SISTAS in Gaming
by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud
It was a remarkable opportunity for Las Vegas Black Image Magazine to sit down recently with two remarkable women, April Augustine and Adrienne Augustus, who have embarked on incredible careers in gaming. Together, they stand as a testament to how far African-Americans have come in Las Vegas’ cornerstone industry, where, not too long ago, black people were effectively barred from holding any meaningful positions. In a wide-ranging discussion, they shared both their personal experiences and valuable insight into the new age of gaming.
What is your position at Bally Technologies?
Augustine: I am the Director of Systems Marketing. My primary focus is on product marketing, which focuses on key selling points of different products.
What does Bally Technologies do?
Augustine: Bally Technologies is a slot machine manufacturer based here in Las Vegas, but we are a global company with offices around the world. We develop slot machines and we also develop gaming technology systems that go inside the slot machines — such as player tracking, slot accounting, casino management and casino marketing systems.
How did you get involved with Bally Technologies?
Augustine: I have been working at Bally since 2005. I started off as a marketing manager. My background is in marketing technologies, and I have worked [in marketing] with various technology companies. I am originally from Silicon Valley, Calif., in the Bay area. and my undergraduate degree is in marketing.
What are your thoughts about the disparities faced by African-Americans in the technology industry?
Augustine: I think opportunities are wide open for black people who want to pursue careers in technology. I think that the most important thing, when pursuing a career in gaming technology, is to have solid experience in the field in which you are applying. Definitely, a degree in the field is good, along with a good [information technology] background. My undergraduate degree was in advertising, but I went back to school to get my master’s degree in computer information systems because all the positions that I had worked in had been in the technology industry. Having the experience, along with a master’s degree, has been very helpful in advancing my career. Also, just simple customer service background experience has helped me stand out among the competition. For example, I worked in retail for five years at Macy’s, and after graduating from college I went to be interviewed with my first technology company. They indicated that they were really attracted to me for the … position because of my solid customer service experience. No matter what skills you have, companies are always looking for how personable you are in interacting with other people at different levels of an organization.
Do you see many people who look like you at the executive level in gaming?
Augustine: Honestly, I haven’t seen very many. To be honest, I haven’t seen too many black women in the industry. I would like to see more.
What kind of revolutionary developments are forthcoming in the gaming industry?
Augustine: Bally Technologies has an interactive initiative that [involves] mobile technologies as well as social media. Mobile is really big right now in the gaming industry. A lot of casino properties are moving toward integrating mobile platforms into the way they communicate with customers. Interactive social media and incorporating social media elements into mobile applications [are areas that] continue to grow and expand. More is to come in the mobile market.
What do you mean about the future of mobile?
Augustine: For example, you may have a smartphone such as an iPhone or BlackBerry, and you can go to the app store on your phone and download an App called “Casino.” This will allow you to access your gaming point balance, check if the jackpot has progressed at your selected casino, or just see if your favorite game is available. It will also allow you to book a hotel room from your mobile phone and to order a drink. The opportunities are just so exciting, and gaming companies are positioning themselves for when Internet gaming gets approved. I know it will be approved — it’s all about when.
How do you feel about how far blacks have progressed in the gaming industry?
Augustine: I feel that my own presence at Bally Technologies makes a statement, because there are not very many of us in the position that I am in, with the longevity I have. I feel very grateful and humble for the opportunity to be in this director position at Bally. I am one of the few female directors, and it is a big deal. I know that there are others in the marketing industry who look up to me, and regularly ask for advice on how to get into the field. The question is often asked, “What opportunities are out there for African-Americans?” There are so many African-Americans — men and women — looking for opportunities. I would say that Bally Technologies has a good representation of black employees and our leadership level positions have room for growth.
Adrienne, what are your job responsibilities at Bally Technologies, as Community Relations and Internal Communications Specialist?
Augustus: As it relates to my responsibilities on the community relations side of my job, I am the one who takes in the donation requests from organizations from all over the country. I work with management to establish which organizations we will be able to support. We have made financial contributions, or donated reconditioned slot machines for fundraisers. This is a pretty popular request. The other half of my job is an internal communications portion that is a little more comprehensive. My job with internal communications is to help manage all of the communications that go out to our employees worldwide. I also enjoy editing the employee magazine, Your Voice, which goes out to all [2,500] employees globally.
What is your background?
Augustus: I am originally from New Jersey, and have been in Las Vegas for five years. I have a journalism degree from the University of Maryland. Before working with Bally Technologies, I was a television news reporter for seven years. When I first arrived to Las Vegas, I worked as a television news reporter at Channel 8. I wanted to make a career change from television, and received [certifications] in investment and the insurance industry — and I loved the industry, but it was the worst possible time to get into the field. At that point I did some serious soul searching. I realized I have a passion for marketing and event planning, but I wasn’t focused on the gaming industry. I was, however, determined to find the right employment opportunity, and Bally gave it to me. This company recognizes talent and skills, not just experience in this specific industry.
How far do you think black people have come in the industry of gaming?
Augustus: I will give you a great example. Shortly after I took the job at Bally, they decided to develop operational videos. These videos are shown to casino employees so that they know how to use some of the newer games. This allows hotel employees to assist customers when playing, to [show them] how to get the most out of the game. Well, the management at Bally asked me to host these training videos. I have done three so far and they are seen around the world. This opportunity to serve as the face of the company really means a lot to me.
Tell us about Bally’s new Michael Jackson slot machine?
Augustus: Bally Technologies recognizes that Michael Jackson is truly a musical icon, and has worked very hard with his estate to manufacture a slot machine saluting Michael that everyone — including his family — would be happy with. The Michael Jackson slot machine has surround sound music in the chair that also vibrates with the songs. It is incredible, and he is the first African-American to have his image made into a Bally slot machine. The response has been phenomenal.