For Amber McDonald, the road is now where the heart is.
The Saint Regis Mohawk tribal member from Akwesasne, New York, a unique area straddling the border between New York state, Quebec and Ontario, Canada, made a colossal career move late in 2018, when she relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota, becoming a compliance officer for the National Indian Gaming Commission.
It is the biggest leap of her life.
“I love working for my own people and I have a big heart,” she says. “This is the chance to utilize my years of gaming experience to service the tribal gaming community in a big way. After working for my tribe for 18 years, this gives me a chance to assist other tribes in this region to make sure they are getting technical assistance, that they are benefiting from the best use of their gaming rules and regulations, and that whatever I have learned over the years can be spread out across the tribes to ensure their success.”
Spread out is a good description of her territory. McDonald has been assigned nine tribes covering 22 facilities in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Talk about three large jurisdictions. McDonald is learning about some tribes, preparing visits to sites and is ready to bring previous credentials to a large stage.
“I guess I’m a federal agent now,” she laughs. “This next year is going to be a time to excel at the new job, hopefully get involved in training and continue to protect the integrity of Indian gaming.”
McDonald showed resilience to compile her career path. After a sociology degree from St. Lawrence University yielded no jobs, she learned gaming through her tribe. For 14 years, McDonald worked for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Gaming Commission, first as a gaming inspector regulating operations, employees and patrons. That led to a four-year stint as licensing manager, deciding who among employees and vendors obtained gaming licenses.
Major professional affiliations followed. She became an elected board member for both the National Tribal Gaming Commission/Regulators (NTGCR) and North American Gaming Regulators Association (NAGRA).
NAGRA is a nonprofit professional association of gaming regulators throughout North America. The organization brings together agencies that regulate gaming activities and offers them a forum for the mutual exchange of regulatory information and techniques.
NTGCR promotes cooperative relationships among the commission/regulators of tribal gaming enterprises and other organizations. It promotes educational seminars, which include commissioner/regulator training and other related activities.
Along the way, McDonald presented at two Women in Tribal Gaming symposiums. She believes success depends on revealing strong passion for integrity, and displaying a big heart.
Tony Bennett left his in San Francisco. Amber McDonald took hers to Minnesota.