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Beyond Belief

SaraGonso Tait • Executive Director, Indiana Gaming Commission

Beyond Belief

Sara Gonso Tait has risen meteorically through the ranks of the Indiana Gaming Commission to become the state of Indiana’s chief gaming regulator in a span of five short years. During that time, Tait has distinguished herself as a keen legal mind on issues related to the gaming field. She strives to ensure that decisions by the commission are rooted in best industry practice and not personal preference.

Tait also has demonstrated her ability to innovate and to promote transparency, which has been welcomed by all entities in the industry.

After graduating from McKinney Law School at Indiana University in 2010, Tait faced a challengingly sparse job market until catching her break by following the advice she’d been repeatedly given: find a good mentor.

That mentor for her was then Executive Director Ernie Yelton of the Indiana Gaming Commission. Through his tutelage and her experience with the IGC, she realized that if she could regulate a casino, she could regulate anything. After starting as a staff attorney with the IGC in 2011, she received several promotions before her current appointment as executive director.

Throughout her career, Tait has navigated her way through environments where she was not just the only woman in the room, but the youngest person in the room, as well. Through these types of experiences, she built skills that became invaluable to her career.

One of her most memorable career moments was when she was promoted to general counsel at nine months pregnant. Despite some of the concerns that her well-meaning advisers offered, she proved to the industry—and most importantly, to herself—that not only could she fulfill the demands of a new job role and new motherhood, but she could thrive at both. She has accomplished all of these achievements due to one simple fact: She believed in herself.

Tait is currently tasked with implementing the regulation on fantasy sports, a challenging but compelling topic. With Indiana being only the second state to authorize fantasy sports through legislation, the IGC is truly creating something brand new, a feat which will have a tremendous impact on the industry and the careers of its employees alike.

She describes the culture at the IGC as rewarding in that its employees enjoy their work and take ownership for what they do. Matt Bell, president and CEO of the Casino Association of Indiana, said, when asked about Tait, “Sara brings a unique perspective to the regulatory field. Her leadership will serve as an inspiration to men and women who aspire to the heights of the industry across the Midwest.”

Although Tait maintains a decisive style about her, she also fosters teamwork through a collaborative environment. She is not the typical regulator, given her open-door policy and interests in the ideas of others.

“It is important to promote a spirit of transparency and accountability with each member of my team and members of the industry,” Tait says. Because she has been so fortunate in the support, mentorship and opportunities she has received, she considers it her obligation to help other young industry professionals. She encourages them to self-advocate and ask for more responsibility.

A transparent interest in learning goes a long way, and Tait now manages a $23 million agency budget while overseeing 200 employees and two police divisions.

David Rittvo is the director of business development and leads the Innovation Group’s food and beverage division, Innovation Food and Beverage. Rittvo has 15 years of experience with food and beverage operations across the globe. He can be reached at 504-352-6856 or [email protected]

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