford is set to evolve her role yet again in 2022, focusing on operations, compliance and licensing.
“I want to make sure I am partnering with the operations team in a business capacity,” she says. “My goal is to ensure that I’ve got the trust of those teams and am really helping them execute on what our goals are from a strategy perspective in the company. Sometimes you see lawyers that are a little bit siloed—here’s a legal issue, here’s a legal answer….
“As I transition into their operations, and the compliance and licensing function, I will key on a core operation efficiency perspective, and also from a perspective of everything we have going on in the gaming and sports betting space, as I’m now more involved in our property review process and general marketing updates, and cross-team collaboration. I can help help the teams dodge legal issues on the front end, or think through their strategy in a way that doesn’t just silo out legal issues, but thinks about these things from a big-picture perspective on the front end, so we can be a few steps ahead to avoid those problems.”
In other words, Stratford says she will function as a “real business partner” to all Boyd operational teams.
“The worst criticism a lawyer can get is that nobody wants to call legal,” she says. “And my goal over my career has been to be the person that folks want in the room, and want to be part of the discussion. My goal is to continue to build those relationships and make sure I’m effectively supporting all of the exciting initiatives that we have going on, and helping us do that in a way that understands and appreciates what’s going on in the industry from a big-picture perspective.”
For Boyd, much of that big-picture perspective will involve partnerships, whether it be in the emerging sports betting space or new technologies such as those bringing cashless gaming to the casino floors, where Boyd is partnering with Aristocrat Gaming on the Boyd Pay Wallet solution.
“We’ve got really wonderful teams here with respect to our compliance committee,” she says. “You look at things from a regulatory compliance perspective, but then you also have to look at things from a brand integrity perspective. And something that I think Boyd as a company does really well is to take seriously the role of protecting the brand and who we are as a company—how we’re viewed in the communities in which we operate, how we’re viewed from a customer experience and how we’re viewed from a team member experience.”
Looking back on her tenure at Boyd, Stratford says she most appreciates being able to evolve her own discipline alongside the evolution of the company itself.
“What stands out to me is the ability to grow with the company and develop my career with the company,” Stratford says. “They’ve been very supportive of me. My role today is very different than when I came in as an associate-level lawyer reviewing commercial contracts. (My role) evolved to touch on almost every aspect of the substantive legal areas. And as our industry has changed so much, I’ve really gotten the opportunity to be involved in a lot of that change.
“As we’ve expanded into new jurisdictions, and moved on to the online space and sports betting, it’s just been really exciting to have the consistency of one company, and understanding how the company views things, but then also helping navigate as we evolve with the industry and make sure we’re staying up to pace with what’s happening in the industry and what customers want.”
That experience stands not only to serve Boyd Gaming well, but to continue to facilitate the growth and effectiveness of the Global Gaming Women organization.