Queenette Pettiford , Chairwoman, Sycuan Gaming Commission

For Queenette Pettiford, the Sycuan Gaming Commission is all in the family. She got indoctrinated to the tribal gaming life at the tender age of 10, when her grandmother, Bernice Hyde, served as the first chairwoman of the commission, which oversees a casino resort and the tribal government near San Diego.

“She has always instilled in me to be a hard worker and strive for the best in all that I do,” Pettiford says. She approaches her own position as chairwoman of the commission with the same zeal as her grandmother.

“Learning through the years from those before me has been the strength behind my leadership,” she says. “My motto has always been to maintain a fair and respectful relationship with not only our tribal government and casino, but also all nations and governments.”

Pettiford’s position as chairwoman is vital to continuing that tradition.

“Making decisions that will positively impact our government and casino is extremely crucial, as is keeping abreast of all gaming laws and regulations,” she says.

As the primary regulator for the Sycuan government, Pettiford maintains all regulations, minimum internal control standards and general policies and procedures.

“Typically, I review and make decisions on various aspects of day-to-day gaming operations,” she says of an enterprise which began as a bingo hall in 1983. Today, the casino empire centered in El Cajon consists of 2,000 slots and more than 40 table games.

Hyde and another relative, Lucinda Y. Adkins-Payne, have been her strongest mentors because they demonstrated strength, hard work and integrity in their approach, Pettiford says.

“This not only applies to Indian gaming, but to life in general. Working side by side with them, I do not feel as if I am being biased when I speak highly of their work.”

Like so many other gaming executives, Pettiford sees technology as key to the future of gaming regulations and standards.

“As technology increases, so will all forms of gaming. The need for faster and more enticing games will be at the forefront for all who entertain themselves in casinos,” says the mother of two young daughters, who enjoys trips to Disneyland with her children when she takes a rare getaway.

Pettiford has a piece of advice to those entering the industry or considering such a move.

“This line of work can get tough and overwhelming. Having thick skin and an open mind is essential. It is also important to learn and retain all aspects of Indian gaming and tribal government.”

And there’s something else as well, she adds. Be humble.